[Special thanks to Minakshi for translating my original write-up into English]
It is important for me to note down some disclaimers before I start my ‘Mann ki baat’. Given the present situation, you never know when someone will slap a sedition charge on you; especially at a time when the fine line between friend and foe is getting blurred day by day. I have already been ‘asked’ a few times to go to Pakistan; and by supporting Kanhaiya I have automatically become a traitor anti-national. So here goes:
- I am an Indian Citizen since birth but can’t say will be till death.
- Your idea of nationalism is completely missing in me. Don’t care about the greatness of Indian Army, don’t want to join, India is not my mother as well. I have only one mother who lives in my native place.
- Those of you who equate non-patriotism with traitors, let me be very clear to you. I have no intention to go against India, don’t want its destruction either. For that matter, I am not against any other country in the world, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh, the US, Australia, Syria, Afghanistan – you name it.
- I trust the Indian constitution but I have no ‘faith’ on it. It is no God to me (oh, have I mentioned that I am an atheist too?). Even though I haven’t studied it thoroughly, I know that it doesn’t have a single clause in it to ensure my safety. It speaks about secularism, about how not to discriminate between caste, creed or religion but not a single line for a non-believer like me. Even though it is yet to cover a lot of other issues, still I trust it to run the world’s largest democracy properly.
- I may pause for a moment if you ask me if I believe that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Why? Because I sincerely believe that India has forcefully kept this freedom loving state as a part of her own. Yes, I respect the fact that it is a part of India but at the same time I honour the thought of those Kashmiri people who don’t consider themselves as Indians and wants freedom from both India and Pakistan. It is also a fact that I won’t pick up any weapon in their support as I believe they have to fight their own battle. They are the ones who have to decide how they are going to claim their independence – through violence or in any other way. At the same time let me state one thing here, if they choose violence as the only option then India as nation, her nationalism and her army is responsible for pushing them that way.
- I respect the national flag and national anthem but don’t expect me to stand up while they play the anthem in the movie theatre.
- I didn’t choose my country, religion or caste during my birth yet they were forced on me as my identity within few seconds after I was born (who asks a newborn about his opinion anyway). I have no special feelings for them, they are there and that’s it. I consciously disowned the Hindu-Brahmin-Bhardwaj attributes from my identity after the Babri Masjid demolition incident, back in 1992. I whole heartedly dislike religion, caste and creed. Those who consider cow as their mother and justify the Gujrat riot constantly; and those who think pork as ‘haraam’ and any other religion except Islam as impure – both are equally despised by me. By the way, I eat both beef and pork.
Now let’s come to the point.
Let me begin with a story, a tale of our great country India and her greatness.
During the independence in 1947 a part of eastern India was partitioned off to give birth to East Pakistan. Its administration was controlled by West Pakistan which was not acceptable to lot of people of East and as a result had to undergo various inhuman tortures in the hand of their administrators. When the sufferings became unbearable, people of the East started revolting against their administrators of the West saying they don’t want to be a part of Pakistan, they want to be an independent country. Hence the atrocities of West Pakistan became more brutal. Killings of the intellectuals, rape, and murder at will became an everyday affair. Everywhere across the country all you could see were piles of dead bodies lying around. To stop this, people of East Pakistan secretly formed Mukti Bahini, their band of freedom fighters.
Of course not everybody joined this band. There were lots of sympathizers of Pakistan too. They were called Rajakars.
War started. Losses got mounting on both the sides. At this time a foreign country came forward to help the Mukti Bahini. Name of the Country? India. Even though the superpower like the USA was against it, still India sided with the freedom fighters and started helping them. The then Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, sent the armed forces to fight this war side by side. After lots of bloodshed, East Pakistan became free and Bangladesh was born in the year 1971.
What a proud moment for India, isn’t it?
Now let’s take the same story but shuffle the names of the countries. Let’s replace the name East Pakistan with Kashmir, West Pakistan with India and India with Pakistan. Story remains the same except for the ending as the war is still on.
