I am writing to you from Kashmir. Srinagar, to be precise. To be fair, I didn't want to respond to your open letter, or even read it, but the giggles it generated on Twitter made me kind of want to read it. And then, you know, replying is only polite.
So, I received your letter yesterday. Now, if the NIT incident made you realize that something terrible is happening in Kashmir, I do wonder at your understanding of Kashmir. The NIT incident is a perfect example of how media choses to demonize Kashmiris over trivial matters. But anyway, the way you have appended Handwara after NIT by saying "thereafter, bloody clashes have broken out in north Kashmir." is a master-stroke. As if Handwara had something to do with NIT, or even should be treated the same way! You offer no condolence, let alone sympathize with the victims of the Handwara killings. Your country's army killed four unarmed people, and critically injured many more. But that doesn't find a mention in your letter, despite being the thing on every Kashmiri's mind right now.
Lets skip over your paras explaining the Kashmir issue and the 1990s militancy and mixing it unnecessarily with ISIS. You haven't understood what historians do. It follows you don't understand history as well.
You talk about taking parts of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and China, but you won't because you are not 'okay' with heavy civilian casualties. Really? Is that why you tendered condolences on the Handwara killings right at the top of your letter? Is that why you chose to address issues like AFSPA and human rights? Are you sure you would not be okay with calling them 'collateral' later on?
No, but for some odd reason you ask us to focus on Article 370, because you feel "it is not empowering Kashmir". Nothing about India empowers Kashmir. That is not the relation we share. That is not how and why India exists in Kashmir. You could have asked to remove the AFSPA and for justice for the victims of the atrocities committed by the Army. But instead you don’t want us to blame the Army, because they have a 'tough job' which can result in collateral damages like an eight year old kid who was playing with his friends , a 70 year oldwoman or a 19 year old cricketer and indeed so many many more. These were innocent people. How is removal of Article 370 going to help in punishing their killers?
You see, CB, the problem is this. India is not what is standing between Kashmir and total Islamic fundamentalism as you seem to understand. Pakistani Army, the "local leaders" and the "experts" are not always the problem. You and Indians like you, really need to look at your country's actions in Kashmir. It’s not all Priety Zinta and Hrithik Roshan in a shikara. And the youth that you wanted to address, they have faced the brunt of the Indian Army - been beaten, paraded, held in custody for no reason and worse. All the while empowered by legal machinery imposed by the country you think is the best option for us. Really?
If you ever had paid attention to Kashmiris before writing this highly insensitive letter, you would have understood the root of problem Kashmiris have with India. We just have had enough of being told what is good for us by Indians. I cannot simplify it enough, or break it down even more. We are tired of listening to Indians like you telling what Kashmiris should think and choose, because we have so little intelligence of our own that we don’t what is good for us. Just when we had learnt to ignore Sunny Deol movies, you have a new breed of journalists hell bent on misrepresenting facts to a nation which has little to no knowledge about Kashmir. And you are pandering to that gallery.
Et tu, CB?
We could point out cases as recent as 2016 to show how this army which you want to hold blameless has murdered Kashmiris with impunity, but I won’t because it will not serve much purpose here. Remember 2010? Your paramilitary killed 120 unarmed men (most under the age of 30). There were no retributions for that. There was no punishment for any of the troopers. And you want us to trust you? The youth that you wrote to survived not because of India, but in spite of India.
Cute that you brought up women’s right issues in Kashmir. Heard about Kunan Poshpora? May I suggest you to try reading Shahnaz Bashir’s “The Half Mother”, you might get some perspective on the life of women whose sons have been taken by the army and vanished. Enforced disappearance. There are also detailed reports by human rights organizations detailing abuses (including those by the Army) available. Peruse them too. That is the childhood of the youth today. You cannot wave that away just by saying India is a “real economy” now.
Oh, on that note the girl who was 'molested' by the army is still under police custody. The mother of the girl claimed (confirmed what so many Kashmiris were already saying) that the video disclaiming the Army’s guilt was taken under duress. All this and there is no role of any “Islamic fundamentalist” in this.
Next time, you write a letter consider toning down your patronisation. That is the least an ordinary civilian can do - empathize and not sound like a condescending know-it-all. Frankly we cannot suffer more of those. Your letter and its tone are of no help.