The Premier of India,
Greetings, your Excellency
I know you would be working hard in your office when this piece surfaces on your computer — typed in an Internet Cafe’ down-shuttered, under sweating environment. My locality is out of internet access in the ‘Digital India’ of yours. So, I had to travel … beg a pardon … had to walk 20 kilometre to reach this place.
The wide roads being narrowed by highly concentrated security forces left a tapered space to walk through. We were stopped at many places and our identities were checked. A workophile like you can well appreciate this attempt.
This piece needs a serious read and I hope you read it not as the Prime Minister of India but as a human with a four-chambered room under your ribs.
I really don’t know how to start — I mean how you start a letter to the prime representative of more than a billion people or of a nation claimed to be the largest democracy and whose politicians have walked down the ladder of democracy constantly since 1947.
As a mark of respect I could write the letter with a blood-soaked brush to you. The blood is cheaply and easily available here — everywhere in the markets, in the streets, in the crop-fields, in the houses eclipsing the moon like a blot on Indian democracy.
Well — I think it is better to start with Mann Ki Baat. Highly researched speeches on some selected Sundays. Smooth language, poignant ideas and great ideals from your Excellency are appreciable. Your way of making complex things more and more simple is applauded.
The art of saying ‘All Is Well’ when it is not, more specifically in Kashmir, can be found only in two Indians — Your Excellency and Aamir Khan (Hope you would take it easy on being clubbed with a Muslim with respect to one feature).
Jumhooriyat, Kashmiriyat and Insaaniyat — these are the three ideals which shine on paper. When you used them, we didn’t disbelieve you. Who can doubt the language of the head of a nation? But your speeches have mutated our interpretation of the words.
Long before listening to your Mann Ki Baat, to us, Jumhooriyat meant giving people the power to decide what is better for them. By now, it means denying the people their right to self-determination and convicting them when they ask for their rights.
By Kashmiriyat, we meant embracing everyone who comes to the valley, absorbing all the cultures and giving them the unified Kashmiri colour. By now, it means loving the land of Kashmir and not its people; encaging them physically and mentally; banning the internet, press and all the TV channels which don’t bias towards you.
By Insaaniyat, we meant giving unmatched hospitality to the non-Muslim pilgrims, taking them to their sacred cave on our shoulders. By now, it means to us killing scores of innocent youth and injuring thousands and blinding the children who are still on lactogen. By the way, we believe you delivered everything in proper proportions.
Mr Premier, we Kashmiris should thank you for the fact that you consume some of your rare resources only in our valley and not anywhere else. We should be thanking you for the reservation. Pellets are specially made for us. You have found better alternatives in Pepper guns to be tried on us. I acknowledge they cost a lot than the water which you spray in other states to disperse the angry crowds. Certainly, your per capita expenditure on Kashmiris is higher than the rest of Indians. That shows how much you care for us.
You have deployed more than half a million forces here for our security. The spending on such a biggish military cover must be huge. Imagine if the same amount of money is spent on schools and hospitals, what would happen? They are here for our protection which we never sought.
They are here to protect our houses with bombs, our lives with bullets, our children with pellets and our ladies with mass- rapes — under the umbrella of AFSPA, DAA and PSA (not generalising facts here. There are army men who are well-read and humanistic). What can be a better protection than the closed cells you land into which after being conferred PSA.
Peace and normalcy attained at the gun-point is always short-lived, Mr Premier. In fact, it can’t be called peace or normalcy if it is forced by controlling brains. Real peace and normalcy comes by winning the hearts.
I was born after the armed insurgency started in Kashmir. Since then, I haven’t witnessed any day when I couldn’t listen the news of any death, disappearance, rape, massacre, protest, hartal or demonstration. You can imagine how we live here under your security.
The recent attacks at Uri military camp is a matter of sorrow. I don’t know if it was carried under the aegis of Pakistan or it was your own script to take the attention of people off the recent killings in Kashmir but we can never advocate the death of a human being. But simultaneously, we have to admit that our staunch mindset is somehow responsible for the killing of the people — be they the men of army driven by Indian patriotism or the future heroes of Kashmiri nationalism.
Thousands have died from both sides since India broke out of the colonial rule and it would continue unabated if the real problem of K-issue is not addressed. This bloodshed can be stopped if the concerned leaders show some real intention, not pretention.
Sir, I think it is apt to turn to your media now. Well, a day before there was a debate on a leading news channel. A panellist was talking of Kashmir issue. He impressed all others with his fluency and labelled all the Kashmiri terrorists not knowing the exact condition we are in. When one of the panellists asked whether he had been to Kashmir anytime in his life, he responded in negative. That is your media —as awesome as your democracy. I think it is more than just democratic.
