Pause and look around at what has become of azaadi. Feel sorry for our forefathers, for the sacrifices they made to get us freedom. Our government took a bunch of European Members of Parliament to Kashmir to extract from them a nod for what it has been doing in the region since 5 August. It expected the visiting delegates to ignore the obvious human rights violations that are taking place there.
Will these parliamentarians sleep peacefully after their harem scarem picnic in the Valley? On the very terrain where their securitised and well-guarded tour was conducted lies the blood of Kashmiris who have been shot at by government guns loaded with pellets and bullets. It is a different matter that all tell-tale signs of those battles fought on Kashmir’s streets were wiped clean for the benefit of the visitors.
Throughout their visit, the European MPs parroted the Indian government’s scripted lines on the Kashmir situation. Through their visit, the government got another opportunity to subject the Indian public to yet another replay of the all-is-well lullaby. Brokers, goons and dubious elements brought these MPs to India. They carried the refrain of their visit forward for days thereafter.
However short it may have been, this visit of imported parliamentarians was quite an eye opener. At least the realisation dawned that India is not azaad or free enough to halt the state when it tries to manipulate the general public’s sense of reality. Scared are we, scarred are our psyches, and we are unable to inform the world that a dark truth lies underneath our government’s projections.
That said, the free world is in a position to independently grasp the anguish and suffering of the people of Kashmir. Yet, the parliamentarians from halfway across the world landed here and only carried back false propaganda.
Unlike the women who were part of the visiting parliamentarians, the women of Kashmir are only azaad enough to visit detention centres, prisons and jails. They have been given just this much freedom by the military and government.
In Kashmir, each lane and by-lane and every home along it has a sorrowful tale of trauma to tell. If only we were free enough to hear those screams and sobs. If only we were free enough to cry in grief and shock at seeing young and old Kashmiris in detention. If only we were free enough to see that not a single fence-sitter remains in the Valley. The anger against the government in the region is absolute and widespread. If only we were free enough travel in Kashmir and see this anger in their eyes. If only we were free enough to raise our collective voice against the military boots that are controlling human lives there.
Right from the early nineties, I have been noticing a steady deterioration in the Valley, but never foresaw such dangerous circumstances. Now, boys get picked up by security agencies, their parents are threatened into silence, their homes are broken into or set ablaze. I never foresaw the midnight knocks at the door turning into midnight kicks delivered by people transported into the Valley from faraway lands.
Officially-created disasters are growing each day, and span the country from Kashmir to the plains. Our basic freedoms are being snatched across the nation. We are not azaad enough to cook or eat or store what we want. Questions are raised about how I pray or even greet those I meet. The moment I say as-salaam-alaikum [peace be on you], I can see all eyes are focused on me as though I am a full-fledged terrorist or at least a potential terrorist.
If I offer namaaz five times a day or fast thirty days in a year I am labelled fundamentalist. Why is this so—quite simply, because I am following the fundamentals of Islam. This is the communal poison we are being subjected to. Such is the propaganda being unleashed against the largest minority community in the country. Our rulers are using every opportunity they can find to run down an already battered community.
Now snooping is in the news: No azaadi to talk or think aloud, even to move around. Agencies are controlling us, keeping a watch on us, hearing all our spoken words, watching our every move.
I really do want azaadi from the throttling political pollution around me, adding to the environmental pollution that are choking and squeezing away life. The rulers do not want to focus on this problem, for which one of them really cares whether we die a thousand deaths or remain breathless. When things go out of control they will perhaps engage yet another group of brokers to cart another bunch of parliamentarians from Europe and take them on pony rides in pollution hot-spots. In exchange the visitors can sing along that they did not see the slightest trace of pollution in India.
Soon our vocal chords will soon be so severely damaged that it will be difficult to even cry out in revolt. This must be exactly what the rulers of the day want: To make us so weak, helpless and incapable that we remain totally under their command and control.
Humra Quraishi is an independent journalist and commentator. The views are personal.