A short meeting between a Kashmiri and an Indian at India Gate
I arrived in Delhi in the morning. From the airport, I went straight to Jama’ Masjid for stay, as this is the place where most of the Kashmiris reside when visiting Delhi. Next day after having lunch at around 02:00 pm, I left my hotel, where I was residing, for India Gate. I reached there after an hour and a half through the metro train. Now it takes less time as earlier when I used to travel on the bus. Upon reaching India gate, I saw ice cream vendors and many roadside vendors selling snacks and other stuff. When I reached close to the Gate the first thing I saw was of military men parading and some fire burning near the Gate. I enjoyed it for sometime and after sometime when I set my eyes on the gate with much fervour, I saw the blurred images of names of the “martyrs” of World War 2nd. Though I could not see the names clearly, I had come to know about this through some newspaper article a long time ago. When I felt tired, I went to the ice cream vendor and bought ice and sat on the brick fence on one side of the road to enjoy the ice cream. There was already a young boy sitting there and also having ice cream. He looked towards me and after realizing from my complexion enquired,
“Are you a Kashmiri”
“Yes”, I replied.
“Oh nice”, He said with a smile.
“Where from you are?” I inquired.
” I am from Tamil Nadu” the boy aside me replied.
“Your good name”
” Amit” and yours, came to the reply.
” Saleem”, I said with a smile.
For a moment I was unable to continue the talk. Then came the memory of Chennai Railway Station in my mind which I saw when I had visited Pondicherry University in 2011.
“Tamil Nadu is a good place. I have seen the Chennai Railway Station.”
“Oh, when” Amit replied.
“Actually I have visited Pondicherry University and I went there by train from Delhi. Then I de-boarded at Tamil Nadu Railway Station.” I continued.
“That’s great” he replied.
As I was thinking what to say next, how to continue the talk, the boy looked towards me and said,
” How is the situation in Kashmir now? Is there peace now.”
“Not much. Though tourists visit Kashmir and it is safe for tourists there, but peace has not returned to Kashmir yet.”
“Oh. Such a beautiful place. Terrorism had ruined Kashmir.”
“It’s not terrorism. It is militancy there. Please know the difference between a terrorist and militant.” I looked into his eyes.
He sensed my comfortlessness on his question;
“Sorry. But our media is telling us that there is terrorism in Kashmir. They are killing civilians there.” Amit replied.
“Your media is lying to you Amit. The Army is killing civilians there and no army man gets punished. Don’t trust your media. Please read some independent newspapers to get the real story about Kashmir.” I told him.
He, like every Indian, couldn’t believe it and his national media was enough for him and many Indians to trust and get the news about Kashmir. The “national media” which hides the crimes of forces and blames militants and also common Kashmiris for everything going wrong in Kashmir. The media which was now more hyper-nationalist than ever from last few years. This media was feeding untruth and fake news to Indians about Kashmir and starting and concluding every news with the line ” Kashmir is an integral part of India”.
“Why don’t Kashmiris give up the call for freedom. How can Kashmir survive without India.”
This line which I have been hearing hundreds of times from the last fifteen years. I took it lightly and smiled while looking towards Amit,
“In the same way when Kashmir was not under India.”
“But times have changed. That was a different time when Kashmir was independent .” Amit said.
“Kashmir has also changed. We have now enough resources. Do you know Arabs? They were having nothing in the same sense as you are talking, before the discovery of oil. Now you see they are the richest in the world.” I replied.
The thing which Indian media and its politicians and its coterie in Kashmir were telling Indians was that Kashmir will not survive without India as it lacks resources essential for the survival in the modern world, little knowing that some countries started from scratch, but are now considered prosperous in the world and some have even become superpowers.
“Now tell me about why militancy restarted in the valley. What are the main reasons??” Amit this time looked with much seriousness towards me than earlier.
I had to pause for a few seconds to tell him in detail, little knowing that I was standing at India Gate in New Delhi, the capital of India.
“You know every day, Indian forces are committing gruesome crimes in Kashmir. There is AFSPA which protects them. Do you know how two women in Shopian district were raped and murdered and how the case was hushed up? Do you know how hundreds of children were killed in 2008, 2010, 2016? Do you know about the killing of a little female student in Pulwama by forces during an encounter and same killings during other encounters? Do you know about the killing of child Tufail Matoo by CRPF on his way to school? Who is blinding little children of Kashmir by pellets now? Why you Indians close your eyes to reality and ignore the atrocities of forces. Please read and see some independent media to get the actual facts about Kashmir.”
Amit looked upset on hearing this ordeal of Kashmir in a few sentences. He couldn’t believe, but now he had developed some kind of trust in me and wanted to know more. This was quite visible on his face,
“Oh. This is totally wrong. But both militants and army commit atrocities. Why you not telling about the militants’ atrocities? Who drew away Pandits from Kashmir and who killed Pandits? Why you don’t talk about that?”
“I am not ignoring the killings of Pandits, but that happened a long time ago, some thirty years ago. When there were militants everywhere and not any civilian government. No Kashmiri civilian or neighbour of a Pandit family drew away any Pandit from their homes. Some Pandit families are still living in Kashmir and in my neighbourhood too. Please confirm from those too, if you someday visit Kashmir. And how can two wrongs make a right.”
Amit was not ready to believe me on this and I was feeling tired now and unwilling answering question after question. The questions, which I had answered so many times before. Amit sensed this early,
“Hope you are not taking my views and questions offensive.”
” No. why brother. You have every right to know the truth.” I replied.
” Most Welcome”
” When are you visiting Kashmir?” I inquired;
“My flight is next Sunday. I want to see Gulmarg. What a beautiful place. I have seen it only on TV”, Amit said.
“Oh. Great. But you can’t see Gulmarg on Sunday now.”
“Because your army has ordered the closure of highway on Sunday and Wednesday.”
“Oh. Bad. Now I will have to cancel my air ticket and have to make new ones.” Amit looked a bit disturbed and this disturbance was visible on his face.
We were so busy in the discussion that we forgot to sense the darkness engulfing us. Kashmir, army, hartal, pellets, killings, AFSPA occupied our mind so much that we forgot to check the time and the clock was showing six. I shook hands with Amit,
“Good Bye. Nice to meet you”, Amit said with a smile.
“Goodbye. Same here.”
The author is alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.