An image of a skull, lit up by hundreds of bright, luminous dots, scan of a body decorated in a random fashion by the same spots. It almost seems beautiful, a work of art, just for a moment, till it sinks in that it is not a work of art; it is a picture that represents the Indian occupation in Kashmir, of the deadly pellets inside the body of an ordinary Kashmiri. Images after images follow, of severed fingers, in the hand they once belonged to, of naked backs punctured by metal bits, of swollen eyes that are useless now because they will never see again, of wailing parents and friends in front of bodies that lay motionless on the ground, young faces that couldn’t bear the Indian bullet in their bodies, all of the bullets fired above waist, at vitals, fired to kill.
No newspapers, no mobile networks, no internet, all communication snapped to crush people psychologically, to prevent them from reaching out to each other. That and an endless curfew that stretches over days and nights alike, suffocating people in their homes along with the tear gas and the pepper gas that adorn the air, making breathing a laborious task for everyone alike, more so for babies and old people.
The noises, strange loud noises of Indian news channels manipulating truths to feed a dedicated audience that lives off their screaming hyper-nationalism and goose bumps inducing patriotism; telling people everything but the actual situation, murdering the ethics of journalism every night on live TV and getting away with it, with appreciation often. Enjoying the reputation of being spokespersons of the Indian state, while media in Kashmir that reports from the ground, is gagged to induce a death like stupor.
Then a loud cry, clear and heartfelt, ‘Azaadi’. The word slices through the air, built up by tens of thousands of people chanting it together at different places, in unison, in a beautiful rhythm that mimics the desire of everyone’s heart; freedom. A referendum taking place at hundreds of different places in Kashmir, for everyone who cares to hear and understand as opposed to hear and manipulate and derive a different meaning. The choice, the demand reverberating in the air; azaadi.
For the past eleven days Kashmir has been under intensified siege, I say intensified because Kashmir is always under siege, by the occupational Indian armed forces. Make no mistake, the phrase, ‘normalcy returns to Kashmir’ is a farce, created and sustained by the Indian media. In Kashmir, there is no normalcy, no peace ever. There are periods though when people nourish the desire of their lives quietly in their hearts, even with 7-8 lakh Indian armed forces present all around them. With such an obscenely large number of military around, which means I along with ten other Kashmiris have one trooper to ourselves, only the deceitful will talk of normalcy. With the armed forces never withdrawn the siege is never lifted, it is omnipresent, tightening its clutches from time to time. Various reports suggest numbers between 60,000 to 1 lakh people have been killed, more than 8000 disappeared, countless homes burnt down, lakhs of children orphaned and women turned into widows and of course half widows.* This is the face of Indian occupation in Kashmir.
The recent protests erupted in Kashmir over the killing of Commander Burhan Wani, a 22 year old Kashmiri boy who was heading the armed resistance against the Indian armed forces. Indians are aghast over the fact that some 3 lakh people attended his funeral, and over 45 prayers in absentia were held across Kashmir for him; they ask, pale faced, how can Kashmiris support a terrorist? And that is where the problem lies. Anyone who keeps up with Kashmir (not through Indian media though) knows that the funeral of every armed fighter is attended by huge number of people who walk miles to attend the funeral and often a fight is witnessed between villages as to which village will have the honour of burying the ‘shaheed’ (martyr) as Kashmiris call the armed fighters killed in fights with Indian armed forces. Then the reaction to Burhan’s killing should be no surprise, after all he was loved by all. Mothers would lovingly say, ‘Khodayas chu hawale’ (May God be with him) and boys would call him Burhan bhai. He was a Kashmiri who turned to armed resistance in Kashmir and never crossed over to Pakistan. The overwhelming love for him was more than evident, which makes me wonder, those who are calling him a ‘terrorist’, do they think Kashmiris would come out in large numbers, knowing they will be shot at, for someone who terrorized them? Never. No Kashmiri has ever come out for the funeral of an Indian armed forces personnel killed in Kashmir.
What does that tell you? That we are brainwashed by Pakistan? That we are Islamists who rejoice in killing of ‘kaafirs’? That we are misguided youth who don’t know any better?
