And why India too needs azadi from Kashmir
They say the land and things you don’t have are always more beautiful, more splendid than the land you possess and the things you own. This ‘good old grass is always greener on the other side of fence’ mindset still sways our kind.
India doesn’t ‘possess’ all of Kashmir. Pakistan too hasn’t’ emancipated’ the whole of Kashmir. The Kashmiris live and die on their cause to ‘own’ their motherland. The fences and barbed wires along the LoC have made the grass turn bloodier on the other side. Familiarity breeds contempt, goes another ancient axiom. However, it too is subject to certain exceptions. Pakistanis of all ilk spread over multiple generations have been acutely familiar with the Kashmir and endless travails its inhabitants brave day in and day out. The world at large has apparently developed a ‘be that as it may’ attitude and lost interest in the freedom struggle of more than 14 million people. Yet the folks of Pakistan haven’t taken a step back from supporting their brethren under siege. The familiarity to bloodshed, terror and fear in Kashmir has only bred empathy during past seven decades.
Since the calendar, our machination of keeping track of time, marks days of festivities and mournings. For past 28 years, February 5th has been earmarked to be observed as Kashmir Day to show the world with whom Pakistan stands for when it comes to conundrum called Kashmir.
The death of Burhan Wani in July, 2016 brought back the Kashmir issue in the mainstream 8-11 slot on prime time telly. Every Talat, Doctor and Hassan jumped on the bandwagon and there was much discussion and debate
The banners by the roadside, speeches of politicians and scholars on the telly, massive rallies in capital, and conferences and seminars inundating the width and breadth of Pakistan reiterate what needs to be reiterated over and over again.
Last year, I had an opportunity to meet fellow journalists from Kashmir. They arrived in Pakistan when the high tempers after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and Uri incident were smothered to some extent. ‘Among the stone pelting youth, many hail from well to do families. They run their family businesses and are well educated. They are politically enlightened but frustrated with the occupation. They are neither extremists nor being paid by anyone to confront the Indian army,’ said one of them over a cup of tea. I sensed from the conversation that the infinite distress has drained even those of fear– the foremost weapon in any oppressors quiver — who have a lot to take comfort in.
‘They fight like the young Palestinians, with stones. Many have lost their fear of death; they will not surrender, cheated by politicians at home, they are developing the independence of spirit that comes with isolation, and it will not be easily quelled,’ is how Tariq Ali, notable historian, journalist and intellectual summed up the struggle in his essay ‘Not Crushed, Merely Ignored’.
The realisation among the intellectual, literary and political circles of India too has reached the consensus that Kashmir has become a lost cause and if things don’t change the valley will be India’s Waterloo. Writers like Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, Angana P. Chatterji and of late leader of ruling party BJP Yushwant Singh, former finance minister and present outcast, all concur that people of Jammu and Kashmir have lost their fear of Incredible India that has ‘done everything it could to subvert, suppress, represent, misrepresent, discredit, interpret, intimidate, purchase, and simply snuff out the voice of the Kashmiri people’.
Arundhati Roy, the author of The God of Small Things and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, has aptly summed up the dilemma of India who raises the slogan ‘Doodh maangogey to kheer dengey! Kashmir maangogey to chiir dengey! when in reality it ‘needs azadi from Kashmir just as much-if not more-than Kashmir needs azadi from India’.
The death of Burhan Wani in July, 2016 brought back the Kashmir issue in the mainstream 8-11 slot on prime time telly. Every Talat, Doctor and Hassan jumped on the bandwagon and there was much discussion and debate. Aimed at local audience who is already convinced of the cause, the analysts and pundits contributed barely a new perspective to an endless conflict. They jumped to the next sensational happening and once again, it was put on the back burner.
As long as memory serves and as far as one can gaze back in the annals of history, the Kashmiris have shared the fate of ancient bondmen; there has been change of tyrants at the helm of power and nothing else. The tally of martyrs from just 20 years — 1990 to 2019 — fall around 70,000 Kashmiris. They are those who won’t tell us their story. We are left to listen to the tales and travails of the disappeared and tortured individuals with a sinking heart.
Reminds me of a melancholic line from Roy’s novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness where a note reads: KHADIJA SAYS… In Kashmir when we wake up and say ‘Good Morning’ what we really mean is ‘Good Mourning’.