Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I, Kashmiri

Hindustan Times kindly asked me to write a personal opinion piece on Kashmir. It was published on Sunday, September 11 (!!!), 2010.
Most of you've read it. Here's the link for the rest.

[Awesome comments of course. :) Like 'leave Kashmir' suggestion. Read for amusement.]

PS: This is not the personal blog post on Kashmir I had talked about earlier ['Kashmir, Let's Talk']. That's going to be much lengthier, more detailed and with no real structure as such. I'll try and address all comments as well. Coming up...

11 comments:

Deepak said...

Disappointed by the article if thats the one i left a long comment for in your earlier post. Nothing new in it., while the earlier post suggested you were going to give some new thoughts. I'm sorry but im disappointed, nothing new, nothing pathbreaking, nothing fresh. some parts are not even consisten, like i dont know if you grew up in kashmir or dubai.

longblackveil said...

No, Deepak. This is not it. This was sthg HT asked me to send in, giving a very personal perspective. I grew up in Dubai, Bangalore and Kashmir. Living in Kashmir now.

Deepak said...

I'm sorry I tried holding back all day but I cant restrain myself from asking some questions cos I feel very strongly about this. I dont now if you are checking comments section on HT, so i'll post this here.
1. I understand the feeling of not feeling Indian, but have you thought about the end game? independent kashmir valley/pakistan amalgamation/indepedent J&K. Economically or politically none of that makes any sense. trust me, i'll walk you through it if you want. This is very different from India seeking independence from colonialism.

2. you also need to understand what is India. India is not a 2 faced person. its a country made up of cultures/people and processes. By definition it can't have two faces.. it is what it is... i dont think its possible for u to take it in part.. you have to take it or leave it as a whole. Dont bash India cos thats bashing indian people, and thats not cool. bashing central or state govt is different and indian people do it all the time as well. nothing wrong there.

3. most importantly, USA is a great example of how a nation is built. even if kashmir was not historically india, whats wrong in making it india in future, derive strength from each other and emerge better of as a whole? texas used to be mexico, alaska was bot from the russians - and they worked to make it one USA - texas is even allowed to fly its own flag higher than american flag! each state has its own identity. If kashmir was never India in the past, I just dont get it HOW that justifies it can't be in the future when it is clearly better for both sides. This is where politics kicks in, and leaders on both sides dont do what's best for the people on the ground in the long run. and I honestly, firmly believe being one is better for india and J & L and K. Its an easy argument economically, it a tough one politically but then thats what u want from ur leaders, write the future for betterment of ur people.

All this holds true only if we say its not a religious problem, if it is religious then kashmir valley shud be in pakistan. period.

Geek said...

Hi Sabbah,

Visiting your blog for the first time after reading your op-ed in HT. I am NOT a loony jingoist from RSS, and I understand that the Indian state committed major human rights violations.

Leaving aside some of these obvious points, the HT article was totally disappointing. I will appreciate it very much if you clarify the following issues in a reply or in a future blog post.

1) I endorse the point made by Deepak. If you think in terms of realpolitik, an independent kashmir, however romantic it may sound, simply cannot exist. A part of PoK has already been ceded to the Chinese! Can any reasonable person imagine the tiny Kashmir valley, without any military strength and economic prowess of its own, surviving at a strategic location between India, Pakistan and China?

2) As regard to Pandit exodus, you write "India and Pak played a huge and unforgivable part....as did those Kashmiris (Muslims and Pundits) who communalised the movement...". Isn't that same as saying "Hindus and Muslims in Gujrat played a huge and unforgivable part in 2002 riots"! Sure, the muslims communalised the situation with the Godhra incident! But any liberal person will admit that the Hindu community of Gujrat must take all the blame for that ghastly pogrom of minorities in 2002. Why can't you be brave enough to admit the same in case of Kashmir?

3) British ruled India because it was hugely beneficial to them economically. On the other hand, Indian government spends much more than it ever gets back from the state of J&K. On top of that, it has to face international embarrassment. Frankly speaking, the adivasis of Bihar, Jharkhand have much more serious grievances that need to be addressed. Don't you think India needs freedom from the Kashmiris as much as the Kashmiris want freedom from India? Personally, I feel a plebiscite would be the best thing to happen to India. Of course, fear of public opinion won't allow the government to go for it.

