Kashmir through the eyes of a Kashmiri
A piece of news from the United States administration caught my eye today. It said:
A “substantial” change in the US policy toward India was visible under the Obama Administration which appears to have put China on a higher plane that its southern neighbour, former US Ambassador, Mr Robert Blackwill said on Tuesday. With Obama administration devoting enormous thought to Pakistan, the former diplomat cautioned that India may encounter eventual US pressure on the issue of Kashmir.
I guess in India we know that this is the reality, that this has been the reality for a long time. Kashmir is dragging India down. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if there had been no dispute over Kashmir, if we had it completely without a murmur of protest from Pakistan (an unlikely scenario) or if it had gone to Pakistan in 1947. India would have been a different country, far less violence and more focus on important issues like a decent standard of living for all. We would have been far ahead economically that we are today although I am not sure about what would have happened in Pakistan. If I had to climb into a Time Machine and go back to 1947 I would have liked to fix it so that Kashmir went to Pakistan. No, this is not about justice but simply about what was best for India, on hindsight. But now it’s too late. Kashmir is now an integral part of India although that piece of land has come at a very great price.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe if Kashmir hadn’t been dragging us down it would have been the north-east. It is known that China is meddling in the north-east in a bid to keep India in its place. China would be uncomfortable with a powerful competitor like India, a threat to its dominant position in Asia. Right now Pakistan is doing China’s dirty job. So if it hadn’t been Kashmir, then perhaps the north-east would have exploded…and there is no guarantee even now that it won’t.
I am talking as a citizen, not a political expert, and those were the thoughts going through my head when I had a visitor in the afternoon. He was a Kashmiri.
I had put up an advertisement for the sale of my Kinetic Zing and a young man called Amit came over to take a look at it. He liked it, and wanted to buy it, so we sat down in the drawing room to discuss the final price. He told me he was a Kashmiri although he had lived in Mumbai for many years…and it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to Kashmir…the Zing was forgotten for the next one hour as we sat and talked about Kashmir.
Amit is a young, newly married Kashmiri Hindu whose parents were refugees. They settled in Delhi about 15 years ago when Amit was still a kid and later Amit came over to Mumbai to do his college. This is what he told me:
There is some kind of support for militancy in Kashmir even amongst the ordinary people, but it’s not really always active support. I think they are confused. Every family has someone who has become a militant. So even if they are not in agreement with the views of the militants they do not oppose them as some family member is involved. They don’t know what to do, whether to support or not. I think about 15- 20% of the Kashmiri people are involved in actual militancy, the youth mostly, and the elders often don’t know about it. For the youth it’s become a kind of trade, a profession, a business. A way of making money, an occupation. Go and get training in Pakistan and then come back…
We left Kashmir in the early nineties although my grandparents refused to leave initially. We settled in Delhi. After one year even my grandparents left. It is impossible to stay or live in Kashmir. There is no security, whether you are a Muslim or a Hindu. Kidnappings are common. My grandparents finally left as people would regularly come to their home with guns and demand food and money too. Life was not normal. I don’t know how it is on the ground there now but I doubt that it’s very much improved. It is not possible to live a normal life there, educate your children, get a decent job. There is always the danger of kidnapping, your house being blown up. My uncle was kidnapped by militants and tortured but we managed to negotiate and get him back. No we did not pay ransom (he did not want to discuss how they got him back)
I have been living in Mumbai for many years now as I did my college education here. And the Mumbai attacks were a shock. I had thought that it was all over, that I had left it all behind in Kashmir. The Kashmir bombs have come to Mumbai. (he becomes emotionally disturbed here)
I want to see the Kashmir problem solved but I do not see it being solved. The Kashmiri people don’t know what they want, they are confused. Pakistan doesn’t want to solve the problems of the Kashmiris, they simply want the land. India too wants to hold on to the land and things are just going on like this and I don’t see it improving in the near future.
The Kashmiris themselves have no control over Kashmir, they cannot decide the fate of Kashmir and I think this realisation has dawned on them now. They know now that they will never get their state of Kashmir, that no one is going to ask them their opinion. The future of Kashmir is in the hands of India and maybe Pakistan, maybe the world, but not the Kashmiri people. That is the reality today. And they know it.
The Army made things worse in Kashmir. Some things happened and I don’t want to go into it as I have not seen it myself. Maybe it is because the soldier was away from home, and had his own tensions, I don’t know. The ordinary people suffered.
I would not like to go back to Kashmir. Life there is not safe, but not just that, there is a Hindu Muslim divide there. In the olden days it wasn’t there but about 50-60 years ago it was so. This was because the Hindu Kashmiri community was richer and often they exploited the poor, in this case the poor happened to be mostly Muslims. So the Hindus were in all important positions and this is the main reason why militancy took root in Kashmir. The poor were being exploited and this happens all over India doesn’t it. But in this case the rich were the Hindus and the poor were the Muslims. This created a lot of resentment amongst the Muslims and that is why they allowed the foreigners to come and sow the seeds of hate and terrorism. Even today this type of feeling is there amongst the Kashmiri Muslims, this kind of resentment towards the Kashmiri Hindus.I cannot visualise myself there. I cannot go back. I don’t want to go back ever. I speak Kashmiri, I have feelings for Kashmir, who will not love Kashmir, its so beautiful. But I love India more. I want to see India prosper.
Related Reading: Kashmir – where are you heading?
How many in Pakistan are sympathetic to the extremists?
Are all India’s 8 north-eastern states disturbed areas?
How does India treat the north-easterners?