Being a Kashmiri in India

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There is something about the business of occupations I believe, occupations are like lies. Every lie is then supported with number of other lies. But the truth always prevails; it does not need what we call in Kashmiri chhaan and dassil.  The ‘Kashmir is our integral part’ thing is also a lie that state tries to camouflage but in one way or another it gets unmasked, sometimes by its institutions or by its subjects who votes for the setup.

“Sir, you are a resident of Kashmir; I guess it will be difficult for us to activate your connection because of the security threat”

Few weeks back, I applied for an internet connection, from a leading internet service provider of India. I completed all the documentation and formalities. The receptionist at the counter promised the activation in 6 hours. For the next 24 hours I waited for the activation message, I called the showroom people, they asked me to wait again for 24 hours as there was some issue with the documents and this dilly-dallying continued for 3 more days with all types of lame excuses. I got furious on this delay in providing internet connection and visited the showroom to know what has gone wrong. After initial reluctance they asked me to talk to the senior official. Upon inquiring, his reply shocked me, though I was not surprised: “Sir, you are a resident of Kashmir; I guess it will be difficult for us to activate your connection because of the security threat”. I couldn’t help but smiled and left the chamber.

A country that claims to be  a champion of democracy and the fundamental right of expression went into ultimate fizzy when a few dozen students protested against the hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru who was hanged on 9 February 2013

Kashmiris living in India are not strangers to such treatment in different government and private offices. Much before Kashmiris started moving to India for studying, Kashmiri salesmen have been travelling to India for selling shawls, handicrafts and carpets. Their burden and worries about livelihood was always and still is accompanied by deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability. The idea of getting the liberties that are conspicuous in Kashmir because of overwhelming presence of Indian Military becomes a farce as soon as the train/bus enters Punjab.  It has been a standard practice for the Punjab police to enter coaches and until they leave the bus no Kashmiri escapes their attention. All this leads to demand for a shawl or a carpet by the police and travelers fearing the worst try solving the matter amicably by giving into the demands.

All these encounters are often laced with choicest of swears for being a Kashmiri, religion and love for Pakistan. Punjab police gained notoriety after the “cremation in flash” of noted kashmiri singer Gh. Nabi Sheikh when he mysteriously disappeared aboard Shalimar express in the intervening night of 13-14 July 2003, raising doubts that Police might be involved in his disappearance.

The bias, Kashmiris living in Delhi say permeates from getting a job to renting an accommodation. Seeking an accommodation is one of the herculean tasks for a Kashmiri in India. The media is frequented with reports of Kashmiris denied accommodation in Paying Guest hostels or rented places. Come 26 January or 15 August it is impossible to get a hotel room. Recently a leading journalist working with Al Jazeera had been denied an accommodation in Delhi when he sought one.  In another incident Arif Ayaz Parray a prominent writer from Kashmir, based in New Delhi was asked to vacate his accommodation just three days after he had shifted. “I was literally thrown out of the flat, in spite of having signed a bond with a property dealer”. “The landlord wouldn’t just allow a kashmiri tenant” he recalls the broker telling him.  There are numerous accounts of Kashmiris being thrown out of their rented accommodations, harassment by land lords, midnight raids and summons by police.

Kashmiris become easy fodder for the state to bolster its campaign against the so called war on terror after every unpleasant act that happens in India. It has become a ritual or trend for the local police to hound up Kashmiris or keep them under vigil after a bomb blast or a strike. This is often followed by framing up in frivolous and fake cases.

In 2012 the Delhi High Court acquitted four Kashmiris in the Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case. It took the court one and a half decade to find out their innocence. Their story is a grim reminder and a tragic replay of gross injustice meted out to many Kashmiris by Indian judiciary. Every time a bomb blast occurs fear and anxiety engulfs Kashmiris. Suvaid Yaseen, a research scholar in Jawaharlal Lal Nehru wrote about an incident after the Ghaffar Market, central park blasts of 2008. “I was wearing a black Pathani suit at the time when this incident took place, it suddenly appeared a dangerous outfit to wear, coupled with my beard, and I immediately changed to my friends clothes. I didn’t even speak about the incident on phone; it becomes tricky for a Kashmiri. The fact that Delhi University professor SAR Geelani was falsely implicated on a mere phone call is always at the back of my mind”.

This all plays on the psyche of the people and it ebbs in deep, the alienation from India and belonging to Kashmir grows more and more, plus you want to shout in their face we need to be citizens of India first to be a desh-droh(traitor)

Being a Kashmiri in India, you carry the title of being a traitor, a desh-troh, a gaddar to Bharat mata, wherever you go in India. People will look up to you as a potential threat or a terror suspect. In normal conversations you will be asked when are you going to bomb so and so? Was your first birthday gift an AK-47?  and so on. Sometimes when you disclose your identity people tend to maintain a distance. This all plays on the psyche of the people and it ebbs in deep, the alienation from India and belonging to Kashmir grows more and more, plus you want to shout in their face we need to be citizens of India first to be a desh-droh(traitor).

In March 2014, Kashmiri students of Subharti University Meerut were attacked by locals after students celebrated Pakistan’s victory in a cricket match. This incident created fear psychosis in hundreds of Kashmiri students and their families. This incident was an open example where police and the administration went hand in glove, ultimately leading to rustication and jeopardizing the career of two dozen students.

A country that claims to be  a champion of democracy and the fundamental right of expression went into ultimate fizzy when a few dozen students protested against the hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru who was hanged on 9 February 2013,the students were first heckled by goons and then whisked away to a police station.  Why I mentioned parliament attack case is important, apart from the flawed trail which lynched a Kashmiri for satisfying the collective conscience of a blood thirsty nation, the climate of suspicion many say has sharpened since the attack in 2001. The stereotype is that every Kashmiri is a terrorist.  The searches and questions don’t stop after you show your identity proof; it actually starts after they find out your identity.

A report by peoples union of democratic said kashmiris in Delhi suffer from ‘ a deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability’ and are victims of police harassment , humiliating searches, intimidation, arbitrary detentions and demands for bribes by local policemen under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

All these incidents or provocations burst the farce balloon of integral part. The case seems very simple. It is not how the state ill treats a proportion of its own population but how it treats the people of a land that it has occupied by force and who refuse to be cowed down or budge before the masochistic military might of the occupier.

Post Script: I got a dongle after a friend of mine from Uttar Pradesh produced her documents while leaving the showroom, the executive was very quick to exclaim: Sir this won’t work in Kashmir, I smiled again, said nothing and left the showroom.

Aaqib Hussain is a resident of Indian occupied Kashmir, working in New Delhi-India.

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