If you did say yes to all those questions and did even nod, then you have to question your own logic, can 12.55 million people be brainwashed at the same time? Can they be synchronized in harmony to behave and react in the same way? Can their collective judgment be governed by someone other than their own experiences? These are things that the Indian state doesn’t want you to think about, because then the truth comes out in all its brutality; that Kashmiris don’t want India. That no Kashmiri ever identifies as an Indian, should tell you a lot about the whole narrative of ‘integral part’ is a lie, strengthened by those who care about nothing but the idea of a nation above all ethics and human values. We have seen so many experts on Kashmir, academicians, politicians, even the common Tom, Peter, and Raghu who refuse to hear what Kashmiris say and instead present a hilarious explanation for the anger and hatred against India that is evident time and again. They say and I quote, ‘Kashmiri youth want employment, good lifestyle, and places for recreation.’ Believe me there was no lie so shamelessly told in history. It is just a desperate attempt at covering up the Indian occupation of Kashmir and sadly, too many Indians are ready to accept it as a reality.
In these past few days I have seen Indians spew venom online against Kashmiris, some of these are trolls, and others are settled abroad with a good education, or so it seems. They rejoice in the killings, lauding the Indian state, baying for more blood, asking for ‘misguided’, ‘terror supporting’ Kashmiris to be wiped out; they sound to us and the world much like the Israelis asking to kill Palestinians, no conditions imposed. But I think that is no surprise where killing of a 2 year old baby on premises of being a naxalite, or lynching of Dalits and Muslims is a norm. Indians are normalizing violence as long as it is directed towards already, oppressed groups, or occupied territories. For them a stone needs a bullet in exchange, to stop the hand that expresses resistance. ‘Our jawans are being targeted’, they argue, lamenting the loss of lives of their ‘guardians of peace’.
A report by ETV Urdu I saw this morning, where the reporter went to the Badami Bagh Cantonment army hospital and spoke to in charge army official there put causalities suffered by Indian armed forces at 28, out of which 13 were attributed to stone pelting and others were splinter injuries. Now let us look at the other side of the picture, where 46 Kashmiris lost their lives to bullets, over a 100 lost their eyesight forever to pellets, and around 2800 are in hospitals battling serious injuries. All this in a span of 11 days, with the youngest victim being 5 year old girl, Zohra, who thinks the ‘police wala uncles’ were bursting firecrackers on Eid, and who has 12 pellets in her small body as I write this. The oldest victim is an 80 year old woman, Sara Begum from South Kashmir who was beaten black and blue by the Indian armed forces at her own home and lies in a bed, unable to move; then there is Insha, a 9th class student who lost her eyesight to pellets when Indian armed forces shot at her as she watched from the window of her house. The Indian armed forces caused delay of medical care to many injured by attacking ambulances, arresting injured from hospitals, and beating attendants and half dead patients. There are many such stories, stories that will enrage a sane person, not blinded by mindless regard for a brutal occupation.
The Indian armed forces get away with such massive crimes, because they know they have impunity (no, not just AFSPA as some would have you believe), legal and political provided by the Indian state, which includes censoring social media, removing video evidences of Indian armed forces attacking ambulances and hospitals, blocking accounts of people talking about Indian occupation in Kashmir, arresting Indians who called out their bluff and demanded that Kashmris be given what they want. Apart from this Indian army relies hugely on the silence and support of Indians, of those who either worship it as an institution or those who think it is not safe, or sane to criticize the Indian army, the apologists if you will.
So the blood of Kashmiris is not only on the Indian armed forces and the Indian state but also on your hands, on hands of Indians who have never lived a day under military occupation, have never felt humiliated by them and yet dole out advices to Kashmiris and glorify the Indian occupation of Kashmir. The Indian state has already used the ‘collective conscience’ of Indians to justify its occupation many times, and all this blood is in your name too. No, Kashmiris do not want your solidarity for its resistance to survive, for we have resisted alone for years and neither is this an appeal for solidarity. When you show solidarity, you are not doing us a favour, you are instead living a little more, distancing yourself from an occupation that survives on the power of guns, you are freeing yourself from the chains of false and horrifying notions of nationalism while identifying as a human first. With every step of solidarity you move towards strength, towards justice, towards un-learning and towards undoing whatever the state has done to you. If you look closely enough, you are equally oppressed by the Indian state, only it hasn’t used it army to impose that upon you.
As I close this write up, we still continue to mourn, to wake up to news of deaths every day, we continue to put our grief aside and rescue Indian pilgrims when Indian army denies them help, we continue to provide food to Indian labourers from whatever little we have, we continue to walk miles to take food to our pandit neighbours to break curfew to perform their funerals, we continue to live, to defy, to resist and to be human. Resistance has taught us humanity, even in times of occupation; we will never let others suffer the way we have suffered under Indian occupation. And that is Kashmir. That is us.
Featured Image Credit: Mohammad Ali on Twitter