I wish…

View of the garden…

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and it is spring morning…I can feel the cool air blow and I think of school, and get reminded that I have to locate my white uniform. Other ordeal is to find the white ribbon which somehow always goes missing in the morning, especially when I am late to catch the school bus.

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and it is raining and the rain drops splash on my cheeks…I see the trees swerve through the air as it gets windy. The distant mountains gloss after the rain and shine when the sun comes out through the clouds…in a distance I see the rainbow…I keep watching till it disappears in the black clouds again.

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and it is autumn…everything pale and dry…I see the last few patches of green grass covered with withered and brown leaves. I can smell the leaves burning at a distance…the last leaf of the tree falling down gently as the wind carries it to my neighbors’ garden.

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and it is winter…its snowing and I look up and get lost in the falling snow flakes…not realizing when my glare reaches the ground following the course of a falling flake. I see the flakes emanating from no where as if God is showering white petals on me…and I am lost in a dream land of calm and peace.

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and there is thunder and lightening…I sit there waiting to sight a crack in the sky…the thunder following it…the endless beauty of the dark sky and the white lines cracking through it…you see everything in a flash and then it is suddenly lost in the dark…

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and it is a starry night…I stand there watching the stars…looking for my favorite constellation…hoping to see a shooting star…see the stars twinkling…..thinking about the wonders of God…how far away they are yet how beautiful they look…

I wish I was standing on the balcony of my room in Kashmir and it is a full moon night…sighting the moon from behind the trees…breathing in the fresh air…and enjoying the cool breeze…..”Hello!”, calls my sister, “Mummy is calling for dinner”. How I wish….

Republic Day of India

A few headlines in the local papers in Kashmir as Republic Day of India approached last year…

21st January 2006

  • Government has failed to protect human rights: Sagar. (Nothing new for Kashmiris whose human rights have been battered and bruised over the years.)
  • Srinagar Under siege for R-day parade. (Kashmiris are used to it for the last 18 years now.)

22nd January 2006

  • 13 arrested in valley. (Many more not even counted.)
  • Maulvi’s arrest spark protests in Batamaloo. (…and the protestors are beaten up and they call it democracy.)

23rd January 2006

  • JK turns into fortress as R-day nears. (Some claim it is for the security of the public. We ask, why not such security for the entire year then?)

24th January 2006

  • Shift the venue. (For the ‘supposed’ celebrations?)
  • We have brought Peace to Kashmir: PM. (But the human rights violations continue, so do the unabated killings.)
  • Hizb, Hurriyat call for strike on January 26. (Nothing new – curfew , hartal, another sit-at-home day for Kashmiris.)

25th January 2006

  • Short of Public, Government seeks employees in stadium. (Seek or force?)
  • R-day measures hit livelihood of many. (Republic Day, Independence Day, hartals, crackdowns…and the list continues.)
  • 70 held. (Makes it 83 officially.)
  • Frisking of women introduced in valley. (We have new developments…)

26th January 2006

  • 1 held for resisting frisking of women. (You raise your voice and you are in too… 84)
  • When will our plight end ask Haftchinar residents. ( Hosting security forces in their houses, uninvited though! )
  • Women shocked over first tryst with roadside frisking. (Shocked – resist and you go in too, raise your voice you are dead! – national media sleeps as usual. )
  • 100 held in Jammu on R-day eve. ( 184 and the count is ticking. )
  • Curfew like situation in Kashmir. ( Every year! )

These were the headlines in Kashmir on the eve of Republic Day of India last year. Wondering why you never heard of any such thing through the zillion news channels, newspapers, and radio stations of India?Frisking

If you are really wondering, then you are amongst those who see Kashmir as it is projected to you. The reality is far away from you and you far away from its essence. 184 arrested in a span of less than seven days. And you probably think all 184 are terrorists?

For all the Indians Republic Day is a day to celebrate, watch the parade live or on TV, attend a flag hoisting function, and enjoy the day off from work. What does it signify for a Kashmiri?

Deserted roads, raids, cordons, house arrest and frisking at every half a mile. In short, disruption of normal life, humiliation and helplessness for the people. All this for an hour long parade to take place in Bakshi stadium. And guess who attends it? The Chief Minister, his ministry and the performers. Not to forget, hundreds of Indian armed forces who permanently reside in the stadium.

The common people in Kashmir have nothing to do with any of these days which the Indians celebrate. However for India to claim that Kashmiri is an integral part of India and portray Kashmiris as pro-Indian, the celebrations for these two occasions have to be held, no matter how much security force deployment it takes and how much trouble it causes to the public. They need to be taped and shown to the entire nation and to the entire world and claim that Kashmir is moving towards normality.

The whole aura of tension spans over a week leading to R-day. If you happen to roam around in the city during that week, I am sure you will leave the city the same day. You will be frisked at ever nook and corner of the city. If you are traveling in a bus or car, you will be stopped after every half a mile, asked to come down, join a queue, show your identity, get yourself checked and then board the same bus another half a kilometer away. No matter how many times you go through this, it won’t be enough for them.

“Government has failed to protect human right” comments Sagar, ex-minister. I have been hearing the same thing for the past 18 years, which forms a considerable part of my lifetime. Every year it’s the same ordeal on Republic and Independence Day of India. The whole city is in siege. There is frisking at every nook and corner. Normal life comes to halt more than a week before this day.

Frisking Women

I read claims by people that the security deployment during this time is for the “security” of the people who are ironically suffering as a result of the deployment. The well known “Bakshi stadium” is the only place in the city where Republic Day is celebrated. The whole area is under siege more than a week before Republic Day. The residents of the nearby locality are under house arrest. Security forces occupy the top floors of residential houses to secure the ministers who are coming to attend the parade. Not even a fly can pass that area, not to talk about local people. Last year someone was denied to cross a bridge around that area to attend a funeral. They were left waiting till afternoon and by the time they reached their destination the last rights of the deceased had already been performed. In certain far off places, people have been forced to hoist Indian flags on their cycles and buses. Army patrols at the end of an election day to check the mark on the fingers of the locals. They are lucky if they have it, and if they don’t they have a terrible fate! Government employees are forced to attend the parade to add to the public attendance to be captured on video. It reminds me of election days where government employees were forced to go to polling booths against their will and perform their duty lest they would lose their jobs.

The country that calls itself democratic has snatched away the basic rights of people. You have to walk, drive, and talk according to the wishes of the army. If you don’t listen, they have enough laws at their disposal to arrest you and declare you as a threat to the security of the nation.

Every year the residents around the stadium raise voice against their sufferings. But no one cares, no one listens. All these headlines appear in the local papers and not a single makes way to the national media. All that makes its way to the national media are the pictures and the videos of Republic Day parade which is presented to be held with enthusiasm and fervor. But mind you, only inside the stadium.

The post Republic Day ‘celebration’ for the people of Kashmir is reflected in the following newspaper headlines.
27th January 2006

  • What death means on R-day. (Death – a daily term for a Kashmiri, on Republic Day it has a new twist.)
  • Kashmir a ghost valley on R-day. ( Ghost = security forces roaming around the streets )

28th January 2006

  • January 26 Strike an eye opener. (To whom? The national media portrayed something different though. )

This year it is going to be no different. Nothing is going to change, No one is going to celebrate Republic Day of India, but Republic Day of India is going to be celebrated in Kashmir! Yes inside Bakshi stadium – mind you with full fervor and enthusiasm!

Headlines and Photo courtesy : Greater Kashmir