Friday, November 25, 2016

Kashmir - From My Perspective

"Isn’t that a terrorist place?"
That’s usually the first sentence people utter when they hear I am from Jammu & Kashmir. And with the recent events that happened in the valley the amount of curiosity and questions increased by manifolds. Needless to say, the upfront support of a terrorist with such grandeur shocked people. Now in general very few people in India are acquainted or interested in what actually is the issue in Kashmir. Most of them have a haphazard view of the situation, typically from what they gauge through tit-bits of news. The news channels broadcast their breaking news on how people are turning in throngs for the funeral of a terrorist, how they are defying curfews to step out and protest for “Azadi”.

Since most people conceive Jammu and Kashmir as one entity, they automatically assume that my hometown is in dire consequences. I then have to give them a quick lesson in geography and explain that Jammu and Kashmir are situated at least 320 Km apart from each other. Kashmir has Muslims living in majority while Jammu is mostly inhabited by Hindus. They also doubtfully ask me whether I too support terrorists or have a soft spot for Pakistan. It is these type of questions that literally drive me mad with rage. My people and my community have suffered and are still suffering the brunt of the militancy that seems to have been made a law in Kashmir. And even a small doubt of being a perpetrator of this bullshit when actually we are the victims seems like a very unfair assumption to me.

I try my best to explain people that how in late eighties and early nighties there was a genocide like situation in Kashmir. During this time many Hindu’s were killed, raped and threatened. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindu families fled from Kashmir leaving behind their homes, jobs, farms, memories and numerous other little things. People have already lost interest by the time I reach to this point. But I get satisfied assuming that at least I have formulated a difference between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus in their minds

The state of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and several other small districts. The “azadi “propaganda that is in full swing is only concerted in Kashmir. The people of Jammu, Ladakh and other small places like Udhampur, Kishtawar, kathua etc are happy and proud to be associated with India. The hatred people of Kashmir carry for India and Indians has baffled me always. And it has not started in recent times. Contrary to what people believe or might force you to believe this has always been the case. Even before 90s, even before army (who supposedly commits atrocities on the people there) ever entered Kashmir. Though I have literally grown up hearing stories about prejudice against Hindu’s by elders, what solidified my belief was an interview I read of Mr. Salman Rushdie. In the interview Salman talks about the time his family visited Kashmir when he was 12, roughly around 1959-1960. Assumed to be a Hindu family they were denied food by the locals, but after getting to know that they are in fact Muslims they were attended with utmost hospitality. The entire interview can be found here.

What’s changed now is the fact that initially it was all a very hushed up affair and discussed only behind closed doors. But now it’s all in the open or rather on the internet. India and Indians are openly bad mouthed and blatant support and love for Pakistan is shown on Instagram and Facebook. I sometimes wonder will all Kashmiri Muslims holding important positions in India, students, business men (holding shops of Kashmiri handicrafts all across India) agree to leave India and settle in Pakistan instead, if they achieve their so called goal of attaining “azadi

Picture Courtesy - DNA

What baffles me is that all the separatist leaders hardly give two hoots about things like safety of people – they urge them to protest and throw stones at security officials even when curfew has been imposed. So that they can later make an issue of usage of pellet guns by security officials. They give orders for strikes and bandhs without considering the consequences of the same. They encourage students to pick up arms instead of books. And that is where the main issue of unrest in Kashmir lies – uneducated and unemployed youth. Those who studied did so mostly outside Kashmir (ironically in parts of India, from they want freedom from!) many work across India and abroad, away from all the tension and chaos focusing on their futures and success. But the youth left behind is the one suffering and failing to understand that throwing stones, shouting slogans, holding guns and even achieving the so called “azadi” is not going to help them. Schools and colleges remain closed, many have been burned down! But instead of encouraging children to study people there are using them to fuel the agitations. Here if I may quote an example of Kashmiri Pandits who had to shift base to camps after exodus in 90s. The first and the foremost thing every family however poor at that time did was to arrange and look for schools and colleges so that education of their children does not suffer. It is this crucial step that has helped them to find a strong foothold and rise again against all the odds.

Picture Courtesy -

I fail to understand the extent of brain-wash the people have been subjected to. How can they not see that violence and stone throwing is not doing any one any good. I remember watching an interview few days back when stone pelters were out on the streets. A kid hardly 14 or 15 was being asked by reporters on whether he wants an independent state or wants to go with Pakistan. He looked clueless and simply said “wo sab toh nhi pta, hume bola gya hai ki patthar maarne se azaadi mil jayegi”, “I don’t know all that, I have been told that by throwing stone I will get freedom”. Most of the common people there have no idea about the political aspects of the violence. They want to lead a peaceful life.

The state of Kashmir is going from bad to worse. There is no tourism whatsoever, people just don’t want to take a risk of visiting Kashmir given the unpredictable situation there. This has badly hit the people whose livelihood directly depends on the tourist flow in the valley. Houseboats, gardens, shikara’s, souvenir shops all remain deserted. Schools and colleges continue to remain closed for 3 days out of 5. Future of people especially students continues to remain bleak. The current situation however seems to approach a state of normality. Many people are attributing it to the recent demonetization move by our PM. In the dearth of 500/1000 notes, the funding for keeping up the violence alive and stone pelters on the road is proving difficult for the anti-social elements.

Here’s hoping for a better future and a concrete solution for Kashmir. The beautiful valley has suffered a lot. It’s overwhelming beauty needs to be devoured and enjoyed.