This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sara Jamal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“She Wasn’t Even A Kashmiri”: Why The Rest Of India Needs To Care About Kashmiris

By Sara Jamal:

Maybe reading too much about the militancy and the ‘haalat’ in the country and going for a nap is not a great idea. I fell asleep after reading something a young journalist had reported from Kashmir and she died battling cancer the day before I write this. I was simply wondering about how strong she must have been. She had worked for the Greater Kashmir newspaper, one of the best dailies that come out from the Valley. She wasn’t even a Kashmiri. Why did she want to risk her life and report about the troubled lives of Kashmiris? These were the honest thoughts I had after reading the article.

After I fell asleep, I dreamt that I along with my mother and brother are travelling to someplace. I don’t know which place, the name doesn’t come up. We have stalled at a dhaba, the place is shady and it’s almost getting dark. The air in the surrounding is brisk and tense. My subconscious knows where I am, but probably I didn’t. I am waiting in a balcony where I can see a few ‘fair skinned’ people wearing grey pherans pass by.

Suddenly, everyone in the dhaba starts to run outside and they ask me to leave as well. I’m standing with all the luggage and a camera waiting for by brother to come outside from the restroom. I can’t find my mother. The street starts to get a distinct character soon, from a picturesque street it suddenly turns into one in which I see a few kids running to save their lives. Then I see the big picture. It all becomes clear. Things get a perspective and in my dream and I cringe. In my dream itself, I don’t want to believe what the reality is. I wanted to snap out of the dream but couldn’t. My heart starts to race. I see security personnel, heavily laden with arms swiftly surrounding the place. There is a lot of commotion. The air becomes tenser, the earth becomes shaky, the briskness of the air now is cutting through my skin. I don’t know what is happening. I see a little boy running furiously. He looks up, we see each other, his eyes are heavy, fear is so evident in his eyes.

I certainly know that I’m not a Kashmiri. I’m a tourist. Nothing would happen to me or my family. I pick up my camera and focus it on the army man. He, in turn, focusses his AK-47 type gun on me! I am shocked, my brother finally comes out of the restroom. I can’t tell him what is happening. I’m so confused myself. Perplexed, I just manage to say, “They are pointing guns at us.” He says, “What’s new?”

In a reflection, I look at myself. I don’t believe my eyes. I see that I am wearing a pheran myself. I am a Kashmiri? I couldn’t even take that in my dream. I get restless in the bed. I want to really come out of this, can’t take the pressure. In a fraction of second, I see fire and flames from the nozzle of the gun, and in an instant, I wake up!

I knew it was a dream, a bad one. But the second I woke up, I knew this wasn’t a dream for them, it’s their reality. It’s worse. We don’t even want to know about it. We want to live with the idea of Kashmir as a beautiful place. Nobody would want to visit it right now. But what about the people living in Kashmir? Who would save them? Who will take them into a beautiful refuge away from their troubled lives to comfort them, the way they took us when it was our turn?

The more I think about it, the more I get anxious. Would our armchair understanding and approach to the issue really take us somewhere close to the solution of the problem? Those moments of helplessness in my dream were some of the scariest moments I had witnessed. I can’t even fathom their misery, but I really don’t know how to help them. That kid with eyes full of fear, the men running to save themselves. Who are they running from? Why are they running from us? Why can’t we save and protect them?

The young journalist ended her article by saying, “So much blood cannot go waste; and loss of about one Lakh Kashmiris is not a joke. And the Kashmir struggle, so far, has been written by the martyr’s blood. A bullet that I picked up from the protest site in Lasjan would keep the memories of the day etched in my memory forever. Inshallah, I hope I live to see a free Kashmir.” She was hopeful of a better future for the land. She did not live to see it. But let’s make it a reality for us, in our lives. Let peace prevail in the valley. Let’s call for an end to AFSPA in the valley, for an end to the brutal violence against innocents. Let’s make it a habitable place for our Kashmiri people who made their place so hospitable for us.

PS: The quoted paragraph has been taken from Sumegha Gulati’s article on Kashmir when she was working there for Greater Kashmir. She passed away battling cancer at the young age of 26.


Featured image is a photo of Sumegha Gulati shared on Facebook.
Banner image is a collage of Sumegha Gulati and the Kashmir unrest. Credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.
You must be to comment.

More from Sara Jamal

Similar Posts

By Munazah Shakeel

By Ashraf Lone

By Aheed

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below