Monday, 28 March 2016

Things Like These

I condemn the Paris attacks. By I, I mean, me. Just me. (Because Muslims, apparently, don't condemn terror enough.)

We condemned France, when they banned the head scarves for Muslims. But now we condemn the attacks and their perpetrators. By we, I mean, Kashmiris.

In the same breath, we condemn the attacks on civilians in Baghdad and Beirut. All this happened in one night, while we were asleep. And Ankara, Brussels and now Lahore. And all the attacks that happened on civilians anywhere in the world in between. Or in the future. Or in the past.

We condemn things as a routine. Because we, the inhabitants of this poor nation, know this: There is no terror like the terror of the unknown. No attack like the attack on the freedom of will.

When we were in the 90s no one spoke about that second thing. The attack on the freedom of self became prominent much later. That time it was all about survival. Getting through the day. Getting back home. Making sure everyone got back home. 7 o'clock used to look like the dead of night.

But as the time passed on, we moved out of nightly shoot-at-sight orders, into restive periods which were full of lazy curfews and strikes. The stone pelting came much, much later. Deaths in this period took time to be reported as there was no social media back then. We spend a lot of time discussing death in Kashmir. Or rather murders. Every now and then a dead body turns up to remind us that the price of life is not too dear. Its only now, about twenty years later, that one can reflect on all that was lost and how. A systematic annihilation of a generation. Slowly everything dimmed in a grim sunset of a winter evening. Srinagar, once a well to do city, started to crumble. Becoming a city of barracks and funerals. A rich city of poor people. Srinagar has come to be defined by distinct marks of tragedy, which is open for political exploitation.

We stand on different sides of the divide. Fear of the unknown is a very real thing in our world. Not knowing when   or by whom will you be attacked. After the Paris attacks, the media went on a rigmarole of asking people 'how do you feel?'. They questioned a lady wearing a red coat, who said that it scared her that she doesn't know what to be scared of, where and when it will attack. It happened when Parisians were busy with everyday life - out in cafes, theaters or just having a stroll, and it terrified her to think that it may happen again.

I too want to answer that question. For people who had never known a different life, this was the way of life for us. We used to gawk in surprise and horror at people who would work late. Or at cities, where there were no military men standing guard. We never knew a world without war, and its sudden outbreaks. We accepted it as a given dimension of life. So, later on we had to learn to be scared of it - to treat it as an outside force which was not normal. With that came new found humiliations in daily acts, like showing I-Cards to alien armymen, being paraded and ordered by people who do not belong here. That  is what wars do, they add to the shame of existence.

We grew up with this lesson in fear of everything - instructed in distrust and disorder. It becomes second nature, like the paranoia of feeling vague when a stranger approaches for a conversation. Since we grew up like that, we assumed that freedom lied somewhere outside the borders of the Valley. It seems that there is no place like that anymore. I moan this loss of freedom everywhere.

I started writing this after the Paris Attacks and then put it away. I thought I will complete it after the blasts in Ankara, and later Brussels. And now Lahore.

I don't think there is a perfect time to say things like these. 

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