Indian-administered Kashmir: ‘We should not lose our humanity at the end of Article 370’
Last week, on the afternoon of August 24, a family in Srinagar watched their television anxiously. They wanted to know if the government would allow a 12-member parliament to enter their city.
A controversial anchor extended the government’s accusation on the parliamentarians to “advance Pakistan’s agenda” and “disrupt normal life”. As soon as the news came out that the government was sending the MPs back to Delhi, the faces in the room went down. One of them quits the screen and says yes, the situation in Kashmir is normal. Like, everything is normal in the cemetery. ‘
Street patrols, strikes and businesses closed in fear, unmanned schools, paratroopers at vacant colleges, strict ban on transportation, suspension of transport, postage, mobile, internet and most landline During the last week’s visit, Kashmir identifies ‘normal life’.
Our trip to the Valley was a personal tour that was scheduled several months ago. Then in early August, the government’s decision to send additional troops to Jammu and Kashmir, the implementation of lockdown, the elimination of Articles 370 and 35A and the division of Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories progressed. Friends and relatives discouraged us from going on this trip. But we felt that at a time when a valley was actually covered in the valley, it was even more important to reach out to the people there, especially when one of us belonged to a Kashmiri Pandit family in India. Is from
During our visit, the pain, anger and distrust of meeting people were overwhelming. The things we heard most were ‘cheating’ and ‘feeling suffocated’ We saw people facing severe insecurity. And there was great fear among the people. Most of the 50 people we met expressed their concern and asked not to reveal their identity.
‘We have been left in the dark’
An apple farmer complaining of mental distress in a village in south Kashmir told us, ‘There is no peace in our hearts and minds. We are worried about what will happen in the future. I ask the people of India to understand our pain. We too want peace. ‘
His four-year-old daughter sat next to us without saying a word during our hour-long conversation.
This process has been presented to the country as ‘bold’ and ‘decisive’. But it has had a profound impact on people’s lives here because they are now unaware of the state’s next steps and strategies and lack access to credible information. A woman in Srinagar asked us: ‘All our leaders have been imprisoned in houses or jailed. Where do people go? To whom do we describe our pain? Another person said: ‘We have been left in the dark.’
Thousands of arrests, including children, and the fear that authorities might be rescued and captured, have made people more afraid. Many local journalists spoke of threats and censorship by the authorities, and that their institutions in India have barred them from reporting the facts.
The feeling of injustice at the government’s far-right decisions has increased beyond the sense of silence with the power of the gun. There is also a bitterness about a government decision. During the good business season, the valley was evacuated from tourists, causing a severe blow to local income.
Various businesses have sunk into a debt of millions and could not sell a lot of money which was prepared for Eid. Weddings have either been canceled during the season or they have been simplified. The region’s most famous monastery (Waza) and its employees are all set to finish, making the most of this month. Shopian District is a famous area for pear and apple cultivation. We saw the fruit trees there and the silence in the market. This is an area that made millions and made a lot of business activities.
‘All my life was with India, but not now’
Many people cheated not only with the Indian government but also with the people. A crowd in Srinagar asked us’ 20 days have passed. Why are so many Indian citizens silent? Are they satisfied with these arguments? ‘
One man intervened and said, ‘Even the Supreme Court has no idea.’ About 60 years ago, someone sadly told us that he had been with India all his life and used to argue with his friends about his democracy but not anymore. Many were wondering where Indian democracy had gone.
The closure of the communication system is having serious practical and emotional effects on the entire population, which is ignored by most of us, not just the government but most of us.
Imagine having all the contact with your loved ones. And you’re worried about them. Or you have to spend a week without phone and internet. This has been happening in Jammu and Kashmir with millions of people for the past one month and there are no signs of relaxation in the closures.
A young man gave us Rs 100 and said that we should deposit it in his bank account so that his brother can pay his exam fee. Another said, ‘There is an atmosphere of fear that is how every day will pass. All is closed and there is nothing to wait but wait. ‘
One mother, who has not spoken to her daughter and grandmother for the past 20 days, told us: ‘The government has disconnected us from all over the world. How lonely he has kept us. ‘
‘Don’t speak out of fear, don’t know who will listen’
An elderly lawyer said that one of his cousins had died and he found out about it four days later.
We saw in many homes that people were watching one of the two Urdu channels on TV and they had messages of children and loved ones living outside Kashmir all day.
Surprisingly, the question of the future was not expressed by joy or hope by anyone, not even by the youth. A youth from a village in Shopian expressed concern that government actions would ignore the life of the common man and create a new generation of militants, which would lead to further bloodshed.
“People like us will remain silent and will not speak out of fear because they do not know who will listen and what reaction they receive from the militants and security forces,” said a poet-teacher.
An old Kashmiri Pandit of Srinagar was of the opinion that “there is no clear policy on (the government) Kashmir.” There has never been a policy. We Kashmiris will have to endure all this. ‘
All our conversations demanded respect, dignity and sovereignty from Kashmiris, which made us realize that Kashmiris still treat Indian citizens as human beings as they are. ۔ People who complained of Kashmir’s heartbreaking depiction and government atrocities on India’s news channels also called us over for tea.
“We are in jail here, but they are also with us.”
When they found out that one of us was a Kashmiri, they increased their hospitality. Almost everyone joined us in return and lovingly said goodbye to us. On some occasions, we also saw feelings of public sympathy towards the forces. “Look at these troubled faces. We are in jail here, but they are also with us,” said a person from Srinagar.
On our return from the valley, we were disappointed with the state of the democratic institutions. And also how most of us see the people of Jammu and Kashmir from the eyes of the government and Indian TV channels.
The government still defends every move, and according to them, negotiations are of no importance. We are told that conditions are normalized by the closure of the communication system. Having 1 million soldiers in the valley, which has one soldier for every seven people, is essential for counter-terrorism. The TV channels are describing the victory of the nation. But most importantly, Indian citizens are accepting this picture without question, indeed they are not approving it out loud.
In all of this, we do not care that we are destroying our own humanity by ‘uniting’ people under military pressure, or by shutting down their voices, or by denying their suffering.
Ankit Aga is associated with the education sector. Chitrangada Chowdhury is a freelance journalist and researcher.