I don’t remember the last time I felt silenced like today. Provisions of Article 370, which primarily defined the relationship of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India, have been scrapped in a manner that has silenced me.
It is a curse to be born in a place with so many uncertainties and armed militancy. Since the very beginning I developed a fear of several things.
I was young and the only idea I had about Kashmir and India was through the prism of armed men. I feared weapons, both of the soldiers as well as militants. Even a sound of a firecracker would make me cringe in fear.
At the age of 18 in 2007, I left Kashmir for studies in a southern state. Staying away from home gave me a perspective of both Kashmir and the rest of the country. Now it was not just about armed men but about friends, teachers, festivals and much more.
Every Kashmiri youngster deserves to lead a normal life but because of the uncertainties at home, they don’t know the true meaning of normalcy.
I also slowly realised that no matter how hard I tried to not wear my Kashmiri identity, it followed me everywhere. The first time it happened was in Bengaluru when I was abused for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s when I was merely a few months old.
The unrest of 2008 and 2010 in Kashmir could not go out of my attention either. I was given lessons in keeping my mouth shut to avoid trouble. But in my heart, I was depressed to see teenagers being killed.
I detest all kinds of violence as I am a peace lover. But to this day, I seek and fail to get answers about how peace will return to the valley.
In 2016, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed, but it gave birth to a rise in local militancy. A cycle of violence started in which PhD scholars chose militancy and got killed. I felt the young boys were being misled and committing suicide. But who would stop it? Who would tell them not to waste their lives? Who would convince them? I had no answers.
The Centre says it intends to do good for the people of Kashmir by virtually scrapping this Article. For me Article 370 meant a definition under which our identity as Kashmiris was safeguarded.
From an entire week the situation back home has been grim. One order was followed by another, with the locals having no knowledge of what was in store. The last conversation with my father was like the last time we were speaking to each other. “Don’t worry about us. We have stored food, medicines and other basic essentials. Whatever has to happen will happen, you take care and be good,” he said.
It is going to be 24 hours and I have not heard from my family or anyone else from Kashmir. I am worried about my family but I am more disheartened at what has taken place.
The trust of the people of Kashmir has been breached. For those who are celebrating this day, I recall the lines of the famous Kashmiri poet, Agha Shahid Ali. “They make a desolation and call it peace.”
(The writer is a correspondent with TNIE and belongs to Srinagar)