Edit/Op-Ed

A Valley of Beauty and Sorrow

Asad Ashraf for BeyondHeadlines

”My love of the mountains and kinship with Kashmir especially drew me to them, and I saw there not only the life and vigor of present but also the memorized loveliness of the ages past, when I think of India I think of many things but above all the Himalayas, snow-capped or some mountains valley in Kashmir in the spring, covered with a brook bubbling and gurgling through it”

This is how pundit Nehru described the beauty of Kashmir, but this excerpt was delivered at a time when the valley was full of joy and vigor, unknown of the tyranny which was to be unleashed on their generations to come, The recipe of which was being grinned in the political turmoil then emerging out of the series of accessions of princely states into India and Pakistan in the coming years!! How this beautiful valley of joy turned into a sorrowful valley of blood sheds is story of few decades influenced by the past history and contemporary politics.

This sadness which has amalgamated  within the beauty of nature can be felt while walking on the streets of the valley, while I was walking one of the silent roads of Srinagar I met with a few kids who were playing cricket in the by lanes, while  passing by them I carried a generous smile on my face, one of them came to me and asked me if I am an Indian, without having any pride I smilingly  replied yes I am an”‘ Indian ”I saw an indignation on his face , I asked him what are you? There came a straight reply that I am a Kashmiri. This sent a strong message in to my mind!! I was wondering if I really expected such an answer from a child of his age who must have been made to memorize the national anthem of India in his school, the way it is done in all the other parts falling into the geographical boundaries of India. I definitely realized something!! What? I was wondering. Soon I a saw a dozen of army trucks moving on the road loaded with men and ammunition.

The next day as per my plan of visit I walked into the University of Kashmir one of the most beautiful campus I had ever seen with my naked eyes. Beautiful mountains surrounding it, chirping beautiful faces roaming around, what spoiled my encounter with the beauty was presence of police in the campus. I proceeded further to meet few professors, students and journalists there, while talking to them I realized that the popular demand among them was right to self-determination based on the resolution passed at the united nations security council 1948, above all I noticed a very important point that that the demand for right to self-determination is more against the exploitation of the people at the hands of the Indian state than any historical perspective involved at least among the students there. Now after meeting these people who were learned enough to talk about politics and history, I decide to meet those who have hardly come across the historical facts and have been able to theorize the politics of the Indian state or the separatists there. Who only thought about earning for an extra day? I boarded a bus for a village nearby; on reaching there I immediately to tried convers ate with a few old men standing at the bus stop probably waiting for something other than just a bus. They could not understand my language neither i could understand them. After a little effort I gave in and then I saw a bunch of youth standing nearby in jeans and t-shirts, I walked towards them and told them the purpose of my visit. They took me to village house with a completely different architecture, beautiful at sight. I was offered some dry fruits and local tea called kava. I interacted with them for some time trying to build a comfort zone in them so that I could start on with the heavier chat. They were happily telling me about their culture, traditions, food, etc. when I realized that it was the right time to start up with what I wanted to know from them, I asked to them about the army there? Suddenly a silence broke out, red faces started turning pale and I could see a definite suspicion in their eyes, I convinced them soon that I had nothing to do with the army or any state agencies. After a while they agreed to about it with a condition I should not mention their names anywhere, such was the level of fear in them .they started off with revealing the torturous frisking which they have to  go through every day ,the abuse and insult they have to face on their own land . Next in the sequence were stories exposing the realities of crack down in search for militants. Few of them spoke about the increasing cases of rapes and eve teasing which go unreported in the police stations hereby making a mockery of justice again. Most of these crimes according to them happen under the influence of men in uniform.

I had always thought that I have taken birth into a modern world with liberal ideas of democracy, freedom, liberty etc. which is present in some or the other form everywhere but now I think my perceptions are changing , we live in a world which has only developed modern ideas , implementation of them may take another few centuries . SHAMEFUL!! More shameful is the fact that these heinous crimes are committed by those men in uniform who are supposed to protect us, It is disgusting that after six decades of achieving independence we have failed to understand that the boundaries are only to ensure safety to its citizens, what we see today is gross violation of human rights in the name of protecting boundaries

Kashmir along with a few North Eastern states. have been under the clutches of a draconian law called  AFSPA which was supposed to strengthen the hands of army in fighting terror but what we witness today is that these strengthened hands are misused on large scale by increasing  oppression on the people. For a moment if we leave aside the separatist demands for a plebiscite in the valley and focus our lenses on the condition of human rights in the valley, what we notice that the most of the cases involved with human rights violation in the past couple of decades is because of the presence of something like AFSPA, which cannot be more draconian in its nature than in its present form. Thousands of innocent lives have been taken in the name of fighting terror, women have become widows, they have been raped, and children are roaming around as orphans, recently thousands of unidentified graves have come into lime light, this situation in the valley raises some very important questions which are yet waiting for their answers. Something like AFSPA is deepest black blot on the democratic structure of the Indian political system.

These conditions prevailing in the valley poses a threat to the very concept of human rights as per United Nations guidelines on it, situation immediately demands for a popular movement against the most brutal violation of human rights of the people living here ,recent visit of a team of amnesty international is a bright step . The need is for other rights organizations to come forward in the process of building a rights network hence serving as a watch dog for the international community. It’s equally important for the Indian state to take into consideration the whole situation prevailing in the valley and soon understand the fact that solution to resistance is not oppression in return, rather it would always prepare grounds for fresh resistance. It should indulge into more serious dialogs with the people living in the valley and their leaders and hold true to its commitment of building a democratic state based on Gandhi an values.

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