Monday, August 15, 2011

The Independence as we know it

I've waited one year to do this- to write about what the Indian Independence Day means for a common Kashmiri. The caption is not entirely original. Exactly one year back, my friend and a proud Indian Amar wanted me to write about the grievances that we have with the Indian state. This is the time when there was a protest turned freedom movement going on in Kashmir. From what I saw, I concluded that it was a war between the Indian state and everything that represents it and the Kashmiri people. The state government's perception of the unrest changed from "an act of miscreants" to "an engineered protest by paid Pakistani agents" to "frustrated people giving vent to their feelings" to a "parenting problem". I fell ill. I couldn't write. Also, because of the daily killings of young people and my own cowardice and inability to join them, I was overcome by the guilt of survival. I couldn't think clear.

This friend of mine was (and, I believe, still is) curious as to why Kashmiris want Azadi. This caption was his idea. There are a hundred reasons but the one that should suffice is that Kashmiris do not consider the Indian Independence as their own. I belong to the generation called 'The Children of The Conflict'. Since I grew up, I've known the Indian Independence Day as one when we have to stay indoors- curfewed. The irony is that occupation is never as starkly visible as it is on the Independence Day. The fact that the entire Kashmir valley has to be chained up so that Indian flags could be hoisted in peace is a sign of nothing short of occupation. Kashmiris resent this day not because they hate India but they hate everything that represents Indian occupation- the police, the bunkers, the govt. and so on. This should be enough for Kashmiris demanding their Azadi (freedom) and asserting their right to self-determination. Clearly, their aspirations are different from those of the larger Indian nation.

Kashmiris are a very friendly people- make no mistakes. But their hospitality is often mistaken for their docility and they're taken for granted. Their resistance is depicted as violence, their political aspirations as frustrations of the unemployed, their creative activities as the widely resented word 'normalcy' and their forced participation in rigged elections as plebiscite.

Before coming back to what the Independence Day means  for a Kashmiri, let's examine what it means for a common Indian. Majority of the Indian population is still rural, agricultural. For the Kissan (farmer) life is only marginally better than what it was during the Raj (British occupation). To be fair, the successive governments since Independence have done a lot for their upliftment- access to better healthcare, roads, irrigation facilities and so on. Whether or not it would be the same if the 'Kissan' were not the largest vote-bank is food for thought. The Kissan suffered the most under the Raj- then it was famines, now it is suicide and the conditions leading to it. Two good things about suicide are- suicides are not acknowledged as a mass suffering and they can be atributed to a host of other things. For the Jawan (soldier), serving in the British army was as prestigious as it was demoralizing. He was always in a moral and emotional dilemma. Today, it is no better for him. The poor soldier is left to fight for his country's 'integrity' in the towering and shockingly cold Himalayas and it is due to his sacrifice that the Indian politicians reside in their safe havens. He is brought in to combat street "warriors" 'armed' with stones. When he does what he's trained to do (kill), he finds himself at the centre of a moral debate that politicians sitting in New Delhi conveniently fight from their cozy drawing rooms. Every once in a while some trooper or the other commits suicide and the news doesn't make its way even to the front page. Proud defenders of a politically bankrupt nation, the Jawans have been entrusted with the task of handling the Kashmir front and sincere steps to the solution of the dispute is tactfully avoided.

The Preamble to the Constitution of India describes her as a Socialist Democratic Republic. Huge Capitalist economies of the world are more socialist than our own Socialist Democratic Republic. While millions of dollars are spent in the upkeep of an excessively bureaucratic government, expensive, top-heavy ministries, Independence Day celebrations and security- internal as well as on international borders- food grain enough to feed a large chunk of the population is allowed to rot, an honest police officer who dares to expose his political bosses is deprived of security cover in the face of death threat, women do not feel safe in the National Capital Region and children still beg on the streets.

