Jul 30, 2016

An Open Letter To Jhanvi Behal From A Kashmiri

Dear sister,
First of all, I would like to applaud you for your open, courageous challenge of hoisting the Indian national flag in Lal Chowk, Srinagar. You are out of the ordinary and so are your dreams. Being so outspoken in India is not very common. I really appreciate your gallant approach towards the social matters.

Well, I am not going to question your nationalistic romanticism towards the Indian national flag. Neither am I going to campaign about any anti-national event that offends you. I am not going to speak in favour of or against any mainstream politician or a separatist either. In this letter, I will only try to give you some brotherly advice on behalf of my Kashmiri brethren.

You talked about hoisting the Indian national flag in Lal Chowk where according to you the Tri-colour was disrespected by some ‘anti-national’ elements. It was not something surprising because you are not the first person who has challenged that. Many have attempted to do that before. But what actually is surprising is, how an extremist thought has found a place in your innocent mind at such a tender age. It speaks enough of the invasion of nationalism among young Indians which is a problem. Let me explain.

When you are overly emotional, your desperate move can result in a wrong turn. Your situational incognizance adds to it and makes it worse. Revolution happens only when the right opportunity meets the right preparation. When you are not aware of everything happening around you and respond improperly; you are ought to make a blunder. Being patriotic is a great quality. But the love of nation should not blind you from differentiating between right and wrong.
You are on a mission of achieving something that is unachievable without force. Isn’t that a military invasion? For the sake of argument, let us assume that you will successfully hoist the Indian national flag in Lal Chowk on coming 15th August. What is Next? What is that going to prove?

If you visit Kashmir, how many wall-graffiti are you going to wash off from the streets of Srinagar saying: “Go India Go Back!” Even if that is one of your agendas in Swach Bharat Mission, how many ‘Go India Go back’ slogans are you going to wash off from the minds of Kashmiris?

My dear sister, I would suggest you not to waste your sincere efforts on something forceful. Rather try to earn it. We, Kashmiris, are very modest people and known for our hospitality. You are welcome to come over, sip some kehwa, enjoy a shikara ride and feel the warmth of our love. If you really want to attest the presence of India in Kashmir, try to attest that in the hearts of our people and not in the heart of our city. What is the point of hoisting a flag on a watch tower where there will be no one to fold it respectfully every evening and hoist it back the next morning after you go back home? There is no point in hoisting the national flag on a building with a concrete heart void of emotions.

What if I ask you why the streets in Kashmir wear a deserted look every 15th August when the whole India is celebrating on the streets? If you are really open to challenges then let me challenge you openly to hoist the flag in our hearts. Can you? If you are sincere to your patriotic claims, then rather take a pledge to hoist it high in the heart of every Kashmiri, and that can’t be done forcefully. Your challenge reminds me of the words that echo in the streets of Kashmir every now and then, “You might win our land, but you can never win our hearts.”

My dear sister, you are young and seem to be sincere to work for the betterment of the society. I learned that you are greatly inspired by Mother Teresa. Well if you are, then you should see Kashmir issue as a human rights/social issue first and not a military issue. The day you stop looking at Kashmir through the nationalistic prism, you will find your answers.

You have a long way to go, grow up and make a difference. Take a suggestion from this brother who has lived 27 years under the shadow of guns in Kashmir: Being patriotic is one thing and being nationalistic is something entirely else. There are furthermore categories like overly nationalistic, outrageously nationalistic, religiously nationalistic and jingoistic. And above all is humanity. Now you have to see where you stand and where you want to go.

With Love,
Your Kashmiri Brother

P.S. This article was first published by Youth Ki Awaaz 

Jul 9, 2016

Burhan … and what Next?

Only a day has passed since 22 year old most wanted militant in Indian Controlled Kashmir, Burhan Wani, has been killed in south Kashmir and the whole Kashmir is protesting on streets. Burhan’s death is the only buzzword filling the news space around Kashmir.

