Witness for the first time

                                                       

In any movement, certain instances redefine the course of history and serve as reference for future. For Kashmir’s resistance movement, the Uprisings of 2008, 2010, and 2016 serve as ones; most likely 2019 may become yet another.

During the first three Uprisings, I was not in Kashmir – Home. I never really understood how the home under the siege felt like.

And when the Government of India decided to strip Jammu and Kashmir off its autonomy by amending Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, for the first time I was a witness. I had travelled home to celebrate Eid with my family. The rumors had already gone berserk. Seeing the extra deployment of troops, some believed than an India-Pakistan war was on the cards. Others believed it to be a preparation for elections.

Tourists, pilgrims and non-Kashmiri students, all were asked to leave Kashmir. People started queuing up in large numbers at petrol pumps and grocery shops to stock the food reserves. Kashmir has witnessed such situations in the past, but this time it was different. A smog of uncertainty was in the air. Nothing was said until the night when we slept with our mobile phones functioning properly only to wake up to have them as electronic boxes sucking up energy just to tell us the time.

On the morning of August 5, everyone at our home had their eyes glued to the television – desperate for some news. Then, against the thumping of desks in parliament, India’s Home Minister announced the decision of scrapping of Article 370 and 35(A) of the Indian Constitution. A graveyard-silence gripped the room much like the entire Kashmir.

“It is all over,” said my uncle, who had smoked more than a dozen cigarettes since morning.

But when was anything there? Many of us had been coherently fostering this thought since ages. Indian state has always dubiously manipulated us into a sea of hysteria, deliberating upon us an unheard phenomenon of “suffocation of isolation”. Kashmir has always been held hostage to the myth of being incapable of sustaining on its own.

The fact is that Kashmir has survived through the most difficult of times; it has flourished out of torment with steadfastness and has been a symbol of resilience and resistance. But Indian state always used political manipulation and coercion to hammer Kashmir’s ability to survive.

“I wonder, what it that the pro-India politicians would sell us now,” my father casually asked while a grin of despair on his face described much of the somber air.

When it suited their narrative, Article 370 was used to lure Kashmir into believing that its future was “secure with India”. For the last 70 years, it was a major lever to the process of cultivating collaborators who used this so called “special status” to dupe Kashmiris. Now that their demagoguery stands snatched, the pro India politics in Kashmir has a void to be filled.

“They have no shame. The lust for power can drive them to the darkest of their characters,” remarked my father. “Even though they have been given a taste of their own medicine, they won’t desist from their habit of being puppets,” said another friend.

The cart of pro-India politics in Kashmir might have weathered for sure but you have all the possibilities of India installing the new hands holding its reins.

In Islamic traditions, Eid-ul-Adha commemorates an epitome of Sacrifice. And for Kashmir, every day is Eid-ul-Adha. To some of my friends, this “constitutional coup” brought India’s military occupation officially to Kashmir; and for others it reaffirmed their belief in the ultimate solution – “nothing less than Azadi,” said one of the men around while returning home after the Eid prayers.

“They didn’t allow us to offer the congregational prayers at Eidgah. This has never happened here in my life time,” said another elderly person while meticulously running his fingers along the beads of Tasbeeh.

Over the years, Kashmir has been a victim of “Collective” – the “Collective Conscience” or “Collective self-delusions”. These terms have been used to convey a sense that Kashmiris don’t know what is good for them. So India collectively decides for them while making sure Kashmir doesn’t have a say. The collective self-delusion of India about Kashmir does not survive on its own, there are structures installed to make it work. They have the army and the media – all in sync when it comes to Kashmir.

After having lunch on Eid, I and my younger brother decided to visit our uncle who lives nearby. On our way we overheard a group of people describing the ordeal of a local Imam who was beaten to pulp by army. I asked my uncle about the imam. “He lives in Nowgam-Tragpora and has to cross the army camp every day to lead prayers in our village. All imams of the area were called to the army camp and told to refrain from talking about the clampdown during Friday sermons; he made a mistake of touching upon the issue slightly and making Dua. He had to cross the army camp, when he did, he received his share of beating,” uncle informed me.

A day before I left Kashmir, we were watching TV at home as one channel was displaying messages from Kashmiris living outside. Some of them had texted and some had sent audio and video messages, mostly students informing parents about their well-being.

How will these messages reach to their parents? We are the only household in our immediate neighborhood with an active DTH connection. Most of the people haven’t been able to recharge their DTH and they have snapped the cable network too.

And finally when I left home the next morning, I carried with me silence, my mother’s and whole Kashmir’s silence mirroring each other and both asking for strength. But this silence has a different broader meaning. It is a silence more defining than any loud slogans, a silence that held in it a hounding warning that we were no more a reactionary population; the conscious silence of rejection. Kashmir has decided to respond at their will and not when the other side demanded a reaction or expected one.