My Scarlet Land

It has been an Odyssey – a long journey of pain and agony; deaths and destructions; cops and soldiers and fighters and collaborators.
I was five: I woke up to the sounds of bullets,  shrieks, shrilling cries- I saw my mother, aunt,  neighbor women- everyone crying “her only son has been shot dead”, “look- look another has been shot dead”. I saw them pounding their chest, in anger slapping their own faces, in agony scratching their cheeks with their nails- perhaps that was the only way of protesting at these deaths.  I joined them as they were looking through the latticed windows. I saw a youth of our locality falling down with fountains of blood gushing out of chest, then another boy fell down then another and another. Then curfew imposed – gloom descended on the home and outside. There were stories about hundreds having been killed – someone said in Rajpora, Pulwama alone thirteen hundred have been killed. I think these chapters of our history continue to remain buried under blood soaked debris of our past.

Now I am sixty one: Almost a recluse but the pain and agony of childhood continue to be me my companion – it continues to torment me. The cries have become shriller, screams more intense and mothers, sisters and fathers chest pounding has not ceased and bloodletting more rampant- images of  Wamiq Farooq, Zahid Farooq, Inayat, Tufail Matoo,  and  Javid – all school going children were yet to join  thousands others in the hinterland of my mind. They were yet to be part of the scarlet collage that is called contemporary Kashmir history that four more were on their way to join them.  June 25 evening, chests of two more youngsters, identified as Shakeel Ahmad Ganai (17) and Firdous Ahmad Kakroo (16), were pierced with bullets by the Central Reserve Police- bullet wounds were received by seven more.  More mothers were left to sob for years to come; more fathers were left with wet eyes and deathly pale faces and more brothers were left with thorns of hate in their necks.

The situation was not different as has been obtaining now: hundreds of people took to streets, set ablaze a security vehicle, damaged a bunker and attacked the local police station, demanding action against the CRPF personnel. There are protests all over the valley, scores of leaders, political workers and youth are arrested to prevent the “situation as obtaining in the city spiraling any further”, an administrative probe, a judicial inquiry is ordered, the sufferers wait for the inquiry reports but they are never published – the delinquents never punished this is not something new, it has been part of this hellish landscape that hoardings on roads ironically call as Paradise on the earth.

History tells that during past sixty three years half a million have been killed- of them two hundred thousand in Jammu at the time of birth of India and Pakistan as Independent dominions- and more than one hundred thousand after 1989. It is gory story of deaths, destructions, killings, murders, custodial killings and forced disappearance. The horrendous stories are reflected in many international reports and works of scholars in the world’s best universities. They are topics for discussion for worldwide think tanks RUSI, London,    Chatham House, London, CARR Centre, Howard University so on and so forth. Many institutions in India and outside have been conducting survey to know what the people of Jammu and Kashmir aspire for. The Outlook, under editorship of Vinod Mehta in its debut issue carried out a survey to know the aspiration of people of the state- the survey revealed  that seventy percent people in this part of the world aspire for freedom. There have been many such surveys in the past- the latest one that said that only two percent people in Jammu And Kashmir State supported accession with Pakistan had created euphoria in India- and some had even gone to extent of saying that Pakistan has now no case in Kashmir. It was almost as good an euphoria   that prevailed in New Delhi during  1949- 1950, when majority of leaders in India believed that the time was ripe for holding a plebiscite in Kashmir – as they believed with Sheikh Abdullah popularity only a few percent would vote for Pakistan and pleaded for  meeting the 1948- 1949 UN resolutions on Kashmir.

 I am not here to comment on the veracity and accuracy of the survey conducted by Robert Bradnock- it is matter of debate that if interviews of 3700 people could be seen as views of 15 million people. But, despite pall of doubts that surround this survey it makes an interesting reading 44% of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43% in Indian-administered Kashmir. The survey found that the “overwhelming majority” of people want a solution to the dispute, even though there are no “simple fixes”, the mainly Muslim area at the centre of the insurgency – support for independence is between 74% and 95%,  predominantly Hindu Jammu division to the south, support is under 1%, 80% of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC say that the dispute is important to them personally, concern over human rights abuses stands at 43% on the Indian side and 19% on the Pakistani side- so on and so forth. I don’t know if New Delhi, Islamabad, Washington, Beijing,  OIC, United Nations or for that matter nations around the world take any cognizance of  the debates and discussions on Kashmir that have been taking place in academic institutions around the world or  the surveys with all their deficiencies and loopholes do influence  their    South Asian policies of major powers in the world like  China and USA,  but I for one see one word – “procrastination”-  mostly responsible for the perpetuation of  tragedies that have been befalling on the people of Jammu and Kashmir state since the birth of the dispute in 1947. I see AFSPA, and it’s after effects that are the grave human rights violations as manifestations of this detesting word.

Why I see the word “procrastination” responsible for perpetuating sufferings of Kashmir needs to be looked in a historical perspective.  The RSS and many other political parties and Indian historians hold India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for Kashmir dispute.  They have their reasons own to say so.  Many have been blaming Sheikh’s “political immaturity” for the birth of dispute and suffering of Kashmiris. Whatsoever the reason – the Kashmir dispute is a historical reality.  And it cannot remain a dispute forever and   the“cynical indifference” to situations of politically caused human suffering cannot permeate.   It is be resolved, New Delhi knows, so know all the nations that have been closely associated with this dispute since its birth in 1947. Knowing well that this dispute is to be resolved and there is well laid out procedure for its resolution- India and Pakistan leaders have been meeting since its birth. The leaders of two countries have met over thousand times at various levels since October 1947.

There have been talks at Prime Minister Levels. There have been marathon talks at various levels and many times it seemed that the two countries had almost reached an agreement for resolving the issue – even statements were made about an amicable settlement having been reached- it was just to be signed and made public. But in reality nothing gainful was achieved in these meetings.  The fact remains that the hallmark of the approach in these meetings even summits has been ‘procrastination’. Now it has not become only mindset with a section diplomats but a biblical dictate. Unless this quixotic posture in meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan is done away with this problem will perpetuate and the people of Jammu and Kashmir will continue to suffer.

Now when India and Pakistan leaders are meeting once again they need to deliberate upon the resolution of the dispute with an open mind keeping in view  in the words of a fellow Kashmiri, “the long, chequered history of the dispute, the way it has reverberated through the political life of the subcontinent, the baleful effect it has had on the region as a whole, the diverse phases it has gone through, the wars it has caused,  the ravages it has wrought on Kashmir itself, the grim harvest of deaths it has reaped from the fields of repression and insurgency”.

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