Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved. That can only be done if Kashmiris are given a chance to freely and fearlessly tell the world what they are fighting for and what they really want
March is here and somehow it’s snowing again. This year saw a lot of snow. The world is sagging now, under the weight of it all. And the fear & grief that has come to haunt the Valley in the form of an imminent war between Pakistan and India. The fighter jets grumbling above make the grey skies look even gloomier. I inhale the melancholic sky and retreat inside. Snowfall no longer is silent.
As the Kashmir issue once again grabbed the world attention because of a possible nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan- triggered afresh by Lethpora Pulwama suicide attack- many aspects of the uneasy relationship between the three regions came to the fore. To a Kashmiri witness, who has always been at the receiving end, the unfolding of the events in the aftermath of Pulwama attack came with multiple ramifications.
On the one hand, the intense psychological warfare created by India tested the nerves of Kashmiris, on the other hand it also strengthened peoples resolve; while the political maturity and statesmanship exhibited by Pakistan helped in de-escalating the tense situation between the two countries, it also exposed the rotten and corrupt state of Indian politics and media to the world. While the treatment meted out to Kashmiris living in India exposed the control of a mob mentality and deep rooted jingoistic tendencies in majority of Indian public, the treatment given by Kashmiris to the Indian tourists stranded at Srinagar airport spoke volumes about Kashmiri hospitality & ethics. Most of all, the events highlighted the hypocrisy of the Indian state, as it evoked Geneva conventions demanding a fair treatment of its captive pilot, while having a record of brazenly disregarding UN resolutions on Kashmir backed by gross human rights violations in the region.
Pakistan and India have fought three major wars, two of them over Kashmir, and the other against each other since 1947. Consequently, when a local Kashmiris boy, Aadil Ahmad Dar, 20, blew up a convoy of Indian soldiers in Pulwama killing at least 40 troops on spot, a military action from India was very much expected, primarily to appease its domestic electorate. On February 25, India launched a cosmetic aerial strike on Pakistan that was retaliated on the very next day. As the two countries kept bringing down each other’s fighter jets on the disputed land of Kashmir, it was again Kashmiris who suffered, and continue to suffer.
In the aftermath of Pulwama attack, the Indian media hollered battle cries from their respective studios and this chauvinistic fervor trickled down to the common public, who hounded upon every Kashmiri living or studying in any part of India, the ridiculous levels of media jingoism doing significant damage to their careers and businesses. Driven by the mad rage infused by hyper nationalist media, the careers of many Kashmiri students studying in different Indian universities and colleges were put to an end, as they were either terminated, attacked, harassed or simply told to leave India. A similar treatment was meted out to businessmen, whose shops were ransacked, with many forced to leave their jobs. Such hostility towards Kashmiris in India is unheard of before, not to mention the trauma that their families living in Kashmir experienced second hand, as they feared for their children’s lives.
Psychological warfare also preceded the military action by India in Kashmir right after the Pulwama attack. Fighter jets roamed in the skies, over 12,000 more troops were called in (pertinent to mention here that Kashmir remains the highest militarized zone in the world), government circulars urged people to stock supplies and medicines, creating war hysteria. In the midst of all this frenzy, India attacked Pakistan during the night of 25th February; Pakistan responded the next day, bringing down an Indian jet and capturing its pilot alive who was later released by Pakistan as a ‘peace gesture’ to de-escalate growing tensions. Though the war between Pakistan and India is still being fought on the LoC in Kashmir, in which mainly Kashmiris have been killed over past week, the larger concern over a prospective major war has subsided to a large extent.
For us Kashmiris, however, once the dust settles over the Pulwama attack, it is uncertain to what extent the international community and the two nations will be able to do justice to the root cause of Kashmir occupation. As Kashmiris, we would like the international community to take heed of some of these fundamental questions that have become our everyday reality. Will the Geneva conventions, which were evoked by Indian media and politicians demanding a fair treatment to its captive pilot, Abhinandan – to the extent that it actually started trending as the most googled word in India for several days – ever be considered for the political prisoners of Kashmir held captive by India? Under the same conventions, will the empty graves of our martyrs, Maqbool Bhat and Mohammad Afzal Guru, ever see the return of their mortal remains? Will the culprits who have blinded thousands of Kashmiris- as young as 3 year olds, be ever brought to justice? Will the honor and dignity of our women who have been raped and continue to be harassed by Indian occupational forces ever be restored? Will the people buried in 6000+ unmarked graves in different parts of Kashmir ever find recognition? Will the wounds of widows, half widows, orphans and other direct and indirect victims of this conflict ever be ameliorated? Or will the Indian state continue its repression on Kashmiris and ban those parties who in some way try to help the victims? Will the UN conventions be ever applied to Kashmir and an end to Indian occupation sought?
The truth is that India has wounded us deeply. The wounds are not merely physical, but psychological, emotional and constant. There is no compensation for the harassment and crushed dignity that occupation unleashes on the occupied. And in doing so the occupier actually blackens its own soul. India has blackened its soul by its barbaric repression in Kashmir, which manifests in the disintegration of domestic policies and social issues in India. The best that India can now do, to protect its soul and save its face, is to let the Kashmiris decide their own fate by calling a referendum under UN supervision.
As I write these lines, Kashmiris are still being killed as collateral damage on the LoC and as rebels in encounters with Indian troops. Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest socio-religious organization in the state, continues to face state repression as India declares it unlawful and closes its offices, schools and other institutions, as well as arresting hundreds of its members. The government has also extended the winter vacation of the schools thereby adding more uncertainty to the already chaotic situation of the valley.
Outside, snow slowly starts to pile up. And as the fresh flakes of snow accumulate over the old snow falling dreamily through the cold winter mist, like powdered coconut over a steaming plate of firni, I close my eyes praying to hear the silence of snow again.