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Mainstream, Vol. XLVIII, No 34, August 14, 2010

Kashmir: The Anger and the Mess

Sunday 22 August 2010, by Humra Quraishi

What are we doing in Kashmir? What are we doing to Kashmir? What are we doing to the Kashmiris? How many more civilians will be killed in Kashmir? How long will the boot control emotions and the rising anger? How long can this ongoing curfew be continued? How long can the Kashmiris sit in this besieged state when the month of fasting—Ramazan—starts next week onwards? How long will the hospitals be able to contain the long list of those lying injured? How many more fresh graves will have to be dug? How many more psyches will be bruised for times to come? How many more blunders will get committed in the Valley?

How Long will this Disconnect Last?

FOR the last few days the developments in the Valley have been so upsetting that I have been sitting depressed. So many dead and killed and even beaten to death. In this day and age when it’s got fashionable to talk of dialoging, here is a situation when killings are going on to crush a revolt. Whoever heard of revolts getting crushed by military might! Even fools would know that no revolt can be crushed by prolonged curfews or keeping an entire population in this surcharged atmosphere. Yes, you could suppress a revolt for a while but not crush the sentiments and that rising anger.

Where are those New Delhi-based politicians who not long back were busy flying in and out of the Valley? Why don’t they now fly down to the Valley? And not give mere speeches or make announcements of packages from safe locales but try and reach out. Visit those lying near-dead in those hospital wards and with that catch a glimpse of the medical facilities. Visit the numerous graveyards containing the remains of those killed and mourn. Visit the orphanages spread across the Valley and spend some time listening to those affected by the violence getting unleashed so very systematically. Visit the vacant houseboats and shikaras and ask about the plight about the plight of the daily wagers who have to feed their families even in these ‘curfewed’ days. Visit the homes of senior community leaders and civil society members, with the appeal that its time to talk, to discuss and address the anger. That mounting anger which has been simmering for the last twenty years and now couldn’t be contained any further. It’s burst out.

Yet, instead of calming flared up emotions we are busy compounding them …creating a horrible, horrible mess. In the first week of June when I was in the Valley, though apparent peace seemed prevailing and together with it the tourist flow, that hurt-cum-anger lurked in the eyes of the Kashmiri. I think I had mentioned this observation in one of my earlier columns. Together with that, that their anger seemed understandable—after all, the present generation Kashmiris have been witnessing and experiencing what a conflict zone holds out. And with little means and lesser ways of getting out of it, they have been living in this tense, turmoil-hit Valley. If he or she steps out of the Valley, to the so-called metros, there stands out another round of insecurities. Why? Because you and I don’t really welcome Kashmir Muslims in our midst. We look at them with suspicion and distrust. Prejudices have seeped in, deep and well implanted in our psyches. Our police, our security, is trained to keep an eye on them. One case after another of harassment-cum-humiliation meted out to the young Kashmiris—whether they are budding cricketers or aspiring professionals or even young students.

Have we even bothered to connect with the Kashmiris? Have we even bothered to know what they are trying to relay? Have we even bothered to be there to know the ground realities? In fact, this past week I have had heated arguments with people of this Capital city who insist on coming up with their hollow and stupid ‘expert’ opinions without even bothering to actually see and sense those ground realities prevailing in the Valley. No, they have no sense of the prevailing anger in the Valley. And now with this latest news of additional security forces being deployed in the Valley, one shudders to think of the aftermath. It could be another of those disasters and blunders.

If there was some basic sense prevailing, then the government of the day needs to indulge in the very basic—reach out to the angry Kashmiris through peace-makers, well-respected community leaders, civil society members, counsellors and healers and communicators …. Let forums and centres be set up where the young can be heard. Let there be speedy/on the spot justice and with that the killers of the young Kashmiris be identified and tried. There and then. And as the anger gets contained, the much-promised dialogue process has to take off. None of those so-called quiet moves but more along a transparent format. Let the Kashmiris know the very crux of these talks and get them involved. After all, their very lives and future are at stake.

Lately, as I have been re-reading Kashmiri historian G.M.D. Sufi’s two volumes on the Kashmir Valley, those passages focusing on the years long gone by hold out. Of how the different erstwhile rulers—Afghans, Sikhs, Mughals, Dogras—had treated the Kashmiris and with that the troubled history flowing out. It’s been a tragic history of such a beautiful place, of warm-hearted emotional people.

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