Helots of Kashmir


By Ibreez Ajaz

[I]rritating! Disgusting! Cheap! Whenever my friends and I come across a situation that fits these words, the three of us sequentially pronounce them one after the other. I have found no affair more fitting these adjectives than the ongoing mess in Kashmir.

Irritating- People fight amongst themselves over trivial matters and call it politics.

Disgusting- Our politicians lie to us year after year.

Cheap- The masses grovel at the feet of aforementioned politicians anyway.

We are no better, we who allow it to continue – the sole reason being our own lack of education, the ever-growing apathy towards our faith, or sometimes even the opposite: a decisive shift towards the extreme. Naturally this gets us nowhere, leaving us no freer than we were some sixty years ago. Quite frankly, I am fed up. I absolutely detest the atmosphere in Kashmir and occasionally want nothing more than to bang my head against the concrete out of pure frustration.

Whenever I get time off from education and studies to actually ponder, the question arises as to whether or not I’d like to spend my holidays back home at all. It used to be that without a second thought I’d pack my bags and hop onto the plane to Kashmir. But year after year of unending boredom due to constant strikes, nights spent listening to the resolute pops of oppressive guns, and the passage of days with nothing ever getting done make me doubt my decision. Do I really want to go back? What for? After a hard semester in college, all I want to do is relax, spend time with my family and have a little fun. Are these things possible in my Srinagar? I’ve never known them to be in my lifetime, but somewhere deep inside of me, I yearn for those desires to become a reality, for me to be able to enjoy the valley as it once was.

I grew up hearing stories of how things used to be, when people lived without fear, when death was mostly due to old age, when all anyone ever cared about was how long the weather would stay perfect. But from the moment of my birth to the two decades following it, all I’ve ever known was to never look the occupational forces in the eye, never to stare too long at them, to come back inside when it got dark, answer all questions to the point, to not get angry when unofficial raids were conducted. To be scared. To live in fear. To die subjugated. Know this: it is entirely our fault.

Yes, I lay no blame on any foreign country. Instead, I point fingers at our own community. I find fault with the administration that we’ve ‘elected’, the individuals we call our ‘leaders’, who give their standard commentary from the sidelines as sacrificial offerings of our youth are given to the wrathful gods. I condemn the so-called religious heads that in the place of promoting faith and unity, sow discord and enmity. And I reprehend our society, our corrupted ideals, and our half-hearted attempts at progress.

The youth of Kashmir are the source of my disillusionment. Plugged into the picture box that defines their generation, glued to their mobiles, constantly updating their online statuses, and not a single clue as to what is going on just outside their windows. Sure, this isn’t the case for all of them, but more so of the majority. No idea about the actual state of affairs.

And then of course, there are the adults. Be it in Kashmir itself or abroad, any get-together will have on its menu the same topics: azaadi, strikes, CRPF, India, Pakistan. The conversation will take the same typical route of how things once were, and how ruined the nation is now, and ends along the lines of leaving it all in God’s hands. Trite, to say the least and hardly making progress in the direction of all the dreams waiting to be realized.

Watching the news in Srinagar is like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher– all I ever hear is wahn wahn wahn. No one’s getting any real reporting done. Every story seems clipped, hastily put together, and reflects that either the press knows very little, or is being told to hold back a lot. In either scenario, kudos to the government in charge for a job well done, as it’s an established fact that they do their best work when we haven’t the slightest idea what they’re really doing.

Have a score to settle? Used to be a person would step outside and resolve it with their fists. Naturally, Kashmir has a more civilized method. Send the issue off to the courts, where at the behest of the agitator, the verdict can be delayed time and again due to numerous flimsy reasons, ranging from the judge having a stomach ache to the defendant/plaintiff not appearing at a hearing. It would be that in most other parts of the world, the case would be thrown out of court or perhaps be declared a mistrial. But here it’s the norm. Trials can go on for months to years, with no resolution in sight.

[I] suppose it’s customary to offer some sort of a solution, draw up a plan to fix all of the problems I’ve stated, and all that good stuff. But you know what, I’m not in primary school anymore, and I’ve no rules to follow as to what should be written when and how, or what format has to be addressed in order to put forth a coherent and cohesive argument. Because what’s the use in me taking time out of my life, typing out these words, when all anyone is going to do is read them, muse over their understanding of what was written, perhaps make a comment regarding it, and then with maybe a sigh of despair as to the truths before them, toss it from their mind and continue in their nascent ways. Hardly worth my while.

Misanthropic outlook aside, it’s a sad fact that nothing will ever change because it’s been ground into our mind from day one that the way we’re living is the way to live, the suffocating atmosphere we’ve been subjugated to these past years require personal adjustment, and to not rock the boat in any sort of way that hasn’t already been tried and tested. The best part is our ruling party knows just that, and they’ve realized that the longer it takes for us to figure it out, the better it is for their wallets and agendas. Their most powerful weapon, aside from our lackadaisical mindset towards knowledge and education, is the irate neighbor, jealous that the house next door has put in a new terrace or numerous enemies out for revenge over oft imagined slights. Members of our own community selling us out in hopes of a little extra cash or a boost in life line up with hands outstretched to tear down the fabric of our society and ensure that we remain under the heel of the so-called largest democracy in the world for another few centuries. And what’s best is that we let them.

It’s hardly as though I’ve been the only one to notice the folds of this populace crumble under the weight of innumerous Benedict Arnolds. I would go so far as to say each and every one of us knows at least two people who fit the descriptions given above. And what has been done to hamper their progress in setting the Valley ablaze? Absolutely, positively, nothing. Is it because we’re cowards? We fear that we may be the targets of their next attacks, so we shy away? I’d like to see us all in a better light than that. Then what is it? Do me a favor, reader. Take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror and try and give a reason. If you can’t give one short of being yellow (which is hardly a justification), then either your blood isn’t tinged with the memories of oppressions past (effectively rendering you an outsider), or you simply don’t care because you’re not directly being affected. If you are the latter, kudos. You are the essence of the true Kashmiri nature: shrewd, calculating, and cold. This observation is not mine alone. It has been made decades before by the British who once lived amongst us, written about in length in their books and commentary on the Valley. It may very well be that this attitude and approach has come from the unending years of suffocation dealt by the Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and then the British to our current plight. And naturally it would be too far a step towards improvement if this mentality were to change.

So what’s to be learned from all this? What should one take from it? I feel as though I’d give away too much if I were to spell it out for the masses. I’d rather try some thing innovative. Here’s an idea: attempt to utilize what’s between your ears (I’m sure it misses the exercise), and come to a conclusion by yourself as to what’s to be done, what should be done, and what will be the best route to take in regards to cutting the strings of the current puppet show to ensure that a repeat will not simply keep us dragging the yoke of our tyrant masters in an unending circle, forever frightened by the crack of their whips.

The author can be reached at koshur.weebly.com

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