This moron Hindu needs a fitting reply: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please, set Kashmir free
Saturday, August 23, 2008 21:56 IST
As the daughter of a Kashmiri Hindu, whose family left its ancestral home in Srinagar during the turmoil that followed Partition, I would like to express a sentiment that I still haven’t heard in the rhetoric about Kashmir.
I speak for those for whom Kashmir is not a symbol of one-upman ship with Pakistan, not a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that is intrinsic to the sovereignty of India and not a football to be kicked around by cynical politicians, but as the daughter of a family in whose very lifeblood Kashmir courses every moment.
Cut our hearts open and you will see Kashmir, put your ear to our sighs, and you will hear our yearning for the land where our family spent its last days intact and happy before Partition scattered us to the winds, rendering us refugees.
Growing up dislocated in Mumbai, as a child, it never failed to surprise me when people who often hadn’t so far stepped out of their suburb, would say:”Kashmir is ours! We will never give it up! Let them try and take Kashmir from us!”
Even at that early age, when I could have mistaken their jingoism for kindred sentiment, I realised that their virulence had nothing to do with my family’s love for Kashmir, but was misguided machismo.
And I would find myself seething with rage at the audacity of their presumption. “But Kashmir was never yours,” I’d say in my mind. And sometimes, when more provoked: “You don’t deserve Kashmir!” And then I’d go home to my mother, whose ever present, unshed tears for her homeland, were a leitmotif of our life in Mumbai.
Throughout my childhood, my family would go back to Srinagar (the ancestral home in Vazir Baugh had to be sold when my widower grandfather became too old to live alone) to stay with Muslim friends, with whom we shared a poignant empathy: we had lost Kashmir because we had moved away; they were losing it everyday, living there, witnessing its destruction. Over kawha, we would watch as the elders of our family weep for what had been.
Like a woman too beautiful for her own good, Kashmir was a tragedy even then. It produced an ache in our hearts when we heard its name and thought of its ill fate: and then, because you cannot sit weeping over lost Valleys all your life, when we returned home we put Kashmir on the backburner.
And on that backburner, Kashmir fermented Sheikh Abdullah, a man whose commitment to India was unquestionable, was humiliated, jailed, alienated. The most unimaginable genocide was committed on the people. Entire generations of its sons were mowed down by an army whose presence was as large as it was unpopular. And in its knee-jerk, misguided, ill-conceived approach to Kashmir the Indian polity revealed its shallowness.
But through this all, intrinsically, those of us who have Kashmir in our bloods, know that the Kashmiri Pandits who have been driven out of their homeland are not enemies of the Kashmiri Muslims, in fact they are both victims of the historic blundering of the Indian government’s Kashmir policy.
Take away Delhi’s political brinkmanship, take away the Hindutva sentiment that has played so neatly into the hands of Pakistan and its fishing-in-troubled-waters game and you may be surprised at how harmoniously Kashmir’s Hindus and Muslims can live.
So, on behalf of my mother, my family, and all those who have loved and lost Kashmir, I beg: Please. We have done enough damage to and in Kashmir. Enough to last many lifetimes. The chinars are tinged with too much blood. We have failed Kashmir and we don’t deserve her anymore. Leave Kashmir alone. Set her free.
Kashmir needs freedom from violence
Monday, August 25, 2008 21:37 IST
Wallowing in idealistic romance can lead us to bizarre presumptions. Nothing illustrates this better than Malavika Sangghvi’s column, ‘Please, set Kashmir Free’, which appeared in the Sunday edition of DNA. Usually, such a piece would be ignored but given the current climate, the message that has been given out needs to be put in perspective.
Childhood reminiscences apart, one is forced to ask what the writer is trying to convey. If it is the fact that an ordinary Mumbaikar or an ordinary Indian is ignorant or jingoistic about Kashmir or the genesis of the crisis prevalent in Kashmir, the writer is no less guilty on the same count. Sans rhetoric, what historical, political or analytical perspective has she given to us? Merely stating that the Indian state is an occupying force in Kashmir does not cut much ice with either the naïve or the informed reader.
Her use of the word “genocide” is also unfortunate. This is not a term that can be used to describe the way India has treated Kashmiri Muslims. Could she care to tell us about the shrill cries of “azaadi” emanating at the onset of Pakistan-sponsored insurgency, when the loudspeakers of the mosques would blare: “We want Kashmir without Kashmiri Pandit men but with their women”?
It is worth knowing that the “proponents of the noble azaadi”, raped, killed and kidnapped and have been caught in money-laundering operations. Yet, as a healing touch measure, these very initiators of the mayhem in Valley have been set free by the very India who she accuses of genocide. Several of those who have killed are today free on the streets of Kashmir. What more compassion and catholicity does she expect of the Indian state?
I am myself a Kashmiri, a Kashmiri who has been forced out of his home, a man whose house was burnt. As a minority Hindu living in Kashmir, I have felt fear first-hand. I have heard the deafening noises of those processions which said, “Aiy zalemo aiy kafiro Kashmir hamara chod do”. My father was almost killed by the bullets of the “soldiers of God”.
There is a perception about the Indian Army’s large, unfair and unpopular presence in Kashmir. Yet, as a child, I did not even see policemen in my native village leave alone any CRPF or Indian army personnel. Before the onset of insurgency, the Kashmir valley did not have even one bunker of either the paramilitary or the armed forces. While I agree that there might have been some cases of excesses at the hands of the forces, the fact that the separatists have changed gear towards peaceful protests brings home the point that the Indian armed forces broke the back of groups like JKLF, Allah Tigers, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and others.
It is thanks to the army’s efforts that the earthquake victims on our side of Kashmir are resettled while those in POK still live in tents provided by foreign agencies. While it may be fashionable to slander the armed forces, one must not forget that the army even looks after the education and upkeep of children of the erstwhile militants.
But that’s not the moot point. The moot point is whether we should set Kashmir free. Yes, we should. Yes, we should set Kashmir free from the obscurantist ideology that the separatists seem to be following. Yes, we should set Kashmir free from the endless cycle of violence set forth by religious fanaticism that the protagonists of the conversion of Dar-ul Harb to Dar-ul Islam have put it in to. Yes we should set Kashmir free from the heroes of hate who brought guns to Kashmir from Pakistan and are now portraying themselves as Gandhis and Nelson Mandelas, forgetting that both never killed anyone and both believed in peaceful co-existence and pluralism. Yes, we should set Kashmir free from the grip of people who forced half a million Hindus and Sikhs to live as refugees.
The writer is a filmmaker and activist.