We want Kashmir but do we want the Kashmiris?
By Neel Anil Panicker
Sorry, I don’t practice the brand of nationalism that you do. That was how I retorted the other day to a friend of mine who had the temerity to call me an anti-national.
He didn’t just stop at that. In fact, he went to the other end of the spectrum and accused me of being a pseudo secularist as well. My only crime: I had espoused the cause of all those hapless children who are languishing inside the four walls of their battered homes or lying around in abysmally poor and overstretched hospitals that dot the once beautiful Valley of Kashmir; I spoke about my anguish at how their faces and limbs have been scarred and damaged by pellets and bullet injuries with a few unfortunate among them even partially or fully blinded, quite unfortunately caught in the crosshairs of a fierce almost two-month old battle between the separatists and the Indian armed forces.
The very same person, a highly respectable married man who dotes on his two dear little school going kids was all chagrined and highly offended and even went to the extent of calling me an active member of the pro-Kashmir brigade.
All simply because I happened to empathise with the plight of innocent Kashmiri children who are virtually confined to a life behind closed doors and face a dark uncertain future with no idea of when they would be able to go back to their schools which remain shut for an interminably long period.
Don’t these children have a right to education and a future; or are they to be treated merely as the discarded and forgotten children of a lesser God__a god unkind enough to leave them languishing and hopeless; their lives at the mercy of religious and self-serving bigots and fundamentalists of all hues whose only objective is to the forever keep the pot of insurgency burning so that they are able to perennially keep the flame of extremism alive and in the process derive political, economic and religious mileage out of the decade old strife?
I asked the same question to my good friend and he answered back in full am, his voice rising and his speech rousing all who bothered to care, “Kashmir is an integral part of India and we will kill anyone who even dares to think about usurping it.
All very well said and highly patriotic. After all we Indians have never lacked in jingoism and wear our nationalism with much pride on our sleeves. But then why did my friend clam up when I asked him about the plight of Kashmiri children?
Are they any different from his own children? Or are they not the children of India?
What my good friend and all others who subscribe to his skewed logic need to realize is that the fight here must be as much for upholding the rights of the residents of Kashmir as much as it is about protecting the once ‘Heaven on Earth’ pristine land of Kashmir.
You cannot have your cake and eat it too. For what good is it if we have all of Kashmir but minus its inhabitants___the very beautiful Kashmiris?