On December 15, Abdul Rashid Dar was having his dinner when Indian troops barged into his home. Minutes later, he was taken away by a posse of troops who promised the family that he would be returned in the morning. As the dawn broke, Dar’s family went to the military camp in the village, only to be told that he had been tortured and had gone missing.
A new torment has visited this village, Kunan-Poshpora, which has been victimised by the might of the Indian Army for over three decades. In February 1993, the men of the village were detained and tortured, while the women were subjected to sexual violence that sends shivers to every Kashmiri soul — born and unborn — to this day.
Rashid is now being counted among the more than 8,000 Kashmiri men who have been subjected to enforced disappearances since 1989. His mother knows this feeling, her demand is also to seek his corpse — if he were killed — so that she can have a grave to mourn at. His family on Monday threatened to burn themselves alive in Lal Chowk — the city centre — were their son not located.
In this city centre, 75 years ago, Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru made a promise to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that only they would decide their political future. A promise that has been broken by different regimes and victimised several generations of Kashmir. India, today, on the back of its military and economic prowess now says that it is in the past and it is dead.
In Kashmir, the past is never dead. It is buried in hushed funerals inside meadows that are part of tourism itinerary that is used to broadcast to the world that Kashmir is normal. It is caged inside jails where our prisoners continue to rally for the day of reunion. It is in the censorship of our journalists who no longer can report but keep the record of everyday history. It is in the demolished homes built painstakingly brick by brick. It is in the silence of our mimbars (pulpits) inside mosques where our clerics are silenced.
Kashmir’s religious scholar and political leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continues to be under illegal house arrest. He is told that he is free but not free enough to meet the people. It is part of Indian regime’s new Kashmir where you are told that you are free but you are not actually free. In an ideal world, Mirwaiz’s freedom would have been a rallying point to mobilise global attention on Kashmir. Yet, the silence in Kashmir is being aided and abetted by our allies who have become comfortable bystanders.
India’s policies and military might in Kashmir is part of the age-old delusion that by killing and silencing enough people, it will be able to end the people’s struggle. History has told us that no oppression persists and no occupation lasts.
It is this idea that forced India in the late 1990s and mid-2000s to pursue a pathway of peace in the valley. In 2001, Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf and Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir wanted to establish lasting peace. It gave hope to the people in South Asia that peace is possible. Even after the end of one Indian government, another one pursued this path.
But after the failure of peace talks for a variety of reasons, the future of South Asia is again at stake. We have seen multiple instances where a full-blown war between two nuclear nations almost broke out.
The current dispensation in India believes in the ideology of Hindutva expansionism. It believes in the idea that Muslims are to become second-class citizens. The ideology also believes that the ‘oppressive Muslim-majority character’ of Kashmir is a source of ‘headache’. It also states that Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a ‘scourge undermining the sovereignty of Bharat’.
To believe that India’s economic prowess and a political alliance that puts Kashmir on the backburner will be productive for Pakistan is delusional. In speeches across India, Modi’s lieutenants continue to call for the blood of Indian Muslims and destruction of Pakistan. Yet, some members of the former Pakistani establishment and the liberals of Pakistan believe the normalisation with India is beneficial to the state.
To normalise the occupation of Kashmir and not put India to account for its increasingly Nazi policies is not a liberal thing to do. It is an immoral thing to do.
After three decades of violence, the valley has become a perfect panopticon — an open air prison. Everything and everyone is under constant surveillance. To say that the new generation of Kashmiris has bowed out is to normalise India’s move towards pursuing settler colonialism.
Back in Kunan-Poshpora, Dar’s family continues to wait for his return. His story is a continuation of Kashmir’s story. Never take our silence for granted, we do not accept the oppression. It is not part of our culture, our history and our future.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2023.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