Tuesday, July 12, 2016

To Save Ourselves

My thoughts are all over the place. And there is no coherence.

The aftermath of killing of Burhan Wani has been met with the usual Indian response to everything in Kashmir. When the government of India hanged Afzal Guru, this was exactly what Omar Abdullah’s government did. When the government banned beef and then RSS mob killed a Kashmiri trucker, same. When the Army killed two boys in Kupwara in April 2016, guess what the government did?

Now its been three days, we are still under curfew. And it is expected to go on for at least two more days. What is a curfew? It is the disquiet which is propagated as peace by India. It is the subjugation which goes silently in the night of oblivion. It is painful breathing in air of pepper gas and smoke – and despair.  India is a violent country that prefers to shut down an entire population with the might of its army to curry a sadistic nationalist pleasure. All over social media, people ‘celebrate’ the death of Kashmiris – not the ones who took up arms against the Indian nation, but the ordinary civilians. Lost faces in a crowd.

What kind of people celebrate the death of people they never met, never knew and whose existence does not impact them at all – for better or worse. But that is the whole Indian sentiment about Kashmir, isn’t it? Its forced appendage to the Indian nation is a matter of pride for some and statesmanship for others; no one is quite clear how its severance will impact them, if it does at all.

Meanwhile, we have curfew immediately following Eid. The markets haven’t opened since Eid, offices, schools, colleges, universities are all shut – and people are counting the dead. Every few hours there is a boy dead or blinded. Every time this happens there is some sort of announcement from the Indian establishment to use “restraint” and “nonlethal weapons/measures”. This jingoism was adopted in 2010 and has continued since – leading to pellet injuries which cause blindness and death. Most of the people, who are shot, are shot at above the waist. Failure looms large, but the establishment has been ignoring it.

The Indian media and journalists were quick to jump onto the news of Burhan being killed calling him anything from “a terrorist” to “pig”, some even calling for mass murder of all the people who attended his funeral. Clearly, we are on the other side of the Pir Panjal. There is no India here. In this valley, Kashmir is held hostage not just to herself but to the undefined conscience of a nation she seeks freedom from. After years of misrepresentation, we cannot rely on others to tell our stories. We cannot be spectators to our own stories. Nor wait for a significantly large number of people to die, before the world takes note.

Everything about Kashmir is problematic in India. If Kashmiris speak up for Kashmir, they are asked to leave and go to Pakistan (or anywhere else). This is symptomatic again of the Indian understanding – the people can leave; the land they can take. Again, reflected in their discomfort with Article 370 which grants special status of Kashmir, and is in most cases like this one is irrelevant. There is a callous disregard of Kashmiri lives. 120 killed in 2010, 30 so far in 2016. And that does not even include the people who have been killed in incidents during the six years. There is hardly a number – no one is certain.

When we talk of death on such regular basis it is easy to forget that they were people, like you, the reader and like me, the blogger. They had aspirations just like us – and most probably did not want to be shot dead. They too had families and lives going on. And this morbid talk is not made easy by the jargon used in the media. When the government spokespersons choose to address the media – and surprisingly when the police head spoke to the media – they all lament “loss of lives”, “incidents”. No one in the establishment says that police/CRPF killed the unarmed protestors. This narration is slowly morphed into the even gentler “30 33 people died in the protests” – holding the perpetrators blameless, not even mentioning the killers, reducing the guilt.

Of course, the media has other tricks too. Like the victim blaming – they were shot because they were protesting, and the whole discussion in the public psyche dissolves into whether the protest was warranted or not. Why were they doing it? Who made them do it? They want to disturb peace? Why hold such a large funeral? This was best displayed in April when Nayeem and Iqbal were killed by the CRPF: there was an immediate attempt to discredit Nayeem by calling him names (a stone pelter, mobster etc.) Again, veering off from the crime of the armed forces of shooting unarmed civilians. This time too, the focus is hardly the attacks on hospitals and unarmed civilians – but how to quell the ugly situation that has come to be in Kashmir. Face saving. Of course, people like to question the basis of protests too – why are they angry or sad over the death of Burhan in the first place – they just do not want to listen to the answers. The answers don’t sit well with the Indian nationalism – they don’t want to hear that Burhan is hailed as hero in Kashmir or that even though they may not follow in his footsteps they won’t diminish his bravado and image. The background story why Burhan became a militant in the first place is not an uncommon story in Kashmir.

Quoting from Shuddhabrata Sengupta’s article for Kafila: Kashmir Burns, Again (https://kafila.org/2016/07/11/kashmir-burns-again/)

“In October 2010, Burhan Wani, then sixteen years old, was on a motorcycle, with his brother Khalid Wani, and a friend. They were out on a bike ride, through Tral, the area that they had grown up in, as teenage boys do, anywhere. They were stopped at a Special Operations Group Picket of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and ordered to get cigarettes for the troopers. Khalid went and got the cigarettes, Burhan and the friend waited. After the transaction, for no apparent reason, the troopers pounced on the boys, beat them up severely, damaged the bike, which had been Khalid’s pride and joy. Khalid lost consciousness. But perhaps it was Burhan who suffered the greatest injury, and that injury, an invisible one, was what any self respecting young person with a sense of dignity might feel when beaten for no reason other than the fact that he is there to be beaten.
It is possible that Burhan the teenager died that day when his brother’s motorcycle was stopped so casually, so callously. It is possible that Burhan the ‘militant’, who grew to be ‘militant commander’ was born that very same day.