While everything can go wrong elsewhere in India when it comes to Kashmir, the Govt. of India and Agencies become the holy cows all of a sudden. Indian govt. can never be wrong in Kashmir even if they have wronged everyone else. Innocent Indians are allowed to die in bomb blasts- who carries them out is immaterial- everyone can take advantage of India's habit of blaming it all upon Pakistan and 'anti-national' elements. The fact is that MASSIVE misappropriation of funds that could fuel huge developmental tasks is an anti-national activity. A young teenage boy venting out his anger against a fake encounter by pelting stones on anything that represents the state is not a danger to the 'integrity' of a huge nation like India. Corrupt governments like the UPA and cunning, communal ones like NaMo's are anti-national.

To the hard-working, working class Indian the Indian Independence day means heavy discounts on 'Made in China' consumer products and lots of national pride- without the slightest realization that their governments have put them on the precipice of an impending nuclear disaster by allowing an international dispute to feed on the taxes paid by them with their hard-earned money.

Which brings me to the next point- my list of three top irritants on Kashmir. However, I'll continue this in the next part of this write-up. For now, I only want to wish my friends (who are predominantly Indian) a very happy Independence Day. We, in Kashmir, wish India a bright future as we have stakes in her prosperity as neighbours.


  1. True....
    I appreciate the effort...
    Facts are scattered all around but nobody is going to realize them.
    One should understand, our actions come out of the love for our people not of the hatred for others. Peace. I am a kashmiri and i am real proud to be.

  2. I think Kashmir deserves to be independent now. As an Indian I think we should leave you guys alone for a while. If you find the going difficult in the future alone, the door to return back to our capacious embrace should be kept open by our Govt.
    The reason why Kashmir has been a police state is ofcourse that Pakistan is interested in you. I see that Pakistan is now changing its rhetoric. It has realised how much they have lost in their lust for Kashmir and even people like Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif opine that India is no longer the big enemy. This should certainly improve the situation and allow us to lessen the number of troops in Kashmir.
    UPA is your best bet if you want freedom. NDA will certainly not allow you to detach from India.

  3. Nice ...looking forward to read the next part...God bless

  4. I have no idea how I landed here, but I'm glad I did. First things first, Shehla you're a damn good writer. I read most of your blog and I must say well done!
    "The independence as we know it" is good. But why do gifted and talented kashmiri writers such as yourself time and again write about our history to convince their Indian friends that our demands are in fact legitimate? why do we like to narrate our history instead of focusing and planning for the future? The reason why we're still under oppression is because of the lack of leaders with intellect and conscience. Leaders who live by the philosophy of a writer or a poet or even perhaps a saint(a perfect example of which is Allama Iqbal and the creation of Pakistan). Surely, a girl of your intellect will know that I write this not to offend you in any way but because I sincerely believe that it is time for us to think straight and draft a policy that will lead us to freedom in the next 50 years.

  5. lol separatists !first kick out hindus and then demand kashmir and apply sick sharia law onto it and let it be led by fanatic muullahs....this very girl who is blogging here will be the first one who will be hacked up by those mullahs. All bullcrap of freedom of separatists will be laid to rest. Just because your mind is full of crap, it is not necessary to spill it out online.

    1. Aptly said...("except for the girl who blogs" part...)

      Independence is not just an EQ factor, n esp. with the Kashmir issue, Independence is more of a strategic global factor, it can shift the balance in this part of the world..

  6. I do believe in the Kashmiri right to self-determination, but even so that last line of yours did pinch a little. I guess thats just because I have always thought of the little Kashmiris with head-scarves as much a part of the idea of India as the little Malayali studying by the beach. That idea seems to have worked for almost every kind of people in the Indian Republic and its unfortunate that it doesnt seem to have worked for the Kashmiris (and the Nagas, but thats a separate story).

    There is something almost noble in people putting aside differences and forming a more perfect union based on high ideals, but of course a forced union cannot be perfect.

    If at all I can offer any 'safai' on the behalf of Indians, its that we see police firing and excesses happening all over India (37 Hindu Gujars were shot dead by the police in Rajasthan in 2008) and most of us certainly dont endorse these kind of brutalities. We do tend to see Kashmir through a security and Pakistan lens, but thats beginning to change with more media exposure and more Kashmiri voices being heard outside the valley.

    I must also urge a note of caution, as neighbors it is likely our relationship will be more like the one that exists between India-Bangladesh, or worse, India-Pakistan. You might have more stake in the prosperous future of Pakistan than India.


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