HEAVEN on earth that’s what the people called my land. My mother taught Quran to the kids in the neighbourhood and my father was a principal of High school. We were blessed we never had to hear no because my father could not afford to. Life was easy yet it was not easy, it is not a war zone but growing up in a valley riddled in dispute and military personnel is not easy, especially when they can do anything to anyone at any time. I was in grade ten my brother Khalid a few friends and I were going to take our new bike for a spin, suddenly we were stopped by the Army officers, we are always told never to cross with any of them with so many of my friends and families disappearing, hurt by the army we tried to follow what we were told.
But they were animals, they beat us up and asked to get cigarettes, Ahmed and another friend just last week got stitches by the army last week as much as we hated them and hated the act but we still got them the cigarettes but officers beat us up again those vicious bullies thought they had all the power in the world because they had the Indian Army uniforms. I could not take it any longer, the new bike was in ruins, Khalid, my friend and I were in tatters, Why? Because we were Muslims, Kashmiris, going about our routine. I will tell you why it was because we were vulnerable, because we are not free, no one cares about us! I am Burhan Wani and that is the day I ran away from home, that is the day I gained my freedom!
Burhan Wani was the 21 years old boy whom the world now knows as the point of inflection on Kashmir’s destiny. His crime was nothing more than allegations and his expression and impressions on social media. On July 8, the Indians military personnel thought that they would kill the boy in cold blood and sweep this heinous crime under the carpet too like they have done in the past. So what is the difference between now and the 90s? Not much it was the people of Kashmir then it is the people now but more than the “commoners” it is the youth, the whole world sees how a couple of school kids pick up stones or chant slogans against the Indian forces, they are not paid, they do not get see something on social media it is something much deeper than that.
In the last decade there was a misconception that the people have gotten accustomed to this idea of confinement especially the youth wants to “move on” to explore better opportunities. Something the Vajpayee tried to enforce with his slogan; “Kashmiryaat, Jhamooriyat and Insaniyat (To be Kahsmiri, democracy, humanity)” and the same mistake the Modi regime is making. Burhan Wani’s martyrdom on July 8, 2016 and ensuing events are testament to the fact that the spirit of freedom cannot be bribed or crushed and can never be forgotten. No matter how many “incentives” are inducted by the Indian Government in Jammu Kashmir her people will never forget their will to live, their right to freedom.
The entire valley suffered through months of curfew, media and internet blackout. Attempts were made to strangle any news coming out of the valley let alone attract international attention. Since July last year there have been around 200 people killed, 20,000 injured, 10,000 arrested. The pallet guns blinding the many youth and those professing their freedom of speech, equipped by Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) the Indian military has displayed the worst form of oppression. Unfortunately, the global community especially the UN has been a disappointment to the people of Kashmir. Save a few countries there have been very few actively supporting the Kashmir cause.
Verbal assurances have gradually faded in the mist of geostrategic realities and economic advantages, at the end of the day India is an emerging power riding the highs of new found wisdom in Washington about the pivot to Asia, the counter to China. Pakistan has always been with the Kashmir people, there is an Azad Kashmir for that reason only. There have been many covert attempts at maligning the Kashmir cause with attacks on military establishments, at least one of which has recently attracted a lot of media attention after the commanding officer got uncalled for promotion in place of a court martial/ demotion for gross negligence in security details. Pakistan has faced internal and external security challenges on both borders largely due to the situation in Kashmir.
Tension is expected to escalate in the valley as the people will commemorate the death anniversary with vigor. Recently while augurating a tunnel in Kashmir, Indian PM Modi displayed his rigidity and ignorance by denying any need of dialogues. This is not a cluster of people in Punjab or Darjeeling making headlines for a few days, it is a land that has stood tall in face of persecution spanning centuries, first at the hands of Dogars, then the British and now 70 years later the Indians continue to find challenge nothing short of daunting. This is not a teen gone rogue, it’s a generation answering its calling.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Peshawar.