Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why protest?

When I was a little girl, I travelled with my family to different parts of India and met many Indians and actually liked them. I loved my books and believed every word. They talked about how great India was and how great India is. They talked about the bravery of the Indian army and the great ideals of the Indian nation.  I believed it all and, in fact, much of it is true. But I would also wonder why the Indian nation faces so many problems if it’s all so perfect. I started writing about the problems that India faces as a nation- I listed out problems like illiteracy, diversity, corruption, etc. (I now wonder how I could write all that at such a young age. That, however, is not the question). I learnt the national anthem by heart, taught myself the national language, learnt all about India- all at a very young age.

While growing up, however, I saw some things that I couldn’t understand, things that did not go well with my notion of India, things that my books never said. It was the year 1996 and elections were being held. Army entered our house which was situated in deep downtown area of Srinagar. My sister and I were unaware of what was going on. All I remember is that they were checking if everyone had voted or not. My 80-year old Late grandmother was sitting on the balcony (dabb) and spinning yarn (yander). I remember the army men asking my mother, “Buddhiya ne vote dala?” (Eng: “Has the oldie voted?” Buddhiya being a disrespectful word for oldie).  My mother told them that she was an 80-year old woman and wasn’t keeping good health. So I added this to my list of fundamental duties thinking that it was necessary for everyone to vote. It was like watching a new game of which I didn’t know the rules. After watching an unknown game for a while, you begin to formulate rules based on your observation of the moves. Whenever you watch a new move, you add it to your conceived list of legal moves. But then, all of a sudden, some move that you thought was perfectly legal is declared illegal by the referee and you update your list of rules and your understanding of the game. The same thing happened to me when I came to know that not all Indians vote and that no one forces them to vote- I updated my understanding of the rules; I learnt that it is desirable if not necessary to vote; I learnt that rules are not the same for Kashmiris and Indians.

Years passed. I was an avid fan of Gandhiji's and how he led the country to independence. That was only till I analyzed, thought and read about the British rule in India and their struggle against it. I found that histories are often written with a political motive. I found out that the British rule was no worse than what we have in present-day India. I found out that it was not Gandhiji’s non-violence formula that gave India freedom- there were other reasons for that. I found out that political boundaries are not divine. I found out that constitutions are not supreme. I found out that peace is not a solution but only a settlement (actually peace is only portrayed, it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t prevail). I found out that the face of the world has changed through the course of thousands of wars and revolutions- the industrial revolution, the Second World War, etc. And after every such revolution, one nation or the other claimed supremacy over the rest (through colour or through the dollar) and gave to itself the task of upholding the world order and of peacekeeping. I found that there is nothing wrong with revolutions.

I found that there is nothing wrong in protesting. What is considered violence by some is the expression of misery by others. I found out that injustices do happen and everyone has a right to express their displeasure at how they are treated. I found out that there is nothing divine about borrowed constitutions that are not even relevant to the social structure and that when someone is wronged, they do whatever they feel is right, no matter what the laws say.

During my "struggle for political consciousness", however, I never found an instance of people protesting without reason. People protest when something goes against their wishes and when their wishes go repeatedly unheard. So when someone protests, it is time for self-introspection fir governments- they protest because they have grievances, unsolved issues, unfulfilled promises.

When a thousand people get together to protest the killing of an innocent person, they don’t have to be shot at- instead, they must be apologized to and given justice. Whenever Kashmiris ask why they are surrounded by so much of army, your memory dates back only till 1988 when the armed resistance began; I wonder where all the preceding years of discontent and unresolved dispute went. The problem began much earlier but no, you don’t seem to remember it. Who decides what a legal form of protest is and what is not?

In present-day India, it seems okay to burn a person alive if they are trying to interfere with your religious beliefs. But to vent out your frustration by just raising slogans or pelting stones when your basic human rights have been compromised deserves a bullet in the head. Kashmiris are blamed for being unpatriotic- patriotism, however, is a flawed concept in itself. It changes meaning as and when the boundaries of nations change. Real patriotism comes from within. No amount of historical glorification can induce that. It comes from common aspirations and sacrifices of people- such as those of the Indian nation. If Kashmiris have not been able to accept India as their nation, it is for no fault of theirs. It is because their aspirations lie elsewhere. It is because of the questions that were never answered, the dispute that was never resolved (not to their satisfaction), the promises that were never fulfilled and the people who disappeared and never returned.

I have never ever come across someone who protests without reason. As long as people have problems, they will protest. And if they are even ready to die protesting, their problems must be huge. You should either try to govern them well or let them govern themselves.


  1. U wrote on our whole generations part n u wrote very well.. Appreciated

  2. A tale of every young Kashmiri.This is the story of every individual of our age group.
    While reading this blog my childhood memories got refreshed. Once in a week a search operation conducted by the army personal. Keeping all men stand in a line. Entering our houses, misbehavior with our mothers and sisters, killing of innocent young boys in front of their houses is still fresh in our mind.
    The wounds of those days are still there.
    God knows what lies in future for us... .

  3. Shehla, this was great. Thanks for sharing.

  4. refreshing the past memories :-) thanks dii


If you liked this post, please let me know !