Within a few weeks Burhan disappeared into the mists of the forests of South Kashmir. He emanated, over the years, in the form of videos shared over social media, playing cricket, listening to songs through his headphones by a campfire, posing, like a slightly silly macho young man with guns that he should never have had to feel the need for, that were thrust on him by the fact that ‘men with guns’ is the most important face of itself that the Indian state shows to Kashmiris. The militancy that is generated is the mirror of the occupation’s protocols. Armed men beget armed men. Commander Burhan Wani was produced and destroyed by the Indian state, which made it impossible for a young, intelligent, charismatic man like Burhan to salvage his dignity by any means other than that of being an armed combatant.”

The spurge in street protests against India have made this conflict a very individual thing. With continuous blockades in many areas of the city, curfews and crackdowns in villages, every person in one way or the other is a direct victim. There is no escape. The increase in protests, as much as India would like to blame Pakistan for it, is a sign that  too many deaths in the neighbourhoods have emboldened the people rather than deter them – sharpening the hatred like a tack. And the discourse in India does not help. It’s not like India does not want to seen as doing things. After rushing more troops to Kashmir, for some odd reason the Indian Home Ministry called a meeting of mullahs in Delhi to discuss the Kashmir unrest, and the Indian PM chaired a meeting of which the Kashmiri CM was not a part. It does a lot, just not the right things.

Days like today are rare. There was no news of fresh casualties, no news of clashes. In the interim and unrelenting curfew, people have come forth to help others establishing langars and volunteering in hospitals. These are not the things the Indian media would like to talk about. But we must. The biggest residue in a curfew is the despair it leaves behind in the debris of the failing society. What next? Everyone seems to ask. There are no answers. We will open our shops and schools till untimely death come knocking again or India decides to poke the fire. Till curfew is announced again, and the public beaten and battered locked inside homes. There is no giving up. That’s why we must talk more about the small battles won. To keep the hope alive. To save ourselves.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Air Full of Prayers

We are all surviving on varied diets of Babribeoul. Of that, more than anything else in this heat, I am sure.


Temperatures are up this Ramadan, and the days are long. So, naturally, tempers are running short. The other day at the bank, a customer was angry at the clerk for calling him "Yaar" (Informal: friend). It was sometime during the first week of Ramadan, and not everyone was adjusting that well.

Ramadan is a low key affair in Kashmir. There are no popular night time markets. There are no fairs. And for the most part, markets are deserted except during the days before Eid. I guess, the sun is keeping the people indoors.

But the early morning Sehris are cool. The young guy in the mosque hastily shouting "Waqt -te- Sahar" three times to officiate the hours before the Sahar Khan with his drums and bugle makes the rounds. There was a time when every mohalla had a Sahar Khan, who was more or less a known figure. Now no one is sure of his identity. He is just a sound a drum beat in the wee hours, a knock on the iron gate - an audible guard of the community's faith.

The new Imam in the mosque is good looking young guy with a neatly trimmed beard and a stirring enunciation of the Quran. And there are a lot of new faces. Many young people are absent. But even with a new Imam and new followers, the prayers are still the same. After each congregation, there is a brief pause. An Aameen hangs in the air as a collective sigh of the people who have agreed, heart broken themselves, with every word the imam has uttered - asking for the well being of all people from Kashmir to Palestine.

Yet, the one thing the imam seldom prays for is hope. If I could ask for one thing tonight - I would ask to be hopeful. For God to take away the leaden despair from our lives and fill us with the faith of  a better tomorrow. Things start looking up, when we do. And tonight, I need that more than anything else.



Monday, May 30, 2016

Twos and Threes

For a brief moment he gathered his thoughts, and then let go. He did not like what he saw.

The stranger had re-emerged. In this yet unknown city, where he tried hard to belong, he had anchored his heart and let his mind sink. His precious idea of life was far from realized, but so was his life. He wasn't dead yet. It was just another year passed. It was just a birthday.

The only two greetings he had had were from an old friend, who had bothered to remind him that he was fast growing old, and Google. He was somehow grateful for that.


Why must it rain today? The sky was overcast, and as he looked out at it, it only seemly to grow darker. Clouds kept moving in, and yet there was no rain. A tattered blue tarpaulin sheet waved aimlessly at him, a black cat moved under a log and white pollen from poplars floated in the air.  

There will not be any celebrations. He felt that he had reached the mountains to find there was no fire, just gusts of cold air. A thunder clapped loudly in the sky and the electricity snapped. For all that had happened to him, he had played with the poorest cards he had. Twos and threes, against aces and kings. Even the occasional Jacks. 

In his room, he thought of something to wish for. Something, he would carry into the new year. Something that would get him through this night. He blew the candle. I need more hope tonight.

And, then it rained.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Twitter Poll 2: Do you support Metered Auto Rickshaws?





Saturday, April 23, 2016

Twitter Poll 1: What is your Everyday Breakfast like?




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