Indian media is celebrating the triumph of killing the chief commander of Hizb, the local Kashmiri militant organization fighting against the Indian occupation. Kashmir, on the other hand, is on streets, protesting and mourning the death of a local hero, their own Che Guevara.

The young boy with a charming chocolate face, Burhan, has been in news following his growing popularity on social media. His modus operandi that was different from the other young recruits in the Hizb has made him an iconic figure among the locals. He was leading the Hizb as an Independent body while using social media for his campaign. His recent statement of welcoming Kashmiri pundits and Amarnath yatris in the valley added more to his following. That spoke enough of his liberal cause. He clearly spoke about his only objective of fighting against the Indian occupation. In no time he became the most wanted militant in the valley earning him a bounty of one million rupees on his head.

Now when Burhan is killed, there is strange feeling around. People from all over the valley are pouring into his town to pay tributes to him. Eulogies are being sung by the local woman, showering candies and flowers over his funeral. There have been unprecedented protests following his killing where around eight protesters have been killed so far and hundreds injured. More causality is expected; I pray otherwise.  Restrictions and curfew has been placed in most of the towns while mobile internet has been gagged.

There have been militant killings before but none was responded the way it being done now in case of Burhan. This speaks of the people’s sentiments for the freedom movement that started decades ago. Burhan’s death has given that movement a new face.
There is a strange deafening silence around while emotions are doing the talk. Violence has erupted once again in the valley but the question remains: Where is Kashmir leading? How many death tolls more? This is worrisome. 

I pray it is not a start of another bloody cycle of action and reaction where people are gunned down to mere numbers for a ravenous death toll. Whoever is being killed or kills the other might have his own reasons to do so. One is serving his nation and other is serving his cause. But what next?

Violence is definitely not a solution. Sometimes it can be one of the medium to reach a solution but definitely not a way to be preferred; history teaches us. My heart pained equally at the death of 8 CRPF personals that were killed by militants recently is an ambush in Pampore, Kashmir. Poor fellows didn’t even know why they were being targeted. They are mere pawns of a bigger bloody game unaware of the actual actors and their dirty script. How many more deaths? How many more cycles of killings and retaliations? There has to be a way out.

With the killing of Burhan opens a new chapter in the history of Kashmir struggle for freedom.  There will be definitely consequences attached – mostly bad. I pray it ushers Kashmir to its resolution in a peaceful way.

Burhan’s death should not be celebrated by pro-Indians as a triumph. Neither should it inspire pro-Kashmiris to follow the same path. His cause should rather be pondered upon. It might be the end of his life but it’s a beginning of his cause that needs to resolve with peace; sooner the better. If not, then the only worry is: what next?
P.S.  As a eulogy to the lost, one heartbroken poet friend writes:

Come to the skies, long forgotten. Come, we wait
for that promised day. Not for those, who hold winters
close, like me; but for flowers yet to be. Come, we wait.

Those saffron fields, that once were: grow not saffron
any more. We now grow stones in them. Those we keep
to fight, and some we keep to remember.

Knitting purl jersey, now half complete. If she could knit
the fate, or cancel the ink that wrote, or dissolve it perchance.
What fancy at times does heart make, when love is at the stake.

They found him after the moons forgotten, sleeping
in the fields. One shoe lost somewhere, the other
with laces undone. That white shirt had lost its color,

faded into red. Tucked safe inside the pocket of jeans, 
a letter to the sweetheart; dirty at creases. Now, never
to be read; for the want of a listener, word on his lip unsaid. 

The kohl lining to those clouds; tonight, washed away by rains.
Carefully placing the mothballs; Mothers knot those bags of memories.
Fold carefully: they are too young, for the old age bevel-top trunk.

Come to the skies, long forgotten. Come, we wait
for that promised day. Not for those, who hold winters
close, like me; but for flowers yet to be. Come, we wait