India may boast of its status as the “most populous democratic republic in the world”, but the country has never known freedom. The people of India may have achieved independence, but to this day they remain bound, shackled and enslaved. Thousands of people across the country – and world – proudly raise the tricolor, sing themselves hoarse of Jana Gana Mana and raise hollow cries of Jai Hind. I ask then: what are you saluting, O Indian citizen? Do you raise your hands in salutation for the thousands India has mercilessly tortured and killed in Kashmir? Does your chest swell with pride for the rivers of blood that flow in Assam? Does your heart resonate with love for the cries and deaths of those in Gujarat?
Today I ask every Indian citizen – by what right do you consider yourself free? Why do you feel the pain of a con artist that starves himself to rid your country of corruption when you allow those you call “your brothers and sisters” to be raped, mutilated, imprisoned, tortured and killed in the name of India without a second thought? Do you not hear their cries, do you not feel their pain, do you not share their anger, and do you not think them human, Indian?
It is a sad but bitter truth that while Indian citizens across the world light up fireworks, blare loud odes of “Mere dash ki dharti..” and celebrate their freedom, Kashmir cloaks itself in a silent mask of pain and silence. Indians chooses to ignore the plight and suffering of those in Kashmir under scapegoats of militancy, Pakistan and radical Islam but in the process also forsake their humanity and shed their conscience. It is important for Indians to look beyond this false aura of peace and contentment to all the dead and dying strewn across India. While countries like Syria, Pakistan or Afghanistan are threatened by militants, Jihadists or tyrants, the Indian nation employs its own army as a tool for torture, oppression and discord. Every time Kashmir demands payment for the blood it has shed, it is strangled by dominant Indian forces with a noose labeled “militant” and “Jihad”. Every time a Kashmiri raises his voice, he is silenced and dragged away into the depths of the unknown. The dictator Hosni Mubarak in Egypt was persecuted because he ordered guns shot at those that protested against his regime, but at least he did not label them terrorists, ransack their homes, rape their daughters and steal their sons. So why is it that every Kashmiri that simply demands justice becomes a militant? If democracy stands for keeping your eyes shut, and your voice low then India to Kashmir is the very epitome of democracy. However, if democracy stands for a system “in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly”, then India must redraft its constitution and seek other labels than this loose fitting term. What is now considered to be a fast-paced nation of growth, technology and ‘democracy’ in reality harbors many bloody and bleeding skeletons in its closet. It is a great shame that India despite all its advancements even now remains as backward and autocratic as any other “non-democratic” country.
Every 26th January and 15th August of the past 65 years marks a Black Day for the people of Kashmir. When the tricolor is raised in all its might and Indians stand dead still, it does not represent the honor and respect for their flag, it represents how dumb and mute they are to the plight of Kashmir. While old veterans proudly recount heroic deeds of freedom, those in Kashmir hear tales of horror and oppression. Tears flow in remembrance for the hundreds of thousands who no longer remain – for India, their freedom fighters, for Kashmir, their sons, husbands and fathers. All across the country, Indians revel in their “freedom”, while Kashmir once again welcomes extra security, load shedding and barricades. India explodes with color and music while Kashmir goes black and silent with pain. When a country remains such that mothers fear their sons walking the streets of their very home, the youth boils with fury they are not allowed to express, wives are widowed everyday and children orphaned without mercy, how can such a country call itself free? How can blood be justified with promises of peace, security and protection? The only protection Kashmir demands is from India itself.
And yet – Kashmir perseveres. Like the people of old whose sons were killed by the Pharaoh, whose daughters were buried alive by those supposed to protect them, as such the people of Kashmir persevere. Their beauty has been raped, their progeny has been cut in half, their pride has been broken, their voices have been silenced and yet there remains a hope that can never be defeated. Hope that erupts like a volcano, hope that was the summer of 2010, and hope that never dies but silently awaits its triumph. So raise all your flags and sing all your songs, shed all your tears and feel all your love but nothing you experience can rival the silence of our pain, the strength of our loss and the firmness of our resolution. It is time to ask – Is India truly Saare Jahaan se Acha? Does the desh ki dharti sona ugle or purge corpses of injustice? To realize, realize that yes – Aisa hi des hai mera. Realize before it is too late because one day, the red of the Jhelum will burst its banks and the “crown” India thinks stuck to its head may become too heavy to wear and weigh the nation down to its knees again.