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‘Hatred Is What The Partition Left Behind’: A Kashmiri’s Take On ‘Independence’

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By Abdul Wajid:

As India celebrates its independence day with tremendous zeal and devotion, I am reminded that the same independence was celebrated with a similar fervor on the other side of the border just a day ago.

Every year, both India and Pakistan commemorate their respective days of independence enthusiastically. Wonder how great it is to imagine a single day of independence for both India and Pakistan, celebrating freedom from slavery, together as one great nation. To put in a simple way: what if Hindustan had only been free from the colonial rule but not split? How acceptable is that to imagine?

The partition of India is one of the ugliest chapters in history. The split displaced millions of families while killing thousands of innocent people from both the sides let alone the mental trauma, political instability, economical breaches and other blunders that followed.

Almost seven decades have passed but hatred is one ugly stigma that the partition has left behind as an incurable canker. Hence today the same people from both sides of the so-called LoC are divided physically by concertina wires and emotionally by an outrageous hatred.

For me, as a Kashmiri with disputed identity, a recent visit to the Wagah border, Attari was too disheartening. I was excited to cherish the phenomenal experience of Indian and Pakistani forces exchanging the peaceful salute parade. Alas my visit dampened all my spirits.

I was looking forward to see how harmony is cultivated everyday at the border gates among one of the worst foes in history. But what I experienced was totally repulsive. Both the forces were boasting about their strength, pride and honor. And the people were supporting their respective teams with a loud hullabaloo.

Source: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Source: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

At one time it was fascinating to see how the guards raise their legs high into the air and thump hard their chest with pride while shouting loud their respective nationhood. It was good to experience but not delightful. To me, it was not a presentation of love and harmony; it was more of domineering – “Hey I am better than you!”

My eyes pained witnessing the disgusting gestures being traded at the border. My ears ached with the overwhelming rebukes and abuses being exchanged crossways. My heart pounded on conceiving the hate vibes dangling all over in the air.

There was sloganeering on both the sides which people surely enjoyed. People from both the sides shouted at the top of their lungs trying to choke down the voices from the opposite side. I wondered where Kashmir lies amidst all those frantic slogans.

I could not find any traces of love in the air. There were only frantic voices proclaiming “Pakistan Zindabaad”, countered by “Bharat Mata Ki Jai.”  There was extreme patriotism (read as nationalism) among the respective crowd, and the adrenaline rush was pumping more venomous jingoism in each. Shame!

The only people getting the real pleasure from the parade were the foreigners seated in the VIP section. Talking about the border reminds me of the recent Bollywood hit, “Bajrangi Bhaijan“. I wonder how funnily the Bollywood and media takes us to some utopian world, far from reality. “Bajrangi Bhaijan” sets one good example.

Masood Hussain from Kashmir Life, comments about the movie, “With a cute mute Pakistani-Kashmir girl lost at Wagha border, actor Salman Khan created a highly emotional masala movie that happily ends at the LoC in Kashmir. It has already recorded Rs 500 crore business. But the complexity of the divide has prevented the people straddling the LoC from seeing even somebody getting closer to the utopian Bajrangi Baijaan.”

That’s the reality, unfortunately. Nevertheless the movie is best indented to give a beautiful peaceful message in the end. On the other hand, Sagarika Ghose writes, “Bajrangi Bhaijaan moment reminds that cinema and popular culture have almost managed to achieve what, frankly, our political class has failed to: Bridge the Indo-Pak divide.”

Now talking about the Indian Independence day in Kashmir that (to the disappointment of many of my dear Indian readers) is not actually celebrated. All the streets in Kashmir wear a deserted look every year on the red letter days of August 15 and January 26 while the whole Indian nation is celebrating on the streets. Why? As a protest to attest the non-belongingness and a need for resolution that has been left unattended.

The day is welcomed by blocking the mobile phone signals and internet in the name of national security. Police security is beefed up a week early and people are relentlessly frisked at every corner.  There is a total blackout.

Only a minor fraction of people sing the Indian National Anthem with pride. The majority are still caught in the labyrinth of azadi while another minor fraction carries a vision-impaired romanticism towards Pakistan. That’s a fact.

Coming back to the border, personally, I am a non-believer of the two nation theory although I am a great follower of Iqbal’s philosophy. Apparently, the present Pakistan is nowhere like Iqbal’s ideal Muslim nation. “Iqbal tere desh mei koi Iqbal na raha,” [“Iqbal, in your nation, there is little respect for you now”] I reason.

There is a lot more to say but words fail to substitute the feelings. At last, I really wish to see the border vaporise and two cultures blending into one, fading away all the tension and unrest. I really wish to see a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue that has simmered once again.

This is in the best of the mutual interests of India and Pakistan that they must agree to a common peaceful solution. They must re-direct their resources that they have been spending endlessly to fight against each other and more importantly to keep Kashmir, the bone of contention, under their thumb. The resources can otherwise be used to build a better nation with improved health services, good education and better employment.

Let us eliminate this hatred and come together to cultivate the seeds of harmony that will eventually grow into peace. It is high time to really talk about the resolution of Kashmir issue. Let us think beyond nationalism. Let us open our minds, our hearts and the gates at Wagah. That’s the bottom-line.

The two nations proudly celebrate their big days. But the fact is that they are independent, yet not free.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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