What is happening right now has become quite expected and normal with Kashmiris. I am joining the mad rush of comments and opinions over Article 370, and 35A, which have apparently “made history” and led every citizen to celebrate. It has boosted Indian media’s TRP enough with debates, and panels that fight over the way it was done, the things that Pakistan can do, and of course, the flashy captions, ranging from “Modi’s New Kashmir”, “Modi Makes History” to “Normalcy in Kashmir” and “Kashmiris Celebrate Abrogation of Article 370”.
My experience has been otherwise. I called my mother on Wednesday, 31 July. She was in a rush. I could hear people screaming in the background, “5 kg atta, butter” et al, and I thought that the commotion was because Eid was approaching in ten days.
I asked her where she was. She said there was going be a war. “They have cleared tourists, sent back yatris from the middle of their pilgrimage, rumours ask to stock up for months. Something very big is about to happen,” she told me.
The fear in her voice was strange. It wasn’t a fear I’d seen before... hasn’t Kashmir seen lockdowns many times previously? We are strong enough to face it, I thought to myself, but her voice conveyed a fear I had never known.
I called her again the next day. She kept talking about how more and more troops were being brought in. She instructed me to go to my guardians if something bad happened. She told me not to worry and not to speak to anyone about anything. She asked me to cancel my ticket for Eid if things worsened. I kept scolding her, telling her it was stupid of her to believe there was possibility of war. Yet, a fear settled in my own heart. I was trying to calm her down was, in turn, battling with an unknown fear myself.
On Friday night, my brother called and said that phones might go dead in the night. He said I shouldn’t worry about them and stay safe.
What the Blockade Has Done to My Family
That was the last I spoke to them until days later, when I had a chance to speak to my father briefly who let me know they were safe. I broke down that day because I didn’t know when I would get another chance to hear his voice. I held back my tears and hid my fear to let him go on with the belief that I wasn’t worried, but in voices as choked as that, we both knew how hurt we were.
The communication blockade is such that each time I lay down my head, I wonder if anything might have happened to them. I think about how I should ask Mama (who generally makes the decision for me) if I should cancel my ticket or come home, I think about how I’d communicate with them the details of my arrival if I leave for Srinagar.
I also think about how I’ll give them their medicines for the next three months, which I was supposed to take with me on Eid. With a curfew imposed, how will they arrange the medicines?
I wonder what I would tell them if I had a chance to talk to them. I think and I cry, keeping my phone really close at all times so as to not miss any of their calls.
I feel restless to think about my grandmother, who was to fly back from abroad. She is uncertain whether or not to come. We ended up cancelling her ticket and incurring the losses. I am worried for a cousin who cries about the wedding of her brother which was due in August. How will I arrange my fees and what will I do when I have no money? I fear spending whatever little I have on food, wondering how my family will transfer money to me? I have suffered emotionally, mentally, socially, and financially. This is not to say I am self-absorbed, but I am aware and sad over yet another blow to the people of my land.
When I am asked my feelings about these changes, I fear if I am entitled to an opinion with the guarantee of not being mistreated?
This is the time for apples and walnuts to ripe. People wait a whole year, labouring on fields, to finally earn the income they will depend on for the rest of the year. For hotel owners and handicraft workers, their sole earning depends on the tourist season. There are businessmen who have to pay their bills to workers and employees before Eid, and conversely, there are people who have to get bills sanctioned from government offices in order to receive their cheques.
This is also the wedding season. People who have spent lakhs on arrangements will be rendered clueless about how they can carry on with their lives after a change like this. I may be away from home but I am a part of my land, a part of the mornings that have seen curfews and a part of the nights that have heard gunshots. I am a part of the agony an innocent family feels when one of their own is hurt. I feel their poignance over financial and physical blows, and I feel their fear of death and loss.
Media’s Portrayal Has Made Things Worse
While others are busy focusing on the treasure of my land, I am worried about my people, whose existence matters to nobody. I am aware of the chill of barbed wires, increased security, helicopters hovering above homes. I am aware of the gloom that sets in because of the pin-drop silence in the city. I am aware of the struggle of getting pregnant women and the ill to hospitals at this time. Most importantly, I am aware of the frustration of not knowing what will follow and till when people will suffer.
There is an invisible chain restricting us, that doesn’t allow us to talk to anyone outside their home, that denies us everyday amenities. What is especially hurtful is the knowledge that the media is beating the drums of normalcy.
After years of experience, we are not under any illusion of sabka saath sabka vikaas, we just want a normal life, some air to breathe without a gun pointed at our backs.
It was never the politicians that irked us for history is witness to their deceptive character.
What irks every Kashmiri soul is the media portrayal of our plight. It is bearable to suffer trauma but unbearable to be shown as the culprits.
The media is believed to be a medium which brings truth before the world, voices which is yet unheard, but I believe the rules of the game have changed. I see the same pattern everywhere – partial, selective, portrayed puppetry. News channels are the last thing I would believe to know the condition of my land because I know what they hide. It pains me deeply to see that after all you bear and suffer, the land you stand on is all that matters and not you.
I have seen news channels reporting normalcy, and maybe it’s true, for this is normal for Kashmir and for Kashmiris.
(The author is a student at Jamia Millia Islamia. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)