7 Million People Remain Caged And Humiliated In The Valley: Kashmiri Journalist Reports

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As I write this message, I want to share that I have been warmly received by friends and colleagues here in Berlin – above all – by the weather. The weather has been giving me a feeling of my home. It is the beginning of fall in Kashmir too, every green leaf will turn golden and there is a time of harvest and festivity in the fields and orchards of Kashmir valley. But, what will we celebrate in prison?

I miss my home, my friends and my place. As I sleep on a cosy bed in the night here in Berlin, I get nightmares every night. I still hear the sounds of boots, knocks on the door and the wailing of sirens.

I want to share a lot about Kashmir, but can’t as my pen and tongue have been restricted, so I stick to the things which everyone must know. There have been many stories being told about the current Kashmir crisis in the international press, but the news is mostly coming in from Srinagar city, which has a population of more than one million people. We don’t know much about the rest of the Kashmir with a population of almost 7 million.

Let me begin by telling you about an incident that happened in my village in the last week of August. At around 5 pm, one of my neighbours passed away, his lone son who works as a bus driver was not at home. He was taken away with his bus by the Indian army a few days back to ferry soldiers from one place to another; a person with no right to refuse their orders like any other Kashmiri. The dead father had to wait for his son for 20 hours, to be buried.

It is just not just the communication blockade but the basic right of life that has been taken away. With security personnel at each nook and corner of Srinagar city and major towns and villages, the right to free movement has been restrained. Most of the people have no access to hospitals; schools are shut, businesses are shut, and young men are on the run to save themselves from being picked by forces and tortured or lodged in jails. There is chaos all around us. This, I call a collective punishment by using military might.

Barbed-wire placed by security personnel stretches across a Srinagar street in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 11, 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan complained bitterly about what he described as repeated rebuffs from India over Kashmir. And he raised the threat of military escalation. (Atul Loke/The New York Times)

I happened to visit a local police station, where I met a young boy of around 20 years. After having a brief chat with him for a few minutes, he told me that while having a chat with his friend on the village road, he used the phrase‘Insha Allah(if Allah wills it) in his conversation. The police while crossing the road, heard them talking, and he was taken away in the police van. Soon after enquiring with the Police, he had been told that he was chanting anti-police slogans and detained.

I, as a journalist, have been mostly focussing on the issues of human rights abuses – but since my right to life is compromised, I can no longer work as a journalist in the current situation, but I want to tell my story myself; the story I live each minute at my home. I feel crushed by the narratives coming from the cosy studios of New Delhi, which spread hatred against Kashmir and portray an image of normalcy. The word normal has become like abuse to us.

In August, I gathered some courage and travelled to the central and southern parts of the Kashmir valley – deep into the villages, to see what is going on. I was stopped by military personnel around 30 times on the deserted ‘national highway’ – the only highway which connects Kashmir with India. I was asked so many questions and was made to wait till their army convoys consisting of hundreds of trucks would pass.

There is not a single village in which young boys and old men have not been arrested and taken either to detention centres or torture cells. The people are unable to figure out the logic behind the idea of the government crackdown, for their own ‘good’. But they surely know, it is a punishment for them being Kashmiri, living under a Hindu fascist regime.

In my village alone, 13 boys have been arrested on the day India abrogated article 370; since then, the families have been desperate to know their whereabouts – there are unending ques outside police stations and military camps, with an unending wait. There is an uneasy calm all around. The hospitals are full of injured men and women, many blinded by the use of pellet guns by Indian forces.

The localities which stage protests against the state remain under constant threat – the ones who show some sort of resistance are crushed to an extreme extent, the entry and exit points are guarded 24*7 by the men with AK 47 rifles, teargas guns, and pellet guns.

Many of my colleagues and friends remain in detention – 7 million people remain caged and humiliated; their streets covered by razor wire, with a complete communication blockade, barricaded roads, and streets patrolled every moment. And on the other side of this mighty democracy, people could be seen dancing and celebrating the fulfilment of an ‘unfinished agenda’ of the nation. All these celebrations are rude and inhuman. All these events remind me of the rise of Nazi Germany, the same land which witnessed the extremes of brutality and bloodshed.

Silence is also seen in graveyards and silence is not a sign of ‘peace’ – and the world can’t be silent about the misery and suffering of Kashmiris, with its manipulative policies, the Government of India has been misleading the global community. We as conscious humans shall stand against such brutalities before it is too late and today we stand.

Many of my friends whose family members were arrested by the army or other agencies have been telling me the stories. These camps have been turned into torture cells where young boys are being brutally beaten, their skin being peeled near their private parts,  forced sleep deprivation is practised and their families are humiliated, their sisters and mothers are harassed and molested by the men in uniform, and every now and then, they try to go and meet them.

India is displaying its power not only in the shape of its military – but last month, there has been a display of artillery weapons and tanks also. The common Kashmiri has been pushed to the wall. It is the season of apple harvesting, a sector on which most of the population rely on, for their income. I saw the orchards being cut down by the military, the crops being damaged and the houses being ransacked.

I am thousands of miles away from home and it has been 12 days already since I heard from my family – I don’t know anything about them, like any other Kashmiri living or working outside that place. I keep on checking my phone every time, with an expectation that I might get a call from someone from the valley but it has become a dream.

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