Some young guns from East Pakistan, i.e. Kashmir, come to West Pakistan, i.e. India and start shouting ‘India ki barbadi (destruction of India)’. Just like the people of East Pakistan used to say about West Pakistan. No, none of them dared to go to mainland West Pakistan to shout these words at that time. Nobody shouted the same in mainland India too, at least till now, even though it can be heard in almost every corner of Kashmir.
But isn’t Kashmir part of India too? Isn’t shouting these words on the roads of Kashmir same as shouting on any other road in India? How dare they?
I used to think in the similar line too. But then, I didn’t know the history of Kashmir at all. All I knew that during partition people of Kashmir wanted to go with neither Pakistan nor India, they wanted to be an independent country. But how can anybody let go of ‘heaven on earth’? With all her beauty she was the prized possession for anybody for that matter. Centuries after centuries she had to bear the brunt of her beauty in the hands of the invaders.
After India became independent, the then Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh expressed his interest in becoming a part of India. Rumor says that Hari Singh was ‘made to’ show his interest by some ‘special’ means. Whatever they were, by all means, were not his own wish at all. The fact was that Pakistan was gearing up to take control of Kashmir and she didn’t have enough power to stop that. Thus Hari Singh requested India for help, the same way Mukti Bahini of East Pakistan requested. But what India didn’t do with Bangladesh, she did with Kashmir, asked it to become a part of India to get any sort of help it needed. Hari Singh didn’t have any other choice but to accept India’s offer at his ‘own will’.
India opted for two different policies for Hyderabad and Kashmir. People of the princely state Hyderabad wanted to be a part of India but its ruler Nizam was against it. India went with the people of the state and made it a part of the newly formed country.
Anyway, let’s get back to Kashmir. Pakistan was not ready to sit quietly after the so called inclusion of Kashmir with India. As a result, they attacked and captured some part of the valley which is now known as ‘Pak Occupied Kashmir’ or POK. It is still a disputed land and Siachen Glacier is also part of that dispute where both India and Pakistan lay their claim. It is said to be the world’s highest battle ground which is currently under control of Indian Army. It is also one of the most dangerous land as well, where every year a number of soldiers die not because of any war but because of harsh weather condition. At the beginning of this year ten Indian soldiers suffered martyrdom due to a massive avalanche. One of them was Hanumanthappa Koppad who managed to survive buried under tons of snow for six days and finally died at the Army Hospital in Delhi where he was brought for treatment after the rescue.
Before I deviate further, let’s come back to the Kashmir Valley. Every now and then people of the valley would march in Badami Bagh, Lal Chawk to show their dissatisfaction with this inclusion. Peaceful protest march with only one demand – ‘Hum kya chahte hain – azaadi’ (what we want is freedom).
Pakistan took this opportunity to create more tensions in the valley. It’s like if you can’t be mine then nobody else can get you either. They started sending terrorists across the border. Hatred stared to spread in the name of religion. A number of people crossed the border and went over to POK under the veil of the darkest nights to get themselves trained to become freedom fighters. They not only for trained to become ‘Jihadis’ but got brainwashed in the name of religion too. One of the ideas that were etched in their head was ‘India belongs to the Hindus and as they have forcefully captured you, both Hindus and Hindustan are your enemies’.
Not all Muslims subscribed to this thought. Most of them lived peacefully and like you and me lived their everyday lives. But a few young people did subscribe to the dream of jihad. Got trained, came back to the valley and started their fight. Their target? Indian Army. Guerrilla attacks started.
Situation were deteriorating every day. No one could be trusted anymore. Neither Indian Government nor the army had this patience to differentiate between a terrorist and a common people or you may say they didn’t have the drive either. Often they would go from one locality to another, pick up Muslim males between the ages of ten to fifty and take them to the identification parade. And how was that done? They would be paraded one by one in front of a prison van with an informer, who knew the probable terrorist, sitting inside. The job of the informer was to blow the horn when s/he would see the targeted person. Once done, army would take that person into custody and take him away to their special place. And then started the special army hospitality till the guy confessed that he went for the jihadi training. Nobody cared if that’s the truth or lie. If not him then definitely one of his male relatives. Who cares? Talk or get beaten black and blue.
