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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 40, September 25, 2010

Kashmir in My Heart on Eid Morning

Tuesday 28 September 2010, by Humra Quraishi

This Eid morning I took out that dried chinar leaf which lay tucked in one of the two volumes on Kashmir—‘Kashir’—by Kashmiri historian G.M.D. Sufi. I clasped it gently, with nostalgia overpowering, as I sat visualising the extent of sorrow and anger that seems spreading all over the Valley. Killings of innocents, of young school-going teenagers. Even this week as the Valley is going through the worst possible crisis, we in New Delhi seem so far away from the realities, and third-class politics seems to prevail. My blood boils as our ruthless approach, our insensitivity seem to reach an all-time high. No, there appears to be little concern to save lives, to reach out to those sitting absolutely devastated and on the verge of total disaster.

Even in this grim situation there are those marathon meetings on, where the Congress, NC, PDP and BJP are trying to outdo the other for the sake of vote-bank politics. Not to talk of television studios where the self-proclaimed security experts and the spokespersons of the Congress and BJP come out with hackneyed views along expected lines. Sitting in those studios their utterances do not match the ground realities. I think it wouldn’t be amiss to suggest that it should be made compulsory for these so-called experts to spend at least one week in the Valley. Mind you, not as sarkari/state guests but live in that state of siege, in those absolutely horrifying conditions that a Kashmiri is facing …Yes, one week of stay in that curfewed condition could play havoc on their very nerves and then, perhaps, the utterances of these opinion-makers could get a shade more realistic and humane.

And what has happened to the Eid package? What has happened to the much-hyped promise of justice? Have we caught or paraded even one of the killers of the seventy or more youngsters who have been killed by the security forces in these last three months? Why those hollow-cum-hackneyed discussions in those government set-ups on the whys to this revolt in Kashmir? Why can’t even a fraction of these marathon government meets be held in the Valley with the common man participating or voicing his utter helplessness? Why are the Kashmiri politicians running around under security cover? Why are the gaps widening as we refuse to acknowledge the very basic fact that the Kashmiris are fuming and we are to be blamed for pushing them to the wall.

Don’t we all know that there have been senseless killings of the Kashmiris? And it’s bound to bring about offshoots and a bloody aftermath? It’s difficult to describe the anguish and anger of the Kashmiris who are going through these horrifying times. In fact, this June when I was in Srinagar I had interacted with some Kashmiri students—students of journalism. And one of them—Anees Zargar—has written these lines just about last week. Lines which relay the ground realities and together with that that spontaneous outburst of sorrow, emotional trauma. I quote Anees Zargar from this piece which he has titled, ‘A Day Today…On a Highway to Hell’:

“I woke up late in the morning and I was feeling very hungry as I am on a fast. I realised yet another boring day ahead. I had nothing to do, this is the 75th day of curfew. Earlier, I had thought that I will spend most of my day sleeping but it was not even noon. I am a prisoner in my land and in my house. ‘Man is a social animal, we have lost the social aspect and ceased to be as the other half only.’ I felt like crying but I did not as I am a grown-up man now; so I went on…I decided to sit in the lawn for sometime but when I came out of my house I saw all the window panes shattered to pieces. I went outside and then I was amazed to see that my home is no exception to this glass ‘class’ act. The glasses of every house in my locality were broken to pieces, they were damaged. Some of the houses were covered with curtains and bed-sheets; they looked terribly ugly. At the time of festivals these houses are always decorated with lights and candles but this wasn’t a celebration, perhaps mourning. I felt like crying but I did not as I am a grown-up man now; so I moved on.
“I started walking towards the main road, it is a national highway 1A. I was scared as it is under curfew but I could not stop myself; after all, I had a chance to walk. When I was on the highway I saw loads of military vehicles passing by which of course is not something new. I moved ahead and started counting them. It’s an old practice, My mother used to ask me and my brother to count them in my childhood and that’s how I learned early maths and counting. Honestly, we enjoyed it. As I strolled on the highway I covered a distance of 2 km and by now, I had stopped counting them as they were more than two hundred. Suddenly, I had a strange feeling—it was not Déjà Vu but some-thing similar; I wanted to cry partly because I felt the troops are leaving and partly because I again felt their huge presence. But, I did not cry as I am a grown-up man now; so I moved on.