4) You compare Azad Kashmir movement with Indian freedom struggle. Like it or not, Indian freedom struggle produced leaders of the callibre of Gandhi, Nehru and Subhash Bose. You may or may not agree with their political views, but each of them was a leader of impeccable integrity, staunch secularist and commanded a overwhelming respect from their fellow countrymen. Leaving aside Sheikh Abdullah, who was an extraordinary person in his time and India's treatment of him has been shameful, can you mention a single leader of that stature that the Azad Kashmir movement produced? When you are being proud of your generation, surely you are not talking about the Huriaat Conference, Hizbul Mujahideen, Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah or Sajjad Lone? And if you are claiming they are of the stature of Gandhi, Nehru or Subhas Bose, what more can I say?

Sorry for this long diatribe. I felt rather strongly about it. You are an educated, modern Kashmiri woman. If there were more like you at the forefront of the current movement, I, in spite of being an India, would perhaps have been able to sympathize with it. But when I see people hoisting the Islamic flag and chanting terrifying religious slogans, or vandalizing a church and school because some crackpot in the US has decided to burn the Koran, I have no other option but to feel Azad Kashmir, if it ever be, will become an Islamist state just like Pakistan.

With best wishes from Kolkata.

Sayan.

Geek said...

Hi Sabbah,

Visiting your blog for the first time after reading your op-ed in HT. I will appreciate it very much if you clarify the following issues in a reply or in a future blog post.

1) I endorse the point made by Deepak. If you think in terms of realpolitik, an independent kashmir, however romantic it may sound, simply cannot exist.

2) As regard to Pandit exodus, you write "India and Pak played a huge and unforgivable part....as did those Kashmiris (Muslims and Pundits) who communalised the movement...". Isn't that same as saying "Hindus and Muslims in Gujrat played a huge and unforgivable part in 2002 riots"! Sure, the muslims communalised the situation with the Godhra incident! But any liberal person will admit that the Hindu community of Gujrat must take all the blame for that ghastly pogrom of minorities in 2002. Why can't you be brave enough to admit the same in case of Kashmir?

3) British ruled India because it was hugely beneficial to them economically. On the other hand, Indian government spends much more than it ever gets back from the state of J&K. On top of that, it has to face international embarrassment. Don't you think India needs freedom from the Kashmiris as much as the Kashmiris want freedom from India? Personally, I feel a plebiscite would be the best thing to happen to India. Of course, fear of public opinion won't allow the government to go for it.

4) You compare Azad Kashmir movement with Indian freedom struggle. Like it or not, Indian freedom struggle produced leaders of the callibre of Gandhi, Nehru and Subhash Bose. You may or may not agree with their political views, but each of them was a leader of impeccable integrity, staunch secularist and commanded a overwhelming respect from their fellow countrymen. Leaving aside Sheikh Abdullah, who was an extraordinary person in his time and India's treatment of him has been shameful, can you mention a single leader of that stature that the Azad Kashmir movement produced?

Sorry for this long diatribe. I felt rather strongly about it. You are an educated, modern Kashmiri woman. If there were more like you at the forefront of the current movement, I, in spite of being an India, would perhaps have been able to sympathize with it. But when I see people hoisting the Islamic flag and chanting terrifying religious slogans, or vandalizing a church and school because some crackpot in the US has decided to burn the Koran, I have no other option but to feel Azad Kashmir, if it ever be, will become an Islamic state just like Pakistan.

With best wishes from Kolkata.

Shuaib said...

