- All of humanity keeps focus by communication.
- Kashmir, has by a government diktat, been turned into deaf, mute.
If you are keeping count, and most of the world is, it’s been nearly 60 days in Kashmir, erstwhile state of the Indian union, now a union territory of a complete communication clamp down.
The English language is dry and matter of fact, but try to imagine not being able to speak to your family or other loved ones. Imagine not being able to call an ambulance, being forced to cancel weddings, not having access to the Internet.
The worst - someone you love dying, and being in a limbo, not even knowing of the death, of bearing witness to the departure.
All of humanity keeps focus by communication. Kashmir, has by a government diktat, been turned into deaf, mute. Fear of the unknown can only be vanquished for human beings by language. Kashmir suffers, but is forced to remain mute. Can there be a greater punishment than eight million people virtually put in solitary confinement.
Tears and laughter have meaning only when shared. Kashmir can’t share anything at the moment.
We don’t know what the inhabitants of one of the most beautiful places on earth feel at the moment. My most critical job as a reporter is to bear witness -- local newspapers are barely being published in the valley. The most speaking page - cancellation notices for weddings and other functions. As the news pages shrink, the notices page is getting plumper by the minute.
Kashmir is not allowed to communicate, and the government by ensuring this, is communicating its own message to Kashmiris.
A personal health and hygiene disclaimer. I have covered Kashmir for 25 years, and while I can’t possibly claim to understand all there is about this beautiful yet blood soaked place, I can claim to love it with all of my heart.
Yet, today when I speak to my colleagues, who have been to the valley I sense a bewildered unease. The pieces have been moved and none of us can really claim to understand what it all means. The Kashmiris, fed up of being pilloried and castigated as India’s villains in the nonsensical discourse of the panna Pramukhs news channels, now don’t want to talk to us.
Bitterness in the air
They mark time by an endless wait. Kashmiris are used to waiting says a Congress leader from Kashmir to me. He has held extremely important jobs in Kashmir and this is the first time that I sense his bitterness. He gets emotional about his extended family in the valley.
“Why should I blame you? History has always mocked us in Kashmir and made us wait. The only thing we know for sure is uncertainty. Can you imagine uncertainties as a permanent companion? We have two in Kashmir grief and uncertainty.” As I look away embarrassed by his emotions he tells me with his eyes moist: “You know I suffer from depression -- take treatment for it. I feel sometimes that every Kashmiri is born with it.”
I am at a total loss for words as I remember going to his heavily guarded grand government home to interview him in Kashmir.
I think of Farooq Abdullah, 83, multiple-term chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, erratic administrator, yet steadfast in always holding the tricolor, currently detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Is a septuagenarian leader who has undergone a kidney transplant a threat to the Indian union?
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I remember Abdullah thundering at me in a television interview: “Who are you people to question us? We Kashmiris are as Indian as you are. Have you ever been asked to prove your loyalty to your country? Why ask me? I am the same as you.”
Before he was put under house arrest, Abdullah broke down in multiple interviews. Watching him made me squirm. After he was arrested, a clip of him singing the Ram dhun made the rounds.
Abdullah has nothing to prove to India or to me. We need to restore communication to Kashmir to prove our humanity.