“I am a voice, a voice that calls out to a loved one in the red heavens of Kashmir. I am looking for her, that friend who is no longer is here. The girl who taught me how to understand what Kashmir is.”
This is how the story ‘Peace in Kashmir Before I Die’, on Facebook, starts. Based on real life experiences and conversations the author had with Kashmiris or in relation to Kashmir, the ten posts convey the story of “a Hindu boy who met a Kashmiri Muslim girl, Fiza, and how the Kashmir conflict changed them”, according to the ‘about‘ section of the page. The posts on the page have reached over 200,000 Facebook users and have generated 22,000 reactions in the form of likes, comments, and shares, which all add to the story the author is trying to share.
“When I first asked her the meaning of azaadi, she said I wouldn’t understand. When I said I wanted to understand Kashmir she said ‘khud se koshish karo (try to learn about it on your own)‘. And khud se koshish kiya (I tried to learn about it on my own). And since then we both have come so far. So this post and this page is for her. This story is of a Kashmiri girl and a Hindu boy.”
Peace as well as azaadi have been elusive in Jammu and Kashmir. From the deaths of soldiers to civilians, there have been too many families who have been directly and indirectly devastated by one of the longest ongoing conflicts in the world. The short story tries to address and understand this innocently, as well as other delicate matters such as the Quran, the incident in Kunan Poshpora, army presence in Kashmir, human rights issues, and all kinds of propaganda in the region.
“Curfew had been relaxed and Fiza’s Baba had gone to buy some food. He didn’t come back alive that day. Fiza was a small girl at the time and this incident has layers and layers of hatred piled upon it for her… I ask Fiza if she has anger towards the armed forces. She says of course. But then she adds that we must smile in front of them, we must be nice to them, even if there is anger within us. We must let them protect us, we must let them be our saviours, even if they kill our friends and family.”
But there are voices we hear that somehow break through this shroud of death and still echo for peace. There are ways in which individuals still try to stay strong and keep their sanity amongst this never-ending violence, ways in which the community stills try to support each other. Religion is a source of strength when used wisely. For Fiza it is a source of spiritual strength which she wants everyone to be a part of.
“You prayed today?” I asked Fiza.
“Haan, I pray daily five times.” She replied.
“Where do you pray? Hamesha room mein? Hamesha same time? (Always inside a room? Always at the same time?)”
“Kabhi kabhi late hota hai thoda (Sometimes I get late). Always in my room. I pray at 7, 1, 4:30, 7 and 9.”
“Okay, and you have a Quran with you?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“And roj Namaaz same hota hai ya har din alag (Is Namaaz the same everyday, or different on some days)?”
“Same cheez. Surah change hote hai rakat kam ya zyada hoti hai bas baki same (The Surah changes, and the Rakat may be fewer or more, but the rest is the same).”
“Sunni and Shia kya alag hota hai? (Are Sunnis and Shias different from each other?)”
“Haan thoda alag hota hai (Yes, slightly different),” she replied, and then she asked me,“Aap kabhi puja karte ho (Do you pray)?”
But where religion is a source of strength for Fiza, it has also become a potent tool of division in the region. The aspect that certain posts were conversations between a Hindu boy and a Kashmiri Muslim girl led to the generation of comments such as:
“Muslim girls can’t marry Hindu..even every Muslim has been categorically told by Allah swt in Quran that never make friendship with non-Muslims because they can never be ua friends..so I ask everyone who liked this post that whether they love Quran n believe Allah r this guy.”
But on the other side, the page shows that there are those who still believe in the strength of peace, love and humanity. Just like Fiza took the time to explain her world to me and I took the time to listen, there are others who had to strength to share positive comments too:
“The post is Heart touching for me!!.. I wish… A day will come when my dear countrymen realise n understand what they really need..& what they were asking for!!”