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