Guest Post By Maknoon Wani
“I need a toy and a new dress for Eid.”
Requests and tantrums like these are heard around Eid in every Kashmiri household but not this time. It was the 8th day of the government imposed military siege. On 5 August, 2019 the central government unilaterally scrapped the special status(autonomy, imagine that being called special status) of the only Muslim majority state in the union. Thousands were arrested to muzzle any dissent coming out of the agitated population. But seven year old Aairah was worried about her Eid shopping, which was never going to happen.
How does it happen in the 21st century? How are millions of people house arrested and excommunicated within a few hours? Why are people celebrating a siege? How does this sell as normalcy? I spent many sleepless nights contemplating or rather trying to absorb the sheer cruelty of this situation. A group of students from my college invited me to a cake cutting ceremony which was organized to celebrate this decision. Maybe, their intentions were not so bad but did social convention dictate that a person be invited for the celebration of his misery? The shameless chest-thumping is a spectacle but an indifferent people is a tragedy.
While I was suffering from this sense of loss and fear, people were celebrating and opining about Kashmir like they knew everything. I was told how good this decision is and how I should be happy. Kashmir, which went incommunicado days ago, was said to be normal. Reports from the foreign press regarding protests in Kashmir were refuted and labelled as western propaganda. Saner voices went more anti-national and pro-government channels got busy in peddling more lies. I, for one, went silent for a few days. Everyone was high on something. Some were planning to buy a plot in Kashmir while others were fantasying about white-skinned Kashmiri girls. History was forgotten, conveniently twisted and occasionally ignored to justify this daylight betrayal. A radicalized population is dangerous but trying to reason with an intoxicated population is foolishness. After all these days, I thought this silence must not be interpreted as normalcy and more importantly-peace.
What is happening in Kashmir and to Kashmiris is violence. Why aren’t the children going to schools and why are their playgrounds surrounded with barbed wires? Why aren’t mobile phones working? What is forcing Kashmiris to be silent? Is the mere presence of half a million armed forces not a form of violence? I have to ask these questions because no one else is. As I try to imagine the green meadows of my hometown, I am not able to block that intruding fear of not seeing my family again. The meadows might turn red forever. I see people celebrating this decision like an act of revenge; humanity might be dead forever. The claims of ushering in development and peace have fallen flat but then who wants the truth? A country which cheers the suspension of civil liberties can not be expected to be empathetic towards anyone. The silent mourners will lose fear one day, and this gloom will spread. It is only a matter of time when the monster reaches every door.
It has been more than 20 days of this extraordinary blackout. We have seen only a few Kashmiri voices in the Indian media. A population needs to be amnesic to forget traumas like this. How can they tire us so much to make us forget our identity. We have survived three mass uprisings. Seven million Kashmiris right now are silently shouldering the coffin of the Indian democracy. The rot has started to reek, but the masks of ignorance have kept people safe. A few hundred landlines have been made operational, and this has been projected as normalcy. Senior anchors are posting videos and pictures(of normalcy) which can put North Korean propaganda to shame. When no one is being allowed to visit Kashmir, not even the Indian opposition leaders, then how can the situation be called normal.
Recently, JK Governor, Satyapal Malik said, “If there’s no phone for ten days, so be it.” Surprisingly, he could only count ten days on the 20th day of the communication blackout. This is symbolic of the systematic dehumanization of the Kashmiris by the Indian administration. I wish to tell every Indian politician that your collective failure and greed for votes has assured Kashmiris that nothing good can be expected of this country. Our land has once again been prioritized over our lives. This is naked oppression and it is out in the open. However, this silence is not peace. It is the harbinger of burning resentment. We aren’t so small to be devoured by anyone. Our silence is deafening but not to the dead ears.
( Maknoon Wani is a student of journalism and is in Delhi presently)