An open letter to Kashmiris - Mohammed Wajihudin - TNN | Aug 11, 2019, 01:00 IST
Dear Kashmiri brothers and sisters,
It is easy to pontificate from a secure perch. While you have been forced to stay indoors, cut off from the world, I pen this missive, seated at my air-conditioned office. For how long can one see the historic events unfold and say nothing? After all, bottled up thoughts and fettered feelings needed an outlet, you see. So, here I go.
My first brush with Kashmir was while I was studying at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the mid-1980s. A Kashmiri classmate, like most Kashmiri boys and girls — tall and handsome — spoke Urdu with a different accent and it was a sheer joy to just listen to him. It took me sometime to understand why he pronounced Gandhi as Gandi and waqt (time) as waqat.
We would eagerly wait for this Kashmiri friend to return from vacations; rather, we awaited the pouches of pistachios and other dry fruits he brought for us. Those pistachios were crunchy and tasted heavenly.
You see, no conversation about Kashmir is complete without the mention of heaven and paradise. Wasn’t it Mughal emperor who couldn’t help commending Kashmir’s enchanting beauty? Jahangir also got the beautiful Shalimar Bagh built near Dal Lake. I have never taken a shikara ride on the but my younger brother who was there last summer tells me it really feels wonderful. I envy how God blessed Kashmir with so much beauty.
Sorry for the digression. One does get distracted by beauty. And you have got a whole lot of bewitchingly beautiful sites, something tour-operators justifiably market in maudlin prose.
To get back to Article 370 and 35A, I know you are outraged. But if you reflect honestly, you may accept how this “special status” remained an albatross around your neck. How it impeded your path to progress. And how it became a tool for Hindutva forces to demonise and vilify you. You must now smell the change in the air, reconcile with the new reality brought in by the brute parliamentary majority of BJP. And the geo-political condition around the globe.
You may ask why I am addressing you and not the government. Here is why. I remember meeting Sajjad Lone, leader of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, at a meeting at Mumbai Press Club half a decade ago. At that closed-door meeting, I had huge arguments with Lone. “Mr Lone, don’t fuel separatism. Stay with India and tell the youth in Kashmir to get mainstreamed and join our growth story. Think about Muslims in rest of the country too,” I said. He came back with a harsh response: “You have not lost your father and sons. We don’t care what happens to you.”
One can understand Sajjad’s pain (his father Abdul Ghani Lone was killed at a rally in Srinagar in 2002) and sympathise with him and many others. But don’t forget the Kashmiri Pandits who were driven out of their homeland when you talk of the dreaded dark nights and presence of jackboots on your soil. Home is dear to everyone and only the homeless know the true value of homes.
Dear friends, when you reflect honestly you will also realise the Himalayan blunder some leaders of the secessionist movement committed. Aided and abetted by Pakistan, they mischievously turned a battle for territory, a purely political battle, into a sort of jihad, a religious war. The bands of boys, many barely out of their teens, who should have been learning to make their lives useful were indoctrinated to don military fatigues and carry automatic weapons. Such jihadists got valorised as “martyrs” when they fell to bullets of the military. And their “mission” was romanticised as if their fight was a fight to reclaim, not a piece of land, but the soul of Islam.
An independent Kashmir is a chimera, an illusion. It is time to be realistic. The lives lost cannot be brought back; the youth wasted cannot be salvaged. But you can protect and prosper with what is not lost. Some of your discredited leaders are calling the defanging of Article 370 and 35A a conspiracy to turn Kashmir into an “open jail.” Don’t buy the propaganda that you will be “colonised” by India, your territory stolen, and your dignity tattered. You are part of us.
Once the curfew is lifted and normalcy restored, come out of your homes. Pick up the pen and not weapons. You don’t need to look elsewhere but to the life of the Prophet for inspiration. The Prophet had said: “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr