I had a lot of thoughts in my head. Lot of things to write about. But the news of the attacks on 14th February kept hovering. The attack made me feel sad, as if something heinous had happened in my backyard. What haunted me most are the images of the families. I couldn’t help thinking of the lives lost. The men hailing from villages in India, mostly join the forces as a source of employment. They are posted in the most remote and inaccessible places by government order – waiting for the tiny thread of making it back to family. 44 of them will never make it back. Sitting in the convoy one minute and disintegrated the next. The families will never see their sons again. Any death leaves one with a sense of loss. There is a void which is hard to fill. My heart goes out to families of the martyed security personnel.
I came to know of the attack via social media. Quite a lot is being expressed through these channels. I have been devouring a lot of articles, reports and analysis on the topic. One facet I have noticed via social media is that, the country seems to be riding on the backs of the recent movies Manikarnika and Uri. Both held Indian pride and Indian-ness at the forefront. I have not seen either of the movies, but I feel movies are as far from ground realities as possible. Something shot in a climate controlled studio in Mumbai is a far cry from the sub zero temperatures on a glacier. Referring to dialogues in movies as the solution, or a representation of what the armed forces think is a far cry from truth. There are videos of news being interlaced with dialogues by actor K K Menon who essays the role of an army officer are outright a ridiculous representation of the problem. The anger is understandable. But referring to something on screen as the right way is not something rational people should do.
Speaking of rationality there was a fair bit of misinformation as well. Strategically placed captions doing the rounds such as “the soldiers were going for holiday”, pictures of dogs wearing flags of Pakistan, that “terrorism has a religion” and a cry to abolish article 370 which seems to be the elusive solution. There is a video doing the rounds on social media where a Sardarji explains in great detail about the demerits of Article 370 and 35A. I am part of a whatsapp group by people from my college. When it was shared in the group, a local from Kashmir in the group said, “yes that would solve the problem to some extent, but there are deeper issues. It will not only take the abolition of an article in constituion to be resolved”. I then started seeing a lot of neutral reports. I do not think there is anything neutral in the world of media. But then, we have to go by the ones trying not to lean towards either side. I saw reports that confirmed there was a very strong anti India sentiment. India never did the referendum that was agreed in 1948. But if we go a step back, the then Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh did acede to India too in return of seeking India’s help in combating militants from Pakistan. The problem was left lingering in the British’s hurry to get out of the country. The 1948 war did not resolve it and nor have the subsequent wars. It was never tackled properly by reign after reign of governments. The insurgency started with fuel in the form of men and material from Pakistan. It has escalated over the decades and taken a different shape now where the youth from Kashmir are being radicalised. I pray it does not go to a time where both men and material are ingrown.
There have been all sorts of responses in the real world too. There was a protest organised in front of Pakistan High Commission by Indians in London. I later saw a footage where a journalist (I think) was interviewing the protestors. He asked “ How do you justify army presence in Kashmir?” . To that my straight answer would have been “to protect the sovereignity of the country”. A nation cannot let militant outfits roam around without taking a combat position themselves. They are now walking on the streets of Kashmir, what is stopping them from moving on to Punjab or further south? He claimed he was from “India occupied Kashmir” and remarked “I do not see a single Kashmiri here, there are just Indians”. That made me wonder do Kasmiris consider the part of Kashmir “with” India as “India Occupied Kashmir”? I read articles that stated that Kasmiris felt more affiliated to Pakistan or towards an independent nationlity. Leeds has a lot of Pakistani population. And many of the shops run by them have the name “Kashmir”. So does the average Kasmiri think he is not Indian? Then is it time that we heard that voice, and gave them what they are seeking? But this time with no strings attached. Not like the last instance when India went on to support the Maharaja in the hopes that he would acede to India. This time full independence with no strings attached, no help, no association. It seems like a simple solution. But it is tough to implement given the geo-dynamics. Pakistan does not have much to lose for it controls the sparsely populated, highly inaccessible one-third of the region. Though India might not be gaining a lot economically, the foundation of India holding on is that they would not want to set a precedent. Today it is Kashmir, tomorrow it could be any border state. It is natural for any nation or tribe to think like this. That is what is happening in the Brexit negotiations too. No one would be better off or worse off if its just Britain who leaves the European Union. But the EU does not want to set a precedent. Tomorrow it could be any nation asking to move out thus defeating the purpose of the organisation. The EU in all reality is a trivial issue – it’s a voluntary organisation. India’s problem is way more deep seated. As said by Sadhguru in a telecast, “it started very simply. It was a border dispute. And a nation is bound by borders. We have let a it linger for too long with a Line of Control.”
Coming back to the questions being raised by the person with the microphone in front of Pakistan High Commission, London, emotions were running high in the crowd and no one answered properly or rather the answers were just a lot of voices over each other. There were slogans of “Kashmir is a part of India”, “One nation” and so on, but no concrete response. It was truly representative of situation in India all the time. There are just so many voices over each other. We are never united. It is so easy to splinter us.
Now it is more necessary than ever to consolidate our thoughts and our actions. We should have a plan – from the head. Not based on emotions, not based on vote banks, not based on petty politics. We owe it to all the lives lost in this long drawn battle over the decades. We owe it to the families who send their sons from other parts of India to fight for no-man’s land.