It makes much hype and noise when a cow is killed but slaughter of unarmed Kashmiris turns it dumb. It runs campaigns against the preachers of peace without any investigation. When anyone rises up in protest, he is labelled as a terrorist.
It works in concert with the security personnel to aggravate the problem. The security personnel restrict the traffic in the nights so that people are forced to drive during the daylight. Next day, your media, your Excellency may not know, runs the news, “Kashmiris don’t listen to Shutdown calls … Behold these vehicles speeding up against the Bandh”.
Such journalists may serve the interests for a limited period but ultimately they make ISIS out of Syria and Iraq. You advised one of the journalists to interview the sportspersons. You should also have advised him to be fair about Kashmir.
The people in the rest of India are misinformed about the problem of Kashmir. General unemployment and poverty is held responsible for the problem. Some others believe in conspiracy theories blaming Pakistan. The latter is plausible but not the former.
J and K has more per capita income than most of the states of India. The problem of unemployment is evenly distributed throughout India and is less fierce in the valley despite the absence of industries. So, Mr Premier, unemployment and poverty is not behind the mass-protests of the valley against India.
To clear your confusion, we have more laptops than the heads here in the valley. But they turn into useless toys when you ban the internet and other means of communication.
The problem lies there in the history. What we were promised of was never delivered. The promises were done by India; the issue was taken to the UN by India; the agreements were arrived between India and Pakistan; the land was divided between India, Pakistan and China; Unfortunately, the main stakeholders, the Kashmiris were never consulted. The consultation with Kashmiris was mono-conditional — Kashmir is an integral part of India, which is nothing but a mere rhetoric. Kashmiris have never respected India as their guardian but we can respect you more than your imagination as our neighbour or as the Union including Kashmir if you can win us through a plebiscite.
Mr Premier, Mrs Mehbooba Mufti’s 5% statement has been misinterpreted by your people. It doesn’t mean that 95% people in Kashmir support Indian occupation of Kashmir but it means that only 5% of the people pelt stones as a sign of protest. The rest i.e. the 90% protest peacefully. What remains is the 5% of people who are in fact there for the media for show off. This 5% of people is analogically similar to the people of British India who had some vested interests with British government — the Mansabdars, Zamindars, etc. They are the people who hit your TV screens elevating Indian flags and singing national anthem of India.
Trust me, Mr Premier, 95% of Kashmiri people don’t take part in Independence day celebrations of India. Instead, they celebrate I-Day of Pakistan not because they like Pakistan but because they hate India who betrayed them after whole lot of promises.
Your Excellency, we are not sympathizers of Pakistan and we also know they pretend to be sympathetic to us. We hold it more responsible for the condition of today’s Kashmir than India. Before us, Jinnah is as responsible as Nehru as he put down the opportunity of holding a plebiscite in the states which had a ruler of one faith and subjects of other. We hold him more responsible for sending tribals to attack and try to annex Kashmir to Pakistan.
We don’t hate India or love Pakistan out of reason but we do so for some reason. We want our collective conscience be satiated which lies in holding a fair plebiscite in the area that formed the princely state J and K of 1947. If the results come to favour you, we would have no hesitation to be with you.
Sir, we know you might be having an aspiration to solve the issue within the term you are there in the PMO — by packages, bread and butter, but that is not going to last for long. A sustainable solution lies in listening and accepting what the ultimate stakeholders in Kashmiris say.
I know you have pressure from back — from the opposition, from the RSS, fear of losing the next general elections which keeps you from trying to hold a plebiscite in J and K. But it is an opportunity for you to become the PM who stands different in the crowd. If you delay it, you may get into the crowd of the likes of Nehru. But if you are serious enough about us Kashmiris, do hold a plebiscite sometime in the future. I guarantee history will remember you as a symbol of peace. Some hardcore territoriophiles in India may curse you for sometime but ultimately you would become an ideal for the whole world.
If we remain stuck to history and wait for it to repeat itself, we can never hope to develop. This century where ideas of liberty and fraternity dominate the “territorial integrity rhetoric” needs a thinking which is out of box. This is the time you can make India reach moral integrity and greatness by giving Kashmiris their right tko self-determination.
What is immediately required is to stop the use of brutal forces on us, release those prisoned, release the leaders of resistance movement, accept K-issue as disputed and work with neighbours and the real contemporary leaders of Kashmir, engage them in dialogue to call an ombudsman to work for holding a plebiscite as soon as possible. This is the only solution to the problem. Packages can’t silence our mouths.
Those struggling for holding Scottish referendum in England were not convicted for treason. So should be the case with the Kashmiris. If you don’t work in this direction, do consider you are working for the perpetuity of the problem which can lead to a chaos culminating into a regional war in South Asia which will make not only you but Pakistan forget Kashmir and strive for your own existence.
Hope I get the reply, not PSA!
By Aarif Qaadir