In the past few years, I had been openly standing up against the state brutality in Kashmir, and for their right to self determination.
I had a lot of people, especially friends in the army, tell me things like “Kashmiris are all liars”, “the state forces don’t do any human rights violations”, “the pellets/lathi charge happened because the protesters were armed”.
Even then, I stood by Kashmiris, because I knew how the state functions.
I’d seen how unarmed people are shot and then blamed for provoking the forces who had to “retaliate”.
And here it is, happening again in the place I grew up. Darjeeling hills, an abode of serene beauty, fresh air, momos, a place where you will see bright happy faces from 6 in the morning, a place where wearing what you feel like, and roaming around town does not make one feel unsafe, a place where drinking is not a taboo but an essential element of every festivity, a place where a fight or harassment in public will receive immediate help from the passersby who won’t stand there as mere spectators enjoying the show, a place that’s home to me but has been shut down for the past couple of weeks.
My home is now in turmoil.
My people are on the streets, everyday, marching for a better tomorrow.
My brothers and sisters were shot for a mere chanting of a slogan, a pro-Gorkhaland slogan.
My parents don’t want me to come home, because they worry for my safety once I enter Siliguri, where anti-Gorkhaland (Bengali) people are vandalizing properties of Nepali speaking people, lynching people and setting things on fire.
I am away, but every time I get a chance, I try to catch up on the updates of the situation back home.
And guess what? Each news I get, makes me more empathetic towards the Kashmiri peoples’ struggle for freedom.
Our movements are different, sure, but don’t they share a common motive?
Gagging the local media, banning the internet, arresting people with no charge-sheet filed, barging into homes; it is all the same.
The desperation in both our slogans, asserting our identities, somehow seem the same to me. A desperation, crippled by a regime that refuses to see the tears of a community that has been oppressed time and again.
In the state news, I read about my hometown, and it seems very familiar.
‘The land isn’t theirs to claim’
‘Weapons for armed struggle were confiscated’
‘They burned a truck with the driver still inside’
‘Mob attacked CRPF men and left them severely injured’
‘They threw bombs on the ‘holy-men in uniform’ & ‘shot them dead’
I won’t blame the lot in India who consume “news” from these Indian media channels, and then refuse to stand with us, thinking about us as demons.
We have been demonised in front of them, even before any of us has picked up a gun. Contrary to the news and distorted history that has reached out to the Indian masses.
‘We came with the land’
‘Colourful arrows and firecrackers aren’t weapons for armed struggle’
‘The truck caught fire because of technical problems’
‘CRPF men misbehaved with the women in Teesta and the youth stood up for them’
‘They chanted pro-gorkhaland slogans, some pelted stones as a form of protest. But they were shot at a point blank range’
The men in uniform molest, loot, and rape. News gets fabricated in favour of the state.
The unarmed civilians who are killed will always be blamed for their own deaths. Human rights get violated. Every negative aspect, drawback, weakness of the movement gets highlighted immediately. Every journalist, supporter, human who sees the truth and speaks up will be slapped with numerous false charges.
This is the nature of an oppressive state and it is same everywhere.
A few days ago, I’d seen a post in which a gentleman from Darjeeling said, “I offer my apology to the people of Kashmir because now I know what discrimination is.”
I am quite sure a lot more people now know how the Indian media works and demonises a movement and a community.
We know it now, the rest of India will know it soon.
History has shown that no land, no matter how strong the oppressive regime is, or how strong the army is, has been ruled for eternity.
For people who fight for their pride and refuse to bow down, for people who will not sell their souls to the killers of their brothers and sisters, for people who will never stop longing for the hills they can call their own, the valleys that deserve peace and no bloodshed, the winters that don’t have footprints of combat boots and bloodied trails on white snow. One day, we shall have our freedom.
We shall have Azadi!