Right now it is a case of twin confinements. Zulumaatin Fawqa Zulumaat – Darkness over Darkness. Asiya Andrabi behind the bars is the first confinement, Asiay Andrabi as an ideology and practice, is another. My politics is doubly imprisoned. The challenge to free it is doubly difficult.
A short, late night read walked off with my sleep; a long narrative piece by Ahmed, son of Asiya Andarabi and Muhammed Qasim – may God bless him, his brother, and his parents. When a friend whatapped the link, trtworld.com, I was slipping down into the warmth of my bed. Half dozed, I opened the link. Half closed, my eyes fell on the title: Birthdays as a half-orphan in Kashmir. A line, a para, and …. I stretched up, opened up my eyes wide. The warm electric blanket suddenly felt like a frozen sheet of ice. It was chill all over.
I finished the piece: eyes emptied of sleep, mind full of desolation, and heart exploding with grief. I was totally numb – a dead-nothing. With a mix of reluctance and intent my eyes slithered sideways, and there it was: the innocent face of my child. An angel enjoying a blissful sleep. What must the parents, and these kids, have been through for two decades; a shock-wave crossed my mind. 20 years of perpetual torture: unthinkable. Forget who stands for what, lay aside all ideas of politics, state, conflict, and people’s struggle. Think of a mother facing hell in a jail hundreds of miles away from his own place, a father permanently jailed, and the two children living all their years away from them: half-orphans as the child names himself.
All I could write back to my friend was: “it really cuts”. It really cuts, and cuts deep. Reading the story, and then faced with a spectacular helplessness, the Biblical prayers rise up from my heart like a gust of gloom:
O Lord, be not far off;
O my strength. Come quickly to help me.
Deliver my life from the sword
my precious life from the power of the dogs
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions
save me from the horns of a wild oxen
Those in India who carry a human heart in their bosoms have a reason to join us in these prayers. Putting political leaders, and activist, behind the bars serves no interest of theirs. All the ugly things done in Kashmir are done in their name. Now who is to tell them that Asiya Andrabi is no criminal. She is no threat to Indian national security. If she is home, no heavens will fall. It is only a maniac vengeance that insists to imprison her.
If her ideology is a problem that can only be argued with. If her political activities constitute trouble, she can be confined to her home. There are a million ways of dealing with her, if the purpose is only to stop her from doing what she does. If an honest survey of Kashmir’s political prisoners is done, only a ruthless victimisation and a policy of total oppression can explain the imprisonment. There is no other thing that explains this ruthless, heartless, treatment. When this is the fate of political leaders and activists, what do you mean when you say make room for politics in Kashmir. You kill politics, even the remains are hid away from Kashmir.
We have heard Indian Prime Ministers, Union Minsters, India’s national leaders, political analysts, security experts, and peace activists emphasise: Kashmir needs a political solution. It needs space for all shades of politics. What do you mean by that. We have heard the chief ministers of J&K repeatedly speak about creating a room for political activities in Kashmir; can we turn around and ask, what they did to release these prisoners who are genuine political activists. No politics can flourish in Kashmir as long as our political leaders and activists are subjected to imprisonment, torture, and even elimination by assassination. Asiya Andrabi’s confinement symbolises the impossibility of politics in Kashmir. And this impossibility is imposed on us from outside. Indians, who value peace, and human dignity, are guilty if they know this, and don’t speak out.
But there is another confinement that engenders from within us. This is a confinement we have chosen for ourselves, and we frown severely over anyone who questions this choice. Sadly, Asiya Andrabi embodies this confinement. It’s agonising to talk about it here, but it’s my regard, my compassion, and my belonging towards her, and the political tribe she belongs to, that I summon the courage to jot down a few lines about it here.
The ideology Asiya Andrabi upholds is intrinsically antithetical to any possibility of politics in Kashmir. It’s a virulent inspiration that finally produces violence, invites violence, and is “contiguous to absolutely nothing”. Before liberating Kashmir from India, can we free our minds from this darkness. We have the examples of Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. We have solely our own reasons to make room for a non-violent politics. Our adversary will try hard to curtail us, and nudge us to the path of violence. It is the test of our character not to walk into the trap.
Asiaya Andrabi, and many other prisoners, have proved their dedication to a cause. They have suffered a lot, but stood upright. Such souls are a strength to any society. They provide leadership for a politics that can stand to material temptation, and arm twisting from the state.
We can make a fresh beginning, but that asks for a critical evaluation of three things: our understanding of Islam, our relationship with Pakistan, and our assumptions on Kashmir conflict. The way these three – Islam, Pakistan, and Kashmir conflict – have been mixed up, makes any headway in rediscovering our politics impossible.