@ Sabbah

although ur article very succinctly expressed the feelings of Kashmiris, however I feel the article should also have covered some way ahead.. Or maybe a sequel :)

@ Deepak
Frankly, it is not about what India is. India is a great country, no doubt and if u ask me, I think its the best option for Kashmir (although very few Kashmiris might agree with me). For a common Kashmiri, India is represented by the man in the khakis on streets and the politician in the secretariat, both symbols of exploitation and repression of Kashmiris. Till the time these symbols remain, it will be an exercise in futility in trying to tell people to calm down and have patience. Past experiences have led to a huge trust deficit and even the smallest decision of GOI is scrutinized and viewed with suspicion by Kashmiris. The key to winning the people is to try and remove that trust deficit but unfortunately dont think the government has the will and strength to do that. They have always believed in ignoring and supressing the people and postponing any resolution with the aim that people will get bored of it one day. It is the utter failure of the government to address issues during the intervening periods of lull that intensifies the peoples' rage whenever the next flashpoint occurs.

sunny said...

you are invited at greatbong.net and put your arguement....

Neha said...

@ Shuaib

Do you understand why the men in Khakis are in Kashmir at all? Or have you conveniently forgotten do the ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place in '89?

You talk of the people's will and what Kashmiris want. And how you get there is by purging the valley of all voices of dissent?

The truth is that the Kashmir issue IS a religious one. We must NOT try to pretend that it isn't. The Kashmir issue is about the struggle between secular and communal forces, period.

Qrratugai said...

A very well-written, well-expressed article, Sabbah! As I was reading it, I couldn't help thinking - damn, this girl is more bold than I thought she was! MashaAllah. I'm so proud of you! I'm blessed to have accidentally come across your blog!

Since I'm not at all familiar with the views of the Kashmiris, I don't know how often you are allowed to express your opinion. I therefore want to ask: How did you feel when HT first asked you for your opinion? Is it rare?

I am all for letting the subaltern speak for itself. Why not? Who is anyone else to speak for them? In Kashmir's case, who's a non-Kashmiri to say, "The Kashmiris are good in India. Let them join with India!" No. What do the Kashmiris want?

But, alas, I realize that politics is too dirty, too vicious to allow the people in question to choose what THEY believe is best for them!

I hope, Sabbah, that one day, you'll write a novel based on your experiences -- that is, if you haven't already! I plan (or hope) to do something similar on the situation of Pashtuns, so yeah.

I'd now like to respond to Deepak's comment.

Qrratugai said...

Deepak, you say, "This is very different from India seeking independence from colonialism." How is this any different? How's Kashmir's desire to be independent of/from India any different from India's desire to be independent of/from Britain?

QUOTE: "even if kashmir was not historically india, whats wrong in making it india in future, derive strength from each other and emerge better of as a whole?"

Ahh - what's wrong in letting Kashmir have its independent? Hasn't the torture, the oppression been enough?

QUTOE: "Dont bash India cos thats bashing indian people, and thats not cool."

It's not good to bash any country, but you do understand that the country itself is nothing without the support of its government officials, right? When a person "bashes" a country, she/he is in essence criticizing the government.

QUOTE: "If kashmir was never India in the past, I just dont get it HOW that justifies it can't be in the future when it is clearly better for both sides."

Wait, it's "clearly better for both sides" that Kashmir be a part of India? How is "clearly better for both sides"? And you're speaking from an Indian point of view. Try to understand a Kashmiri point of view as well.

QUOTE: "This is where politics kicks in, and leaders on both sides dont do what's best for the people on the ground in the long run."

Who exactly are these leaders? What percentage of them are Kashmiris or people who at least understand the Kashmiri situation from a Kashmiri mind? Most importantly, who are you and I (non-Kashmiris) to decide what's best for the people of Kashmir? Or is that the people of Kashmir, a majority of whom want independence, are just too naive to know what's best for them?

Qrratugai said...

To Geek, I'd like to say the following:

To say that a people should not get independence from a larger power solely because it does not have a strong army/economy or any army at all or that it's too tiny is not a good argument. It's the exact same thing being said to Pashtuns in Pakistan when they talk about getting independence from Pakistan.

Moreover, to deny Kashmir its independence just because of the pathetic way that Muslims in Pakistan practice Islam is also an equally faulty argument. Besides, if the Kashmiris are going to respond to a certain international event (e.g., Burn the Quran Day) as an independent country, what do you think is preventing them from doing the exact same thing WHILE being a part of India/Pakistan or being stuck in between?

Again, I wish the Kashmiris would be allowed to speak for themselves. Why are non-Kashmiris speaking for them?