I Am Not A Kashmiri

Thousands of people assembled in Eidgah in 2010, demanding independence from India.

I sit down to write this in the brief interlude following a rather devastating piece from the recently released anthology ‘Until My Freedom Has Come’. But the self is reminded, once again, of the fallacy of the word chosen. There is no respite, no running away from the crushing despair that elicits from the story of Kashmir. Despondency would have been the reaction of the self, just a few years ago. Today, that same base emotion has excogitated into a series of pernicious concerns.

The celebrated Indian democracy has failed its citizens. In Kashmir, where the iron fist of the AFSPA will ensure a girl raped by an Army Jawan will not get to see her own mother in the aftermath of the heinous crime; let alone be atoned justice. In Kashmir; where an eight year old boy is beaten to death by the machine wielding Indian Army jawans who patrol the streets, day in and night out. Where; a mother washes off the blood of her sons from her courtyard. Where, a three year old picks up a stone to defy the ordinance. Where the death of 150 people at the hands of the merciless State operated machinery is waived off as deaths of ‘Lashkar-e-Toiba’ sponsored terrorists. It was a cleansing routine, they said.

I am not a Kashmiri. But sitting here in New Delhi, where decisions to not revoke the AFSPA are taken, I cannot help but feel a part of myself cave in each time I hear of another tragedy in the Valley. It is not unlike sitting by the phone, waiting for a dreaded call. It’s not unlike losing one of your own. It is not.

So I took to obsessively tracking the events as they unfolded in Kashmir. There was nothing perverse about it. It was a necessary action; the shock of the State-imposed violence takes its own time to subside. Kashmir and New Delhi are poles apart, it seems. We don’t share the same reality. Nor, in fact, do we share the same India.

Thousands of people assembled in Eidgah in 2010, demanding independence from India.

The mainstream press was my first recourse. In most situations of conflict, it acquires a kind of impermeable credibility. Ironically, however, the opposite seems to hold true. The big media is not interested in Kashmir and its politics. Oh, no. Demanding Azaadi from authoritarian governance is akin to being a ‘Pakistani’. So, the mainstream media conveniently aligns itself with the manifesto of the State. Nonetheless, Kashmir’s dead do hold the interest of the culture of news reportage and representation.

Foot soldiers, like me, cry ourselves hoarse in the face of the seemingly omniscient jingoistic rhetoric; constantly fighting the brand of fiery allegiance that has been present ever since the inception of the world’s largest democracy. But the slew of nationalist supporters is insistent on their ideals. They say that the armed jawan is left with no choice when he is hit by stones; he has to open fire. There must be a truth to that, definitely. Never mind that history itself contradicts this truth. Never mind that the visual imagery of men, women and children with only stones as their chosen method of protest standing across from an Army that has the most advanced weaponry is horrifyingly belittling, to say the least. Or the fact that in the year 2009, India spent close to $5 billion on their import of ammunition from Israel; a country which houses close to 40% of the world’s poor. They also claim that an Azaad (Independent) Kashmir will only lead to human rights violations. That it will be violence stricken. Perhaps this could be a lesson in irony. Moreover, there is an implication the India-occupied Kashmir, if given its Azaadi, will necessary evolve into a terrorist state owing to the Islamist majority in the area. This entire notion smacks of racism and large-scale, institutionalised Islamophobia, the glorious by-product of the previous decade. Then there are some who worry about the aftermath of such a decision in the realm of international geo-politics. Pakistan, and China, will never let Kashmir be Azaad. Kashmir’s Azaadi will expose India, leave it vulnerable to attack. It might be true, of course. But does that still justify the State’s authoritarian governance of Kashmir?

If one speaks against the horrific crimes committed in the name of maintaining internal security and peace, they can only be traitors, traitors who should be eschewed by the government they so insolently dared to critique.

For you see, dissent is not our tool to claim. It is essential to subjugate all voices of dissent for the propagation of their democracy. Some may even call it conflict resolution.

What is a democracy, then? There seems to be more and more truth in the idea that democracy is in fact highly equivocal. It is important to also question the recipients of such a democracy. Arundhati Roy, the one we all love to hate (and love to mention, anyway) says there is a democracy in Greater Kailash (an area in Delhi), but not in the conflict stricken parts of the country. If only Greater Kailash was aware of the multifarious responsibility it has acquired through the course of governments and governance. If not a voice for those that the State has made voiceless through systematic violence and injustice, at the very least, it can serve to acknowledge this glaring dissonance. However, complacency and pacification are vile weapons of peace, and conflict. The State knows this. So, Greater Kailash will be made to remain apathetic, ignorant with a sense of false consciousness and false security. Greater Kailash has everything in order.

How convenient it must be to look away, to ignore the cries of a people who ‘chose their own destiny’. Sleepless nights are only for the fools among us.