And what happened when they laid their hand on a real terrorist this way? That person wouldn’t have come out alive from that special hospitality room. After a day or two the bullet ridden body would have been found lying on the road somewhere in the valley. Their neighbours and relatives would pick up the bodies silently and buried them. Another set of youth pledged revenge for these deaths.
And those who are not terrorists? What happened to them who were tortured just to get the confessions out?
Allow me to introduce you to Hussain.
Hussain, a timid man from a remote village in southern Kashmir, sits quietly in the doctor’s chamber. According to his doctor brother – ‘erectile dysfunction’. He thinks he has become impotent. He doesn’t want to get married, doesn’t want to socialise with any one. He prefers to spend his time in his small shop. He is one lonely man.
Hussain was in college when the armed uprising was announced in Kashmir in 1990. He along with thirteen of his friends started for POK to get the ‘training’. BSF intercepted their truck near Kupwara, arrested them and took them to the nearest para military camp. Next day morning they were taken to the interrogation room. He was forcefully stripped off naked and electrocuted by wrapping both his hands with copper wire. Hussain wanted to shout with all his life but couldn’t as cotton balls inside his mouth suppressed any sound that were about to come out. These balls were changed immediately once they got wet with blood, saliva or vomit. Next they forcefully inserted the wire in his penis and electrocuted. Hussain realized it later that it was not just for getting confessions as everybody starts talking after a certain time as the torture gets more inhuman and unbearable. Indian army knows that too. Still they do it just to satisfy their sadistic pleasure.
At one point of time Hussain couldn’t take it anymore and lost consciousness. His interrogators woke him up and again started the electric shocks. His pants got with, not with urine but with blood. As his testicles become swollen, his tormentors got scared and transferred him to the army hospital. Torments continued even after he was released from the hospital. Finally, after two torturous years he was freed. By that time his penis stopped getting hard anymore. He covered himself within a shell after returning home. When his family asked him to get married, he refused saying that ‘it doesn’t get hard anymore’. He was ashamed to go to any doctor and spent all his time in the local mosque. Hussain started to become a devout Muslim, one who can easily be branded as religious extremist by Indian media.
You would be wrong if you think that Indian Army only targeted Kashmiri men. Let me tell you about Rashid and Mubina.
Mubina was coming back from Kupwara with her newlywed husband Rashid and the wedding party when their bus was stopped by BSF. Just before this bus arrived a car full of terrorists that fled from there by firing a few shots at BSF and couldn’t be captured. So what did BSF do to forget their worthlessness? They stopped the bus, abducted Mubina at gunpoint and gang raped her, the whole night. Yes, that’s how they satisfied their punctured, patriotic ego.
Mubina is still alive and so is Rashid. But after that no more extravagant wedding takes place after sunset in the valley. Everybody tries to complete the rituals during the daytime so that they can return home before dark.
Then there was Gulzar. This twelfth standard student once jokingly ragged a junior schoolmate of his. What he didn’t know was that junior student was the son of an Indian Army Officer. Army came and picked him up from his home, took him to a nearby shed and blasted him in shreds with a mine. Official documents stated that he was a dangerous terrorist who died when the mine accidentally detonated in his hand.
There are lot more incidents similar to these. If you want to know about them then I would recommend you to read two books. “Curfewed Night” by Basharat Peer and “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” by Rahul Pandita. These books are more than highly recommended if you want to understand the sentiments of Kashmir and her people.
How long people can stomach the continuous torture by army like this? How can it be expected that after being raped, tortured, killed every day, these freedom loving innocent people will speak about unity, will respect India’s so called integrity? Forget about Kashmir, what would you do if similar things happened in your locality or for that matter in any other part of the country or to any other community of this country? What would you do?