“I took a turn and after walking a brief distance I saw a lady coming out of her car which had a doctor’s sign; she was walking towards an alley when some policemen made some remarks and then they started laughing, including the troops. A young boy also witnessed it but, unlike me, he could not hold on to his nerves and he also started abusing. I realised his “mistake”; he was caught before me and beaten to pulp. Fortu-nately, they did not shoot him as they’d have known that hospitals are out of ventilators to hide more deaths. So the boy was lucky. They checked my I-card and let me go perhaps because of my chocolaty looks but I was shivering as I left the place. I was feeling terrible. I wanted to cry but I did not as I am a grown-up man now; so I moved on.
“After moving ahead I saw two old men squabbling over some issue. As I paced near they started shouting at each other. I enquired about the reason from another onlooker and he replied that they were having a ‘leadership debate’. Leadership debate is very popular among the masses and even the leading dailies publish different opinions every now and then. I heard them also saying: what would Kashmir do if it becomes independent? We are economically weak. This was something very strange; I remembered that in the past two months only teenagers and young men, who were fighting against the oppression, lost their lives. This made me very sad and I felt like crying but I did not as I am a grown-up man now; so I moved on.

“Damn! This time I saw a huge deployment of police and troops at a place which is considered ‘volatile’. I was scared but I braved it. After all, I am a grown-up man now; so I went ahead.

“As I moved near they did not talk but started abusing right away; one of them manhandled me and they all started beating me. This time I did not feel like crying but I was actually crying and that too with loud shrieks and screams. This time I couldn’t even move…. ” (end of Anees Zargar’s piece)

For God’s Sake …

THANKFULLY, several prominent Christian and Muslim leaders of this country have spoken out to maintain calm and peace before the situation gets aggravated along communal lines. Just received this statement from several prominent Muslims—Syed Shahabuddin, President, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Nusrat Ali, Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Asaduddin Owaisi, MP and Leader of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin, Dr Zafar Mahmood, President, Interfaith Coalition and Zakat Foundation of India, Navaid Hamid, General Secretary of the Movement for the Empowerment of Muslim Indians (MOEMIN), Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor of The Milli Gazette and an ex-President of the AIMMM.

“We disapprove disrespect to any religion or desecration of any sacred scripture or vilification of any religious personality or attack on any religious place, anywhere in the world, and consider it a despicable and uncivilised act. Islam specifically prohibits such acts and behaviour. Therefore, whatever the provocation, we strongly condemn the attacks on Christian properties and institutions in some places in Kashmir and in Malerkotla in the Indian State of Punjab. We urge the authorities concerned to take stern legal action against the culprits…We also appeal to our Muslim brethren in India in particular, and elsewhere in general, to show restraint in such situations and limit their disapproval and protest against such incidents to peaceful demonstrations, press statements and memoranda to the authorities concerned.”

Switching Over from ‘Ji’ to Sahib and Sahiba!

I was beginning to get almost allergic if ‘ji’ was somehow tagged along with my name. Why? For the simple reason that in today’s setting ‘ji’ relays some sort of political strain and that’s enough for the apolitical to react.

And with this in the foreground or backdrop it was refreshing to hear the legendary Kashmiri leader Prem Nath Bazaz’s grandson, Kongposh Bazaz’s suggestion that it’s time we revert back to sahab/sahib and sahiba flowing along with our names. Sounds nice and traditional, and definitely very Hindustani. There’s that old world charm that gets going the minute you scribble along or utter sahab, sahib or sahiba …

Whilst on Prem Nath Bazaz and his statesmanship-cum-political insight, it’s a pity that none of his children or for that matter grandchildren have followed in his footsteps. Though Kongposh, who brings out a well-known Pharma journal, is based in New Delhi but his friends insist that he is very emotional and sentimental about the Valley and his Kashmiri roots … In fact, one common trait that’s so very apparent in the Kashmiris is that they are highly emotional and sentimental people. And this trait alone makes them stand out …

And whilst on the erstwhile legendary political personalities, I find it unfortunate that even Mahatma Gandhi’s grandchildren didn’t take to playing an active role in the political scenario. Rajmohan Gandhi had once upon a time taken the plunge, but then moved towards academics and writing.

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