Who do I mean by a common Indian? And why did I choose to write to you?
I am writing this to anyone among 1,35,06,87,984 Indians who were alive till Saturday. Among this vast dizzying number of names, among Rams and Shyams, I chose a name for you – Narendra, a name, a phenomenon, you identify most with.
Any Indian professing any faith, having any political leanings-left, right, centre and nowhere – will find my words relatable. And I write to you because a collection of presumptions, perceptions, politics and of course, peaks of Himalayas have walled us off from each other. I deliberately chose an open letter to communicate to you.
My dear Narendra, I have had a string of sorrowful experiences in the past month. My uncle expired naturally (and by naturally I mean death with anything but a bullet). Twenty people including two army men, were killed in three separate gun battles in South Kashmir.
Have you heard of gun battles? Gun battles are micro-wars where a couple of miserably armed disillusioned Kashmiris fight thousands and thousands of troops, mortars, explosives, chemical weapons, gunship helicopters, and last but not the least, local snitches. What you hear of as a ferocious encounter with terrorists is actually a lopsided battle between bare chests and bullet-proof vests.
These ecosystems of extinction attract hundreds of civilians, who identify in ideology and emotion with the cornered militants, brave bullets and potential pellet-induced blindness in a desperate and failed attempts to help militants escape. An uncanny escape of a couple of militants cost twice as many lives recently in Kulgam. Why do civilians throng to encounter sites, you ask? Why does a bird bleed badly by ramming into windowpanes? It sees a reflection of world behind him. And it sees a member of its species imprisoned inside. Civilians see a similar sieged atmosphere in the humdrum of their lives, in the smoky walls of the crumbling house.
A police officer recently stated that encounter houses were not wedding venues to attract youth. But ironic as it may seem, the militants killed in encounters are showered candies, hennaed and farewell is bid by singing Wanwun (Traditional wedding songs).
Against this macabre backdrop and given that I am one of the innumerable silent sufferers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Kashmir, my letter may read as a rant. Bear with me. Sorry!
I am not building a historical human rights case against you! I have issues with occupation only, and frauds committed in history. Period. The numbers, the toll, the casualties and even pervasive militarisation are just symptomatic of that forced rule. But I won’t teach you my national history or bore you with names of the dead and maimed. A single letter is not enough to enumerate the deceits or revisit the violations. I have some present political and practical grievances though.
Every human, and every Indian, needs security, and governments are duty-bound to provide that. I don’t dismiss your concerns for security. But what does a farmer dying of drought and debt need security from? A Kangri armed Kashmiri? Do you exactly need security from “blood-lusty Kashmiri terrorists”? Do they even exist for god sake?
Your government seems to have been successful in creating, or rather summoning into existence by wave of a magic wand, a pseudo-enemy, a phantom-fundamentalist, an unreal Islamist. And has crystallised the false fears emanating from this enemy by pressing a corporate elite media into service.
With “godi media” at its disposal and its subjects wearing prime-time-perverted glasses, government perfectly manages to propagate its propaganda. I don’t deny your nationalist inclinations, but your patriotism is puffed with prejudice and hatred, my dear!
When Kashmir witnesses a bloody day, and every argument in favour of frail statist narrative seems to fall apart, your Arnab Goswamis cry hoarse, “without our brave jawans, you wouldn’t think of sleeping peacefully at night “. These word lull the Indian masses, including you, to sleep off the dead.
Narendra, your security is being used to justify the killing of Kashmiris. Your love, lives and laughter are dished out as digital justifications of daily murders in the valley. In essence, your very existence is an excuse for ending mine. Thus, for me, a sleeping Indian is a criminal. Indian love-making is a crime. A state of blissful being, that denies my basic rights, is a crime.
An entire population of Kashmiris is condemned to a doom in your name. Yes in your name!
Does it not prick the conscience of a population of 264 crore Indian legs? I don’t count you as heads or hearts; I doubt you have any. For your heads would have favoured extension of democratic values beyond the Jawahar tunnel and your hearts would feel for the families of young boys who are fodder to the cruel Indian cannon.
I have never met an Indian from the mainland. What I see is the omnipresent armywala in the alleys of my town. He is everywhere, in the bunkers with a muzzle poking out, in the markets with cocked moustaches and manning the saffron fields of Pampore. You have any idea about their number? Check your Red Blood Cell count. And the number of forces in Kashmir outnumbers them. The media is a medium of contact. But I have stopped watching evening debates on television and inflammatory speeches by self-serving politicians. How can I bring myself to listen to those who organise a rally in the support of rape accused in Kathua?
Narendra, you love your family, don’t you? How can love for kith and kin and hate for Kashmiri coexist in a single being? Do the contradictory feelings not consume you? Please don’t allow yourself to be driven by madness of politics. Allow sanity to prevail above and over every petty stereotype. No religious or political affiliation is greater a cause than humanity. I am signing this letter off with the hope that Indian common masses will rise against the bigoted governments and rally for lasting justice and real peace in Kashmir.
Will be eagerly waiting for your response.
A hopeful Kashmiri,
Bilal Yousuf is pursuing MBBS at GMC Srinagar. He has previously written for Kashmir Lit, CafeDissensus, India Resists and Oracle Opinions.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir.
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