Kashmiris were still trying to live with it. But finally the volcano erupted in 1990 when Indian Army open fired on a peaceful parade while it was crossing a bridge over Jhelum. Hundreds of unarmed Kashmiris died that day. Their crime? They wanted freedom.
Army truck came in the evening to pick up the bodies and take them to the morgue. Upon reaching there, a shadow rolled down from top of the dead pile. A 10-12 years’ old kid who was buried under the bodies all these while jumped down from the truck shouting ‘I’m alive, I’m alive’ and ran into the darkness within minutes. Unarmed army men, busy with the dead bodies, couldn’t catch him.
This added fuel to the already raging fire which engulfed the entire Kashmir valley. More and more young people started crossing the border to get trained so that they can bring freedom to Kashmir. No, they never wanted to become a part of Pakistan. All they wanted was freedom, independence. Pakistan helped them with training, with weapon just so that they can get Kashmir, so that they can disturb the peace within India. Kashmiris took this help from Pakistan just to get the independence for themselves.
Amidst all these commotions, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik started a new hate propaganda. Just because most of the time the target of these torments by Indian Army were Muslims, the huge population of Kashmiri Hindus (who are known as Pundits) became targeted under this separatist politics. Hindu means Indians, get them out of Kashmir. Kashmir only belongs to Muslims, jihadi Muslims. Hindustan is for Hindus, so throw them out of Kashmir.
For an entire decade this hatred turned into violent torments for the Hindus. As a result, they started leaving the valley in hoards. Once both the Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus shared their lives but not anymore. They had to leave behind everything they had and leave. Some of them trusted their neighbours to stand by them and tried to stay back. At night the terrorists would attack their houses, killed the male members, and raped the women. Babies, kids, young or old, they spared no one. Only because they were Pundits.
Rahul Pandita tells the story of a septuagenarian retired professor. Not only in in Sanskrit, depth of his knowledge in Arabic and other Islamic literature knew no bounds. He was a Hindu Pundit who was loved and respected by one, by all. And he put his faith on this love and respect. But the separatists couldn’t stand this. One night they came and forced him to pack all his valuables in a suitcase and made him come with them on a gunpoint. His elder son wanted to go with him, the terrorists took him along too. Next morning, both their bullet ridden bodies were found. Those extremists hammered a nail through the skull of the old professor.
For us, who live a very content everyday life, it is very difficult to understand, or even imagine what Kashmir has gone and is going through. On one side there are separatist hate mongers and their barbaric activities, on the other hand, the inhuman tortures of Indian Army and BSF. In between are thousands of poor Pundits who had to leave behind everything and take shelter in Jammu, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh.
India who is so proud of her unity in diversity, the media who has an opinion about every social problem, are least sympathetic towards this decade long mass exodus. Yes, it’s true that there were not much of a media in the 90’s except Doordarshan, but the fact remains that nobody tried to stop this mass exodus within this country. Till today India government depends more on Army’s gun power than open discussions to resolve the Kashmir issue.
Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister of India on the promise of ‘Achhe Din’. It’s one of the main agenda of his party to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pundits bank into the valley. That work is yet to be started.
Why am I saying these things? I didn’t want to write the history of Kashmir. Then why?
Why? Because unless you understand the bigger picture about Kashmir, you won’t understand which ideology or belief gives birth to the likes of Afzal Gurus, who then barge into our secured state system. For the past one week, a number of my friends and acquaintances are playing the game of tug and war between the concept of patriotism and anti-nationalism, on the social media. Without knowing anything about the history, the flow of events and just based on their fantasia and media fed stories, they are creating their own notions or better say their own philosophy.
Deliberately and conveniently all the opposing voices are being tagged as traitors or anti-nationals – you are supporting Afzal Guru, you are a traitor, you don’t believe in the country’s integrity, Kanhaiya Kumar should be publicly lynched, send these people to Pakistan, how dare they say Pakistan zindabad and down with India? Our tax money will subsidise their education and they will protest against the country?
Bharat Mata ki jai,
India is great,
… to be continued