Kashmiris are caged as India, Pakistan inch closer to war

No, I did not ‘celebrate’ Eid. Didn’t have the heart to, when hundreds and thousands of Kashmiris are sitting in open and closed jails! Officially or unofficially detained or under house arrest or sitting under those clamp down conditions.

In fact, let me point out that there is a marked difference between celebrating and observing Eid. Those shots that government agencies and certain television splashed of the Valley Kashmiris offering namaaz should not be mixed up with celebrations! Yes, the Kashmiris, like all Muslims, observed Eid but there was nothing at all to celebrate in these fascist-ridden times!

Curfew lifted for those couple of hours could not be expected to have brought along any level of relief because those caged conditions prevailed. No internet or mobile connectivity and, of course, shut were also those traditional norms of human connectivity. Also, government reports of Kashmiris queuing at the ATMs should be viewed in the backdrop of the realistic facts to the prevailing ground realities in the Valley – a large section of the Valley population are daily-wagers and with the ongoing restrictions, their earning capacity is dismal. And those Kashmiris involved in the tourism industry and with fruit exports are also sitting wrecked. Also traders and shop-owners have suffered hugely. Near-shut business avenues, directly affecting the buying and selling capacity of the Kashmiri … so much that even the basic daily survival gets difficult for a large section of the Valley population. Sad and forlorn he or she sits, as anxiety and apprehensions hold out.

Also, stands out the fact that all mosques of the Valley were not open for the Eid namaaz. Mind you, this isn’t a new phenomenon but ongoing for the last few years. Of course, this in itself has left a deep impact on the very psyche of the Valley residents. On earlier occasions when news had come in that certain mosques were locked on Eid, I have seen Kashmiris sitting back in immense sorrow, sighing and quipping ‘sabr…sabr,’ relaying that the only way to keep going was by equipping oneself with patience to overcome rounds of tortures heaped on them…I have also seen mothers and fathers visiting the various graveyards and holding one-sided conversations with those lying well-tucked in the soil of the land. After all, there is no dearth of graves and graveyards in the Valley. If one were to ask what has been growing unstopped in the Valley, then the very first spontaneous response would be – the number of graves and graveyards!

Emotionally upset and bruised are the Kashmiris, as the situation turns bleak by the day.Yet, rather ironically, no halting of those typical sarkari reports along the strain – ‘situation under control, normalcy returning, all peaceful in the Valley’! Tell me, how can one even think of believing a word in those sarkari hand-outs. On one hand, the hapless citizens are ordered to sit confined to their homes without any means of connectivity, yet the picture that gets splashed around is that of all’s going okay in the Valley!

Where is the fabled development for the Kashmiris when they are pushed in the dark ages. At least in those dark ages they could move around on foot or on horses. Not like today when they are not even allowed to walk around in their own terrain. They are under the control of the boot. They are surviving under the glare of the soldier. In fact, the Kashmir region is one of the most militarized regions in the world.

The situation gets compounded with the local leaders sitting arrested or detained or under house arrest. The voice of the Kashmiri is completely throttled. No, we don’t even wish to hear his warnings and forewarnings, in the context of not just his region but in the context of the sub-continent. I am reminded of one of my earlier interviews with Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, where he minced no words to relay – “I’m of the opinion that metal detectors cannot detect the anger and alienation of the Kashmiri people. No amount of weapons can win over wars against people’s discontent…Paradise is not lost to Milton but to the people of Kashmir…Today you have to take into consideration the sentiments of the Kashmiri people and also the dynamics sweeping across the world. We have to rise above those beaten tracks and yesterday’s hostilities. Today there seem no escape routes available for India and Pakistan, but the only way-out is to work on actual issues; after all, peace and dispute cannot co-exist and nuclear weaponisation in the subcontinent has added an alarming dimension…we have to focus attention on how to bring about peace in the region, on how to address the deepening alienation of the Kashmiri people and the political uncertainty hanging over Kashmir. Regarding demilitarization, India can’t withdraw its troops from the Ladakh region and Pakistan can’t withdraw from the Gilgit areas, but why can’t troops be withdrawn from our towns and from our villages?”

And in another interview, the Hurriyat’s Maulana Abbas Ansari, was categorical; telling me that no lasting solution to the Kashmir crisis would be possible without taking into consideration the views of the Kashmiris.

“No solution will ever be possible untill the Kashmiri is heard and asked what he wants. And it is the interest of both the countries, India and Pakistan, that a solution is worked on, as soon as possible, for God forbid if war erupts the whole of South Asia tabah ho jaega …don’t ask what will happen to us Kashmiris, hum log to waise hi mar gaye hain. We Kashmiris are almost dead, but I am worried about the entire region. I’m repeating if war erupts, this entire region tabah ho jaega …will get destroyed.”

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