Stuti Govil is a student of Journalism at University of Delhi.

Photograph by Fahad Shah

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Pardon me! If I beg to differ, but when u start to contest one notion, make sure you don’t forget the lakhs of kashmiri’s like me who fled the state in 1990, due to ethnic cleansing and I want to be in Kashmir and be as much a part of india …. I am tired of wandering and being burnt –
    Who writes about me – a kashmiri !

  2. why when 26 states were not given a choice should Kashmir be given a choice? Why when Hyderabad was forcibly acceded to India should we consider Kashmir any different?Just because Pakistan claims it?an illegally invaded it multiple times? choose to support terrorists to kill civilians?
    Why is Armed Forces Special Powers Act in effect in Kashmir when it is not in effect in most of India?Is it because we are prejudiced against Kashmir? NO! It is because if we allow foreign powers to decide what should happen to a part of India, then the union will disintegrate.India is not a natural country, it is an artificial union built on parts of a subcontinent which united only in the 1900’s.It reminds me of USSR..allow foreign powers to interefere, people to have plebicides to decide whether to stay with India on the demands of presumably foreign supported separatists. Yes, USSR and India cannot be compared, but you must understand that both were never naturally “one” country. Why do you think our constitution made the Centre so powerful and the states so weak? We will finally have no India. You can write this from the comfort of your home or office because there are a million of our armed forces men protecting you from hostile neighbors, putting their lives on the line everday. Will you agree to withdrawing AFSPA and leave Kashmir to its fate? Yes, the army might have made mistakes, but does that mean we should let the terrorists do what they want. When you get the freedom to write what you want, you forget the responsibility that comes with it – to think before you write! ASFPA and the army can be withdrawn to a large extent from Kashmir only when there is peace. If AFSPA remains in effect, when there are no terror attacks in Kashmir, then write this. I will agree and shut up, otherwise give some respect to those people who have left their families to fight and protect our country for the meager pay they get.

    • Dear Hari, is there a need to point out that you too are commenting over and dismissing the agony and pain of people while commenting/writing from ‘the comfort of your home or office’ when there is an entire nation dying out there?

  3. Parul, Kashmiri Pandits have been treated in the same way; some of them still live out their lives in camps. The State has failed them too. I am not justifying their Exodus in any way, believe me. It was unfair and wrong and cruel yes, but that doesn’t mean you justify the atrocities committed by the State today. It is like seeking redemption. Two wrongs never make a right, do they?

  4. Hari, I will not respond to the rather nettled tone you seem to attack me with. Ad hominem, whatever its merits, does not make a good debate.

    By dismissing the demand of Azaadi in Kashmir as a completely foreign-led idea, don’t you think you are being uncharitable, yourself? Also, I have grave issues with how easily we seem to justify the AFSPA. It is a Draconian measure; it has absolutely no place in a country that hails itself as the world’s largest democracy. Should we just accept that it is a sham, and then allow such measures to take the lives of our people? The AFSPA is currently in effect in the North-East too. There are no protests there, but people are killed routinely. Surely, you don’t mean to say that the AFSPA is in itself a ‘democratic, judicial’ act?
    ‘Mistakes’ and ‘goof-ups’. Definitely sounds like Army lingo! So, the death of 112 people in 4 months is a mistake, right? Let’s accrue it to their shorter heights, and call it an error in judgement.
    Hari, the Army has ammunition worth $5 Billion, the protestors merely have stones. The State sponsored violence is not a reaction to their stone-pelting.
    As for the remark about the Army Jawan, I completely agree. He doesn’t stand there, killing one of his own people out of ‘patriotic’ love for the country. Poverty illiteracy and an environment of mild right wing communalism have constructed this Jawan, who carries out arbit killings at the orders he receives.

  5. dear Hari,
    a brilliant comment you have written in which you yourself have contested the idea of india as being something forced and co-erced on the people…cos as you say it has never been a natural country…the way we see it and claim “intigrety and unity”. all the princely states were given the freedom to choose their fate. when britishers gave this to us, why should we snatch it away from our fellow humans? Hyderabad as you say was forced to join india…so you think it was right? hyderabad was acceded with brute force by giving the logic that the population is majority hindu..thugh the ruler may be muslim…and naturally the hindu majority should come to india…the same was doen to junagadh…now by this logigc of forceful occupation/accession, what pakisatn tried to do with kashmir was right (i may sound outrageous and seditious) but when we do it hyderabd, junagadh and then east pakistan..it’s ok..but when someone else does it..its bullshit…what hypocrisy…
    and no movement can survive on foreign help till the time there is no mass support…and mass support only comes to issues which concern all.
    AFSPA is a non democratic law, which takes away the fundamental rights (not just which are enshrined in our great constitution, but the very natural right of a human being to life)
    and you said army might have done mistakes…yes it has, it has done blunders..and no justice yet…army is no holy cow…and this comes from someone who has spent her life with defense people around her
    you ask why is AFSPA in akshmir and not other parts(its there in north east too) well simple cos these pasrts have a genuine historical griviance and they want justice…which we are not ready to give..so use brute force and silence them…
    and you say “will you agree to withdraw AFSPA and leave kashmir to its fate”…well Gandhi ji said to brithishers “leave India to its fate, or worse to God, but leave”

  6. Stuti has started good discussion. Problem with Kashmiri youth is that they are not making rest of India aware of what is happening…they start abusing HINDUS n INDIANS.most of us are born in 70s we dont know much about recent politics beyond written words in books and it is very easy to get misguided with one sided facts.
    I hope we will discuss and do fact finding and support each other for better lives…a peaceful n prosperous living is more important then ruling and crushing…
    Please create more awareness with facts and support for better world…
    when wife husband can not live to gather both get divorced n live as per their wishes…it does not mean …there is wrong. If Kashmir wants freedom from Pakistan,China and India who we are to say “no”… we are concerned with our security so if KASHMIR UNION gives guarantee of it let them enjoy autonomy like sikkim enjoyoing.
    I hereby request my kashmiri friends please create more awareness and be friend with other Indians,take them in confidence and raise your voice logically…
    who is bothered to rule and to be ruled in Global Village era? If our neighbours are happy n having good social-cultural n economical relations with us- what is problem?
    This is long pending issue and I think we should resolve it with awareness n discussion with youths n intell ectuals as soon as possible.
    Again I shall request please come out with more facts n remain open to discuss- if nation will know your pain it will come with remedies…forget politicians… just ask civilians to come forward.
    AGAR KASHMIR MAIN PATTHAR CHALATA HAI TO USAKI CHOT BIHAR KO BHI MEHSOOS HO -BIHAR MEIN GOLI CHALE TO KASHMIRI YUVAON KE DIL SE BHI AAH NIKALE- TABHI POLITICIANS KO HUM CONTROLL KAR SAKENGE…VARNA VO AAPKO GALAT BATAYENGE AUR AAP HAMEIN GALAT SAMAJHENGE .
    thanks stuti .god bless you .

    • Dear all,
      the problem of kashmir is really what?
      any body who has confident to say the answere can tell me what happened if kashmir will allow to be free as a country…..did u think that Pakistan will allow the kashmirians to be live in peace.
      In Pakistan -Nobody is safe, see what happing in Karachi..Stuti gave the data of 150 kashmirians killed in indian kashmir, can u tell me Stuti “How many innocent people killed in Karachi by this week?” ans is 110 innocent lives in only 7 days.
      my only point of view is that its up to us how to live, whatever will be the country. live calmly live peacefully. Don’t give any type of help to any terroist or hard liner.
      Peaople are to be smart and they should know who will get a benifit after protest. Only hardliners ans Politicians, so keep away from any this type of protest.
      think about the overall development of community. Join the natinal institute and keep doing well for urself as well as country and Mainly for Kasmir.
      developed indian kasmir by that way so that POK’s people want to come here in india not u.
      People of kashmir are the part of india and have a herat in indians, I strongly condemmed the attacks on kashmirians but to think of freedom is not the only way.
      come forword and start participating in dialouge.
      Feel proud to be an indian!

  7. @stuti & rajesh, i appreciate your views. Kashmiri people have lost faith on the india and its people and the most responsiblity of it fell on the biased media of india and the lack of indegenous media in kashmir. Now it is the dire need of the times that people like u should come forward and support the genuine greviences of kashmiris so that to bringe peace in this region. I think the websites like this one and social networking sites will prove helpful for the cause.

  8. when u cant live in a place as part of the country and u cannot show how kashmir with an area less than singapore( i dont think they have the capablity either because singapore had port and sea routes to justify it economically) can sustain..plz see this issue pragmatically not emotionally….

    an Indian
    and who wish Kashmiris as our People

  9. I want separate from india only for one reason ….. Indians are dirty …..common they shit on roads for gods sake…. Iv seen yatris shitting roadside shamelessly ……geeeeez yuck….. :p

  10. I am really surprised & mournful to visit this site..Indian government funding 65000 crore rupees for development of kashmir…I dont think so that kashmir might gave 10% of this amount back as revenue of govt….Indian army is freezing at laddakh to save u..what haapend to u guyz..no IIT no AIMS..no IIM…baad main bahut yaad aayegi India ki…I belong from Rajasthan & I celebrate Eidi with my muslim bros..& I like sufi saint khwaza sahab…I visit ajmer dargah sharif many times & strictly follow his morals…& trust me In India u r safe..every state of India has different Identity that no means that we should separate from India..together we are stronger & trust me..may allah give u prosperity & happiness..

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