Somewhere in 2000 I am rushing to mosque for Zuhr (afternoon) prayers, I grab few friends with me as I know it is a good deed to invite more people to a noble cause. Especially calling those you love to the right path; after will you like your younger brother burning in hell fire?
I notice there is a man with long beard, wearing army camouflage jacket with a lean-slender physique in the first row just behind the Imam (prayer leader). After prayer the Imam announces that a Commander has joined us today and will like your few minutes after the prayers. This man with an obvious charisma in his 30s gets up and start addressing the audience. He talks of how historically Muslim have stood up for their brethren around the world when in crisis or under attack and how Muslims in Kashmir have been persecuted by Indian occupation forces. He goes on to give details of specific instances where Indian forces abducted raped and then murdered Kashmiri women, young and old. In the end he invites the young to join the cause and people who cannot physically join them, donate whatever in the cause. He informs that he will be in the outside courtyard of the mosque after the prayers.
I along with a friend after prayers go out to look for him. He is sitting near a pillar with the Imam on a piece of cloth spread where he has some forms for people who wish to enlist, propaganda brochures and some money which people have already donated. After saying my customary regards I sit beside him and begin by asking his permission for some questions. I began by asking him why this war hasn’t concluded even after being going on for decades? He tells me that it takes time for military victory to materialise. I then ask him but why are we going there to liberate them why they don’t just fight themselves? He informs me that they have already sacrificed a lot and they need rest of the Muslim brothers to join them. I finally ask but then why as per many Commanders during the “missions” the biggest threat is from local informants, does it mean they don’t want us there? He got silent but still remained very composed and before he could reply the Imam intervened angrily and just tried to dismiss me – but the Commander wanted to say more and he said I should join them for few days at least to see the things myself.
I was not sold, though I told him that I will try I never went.
In summer of 2001 I was visiting our ancestral home in Sialkot (in Punjab), by then long abandoned and at verge of total collapse. I had already come here few months earlier with my grandmother who passed away just recently. Maybe it was my father’s gesture of connecting with the things he had long grown away from or perhaps a closure to his mourning of his grand loss. There were very few people left there who knew the family. There were new faces and my father would recognise some kids by how they reminded him of someone else (many times they would prove to be their kids). We found this one family which my father knew. Looking at her I was seeing a frail old lady in her at least 60s but only later my father told me how she was years younger than him. Seemed like if time and economy had been hard on her. She had only one son with her, and she almost proudly told us how she has lost her two sons in the Kashmir fighting for Kashmiris. How proud she will be if her youngest and only son left would also join the cause in few years time. There was pain her eyes when she said all that but there was also a strong sense of conviction that there was a higher purpose behind this. She never shed a tear, at least not in front of us.
I do not remember her face much, but that feeling of looking at her while she talked still haunts me a bit.
Somewhere in 2003 I was sitting in front of Professor Wani. I know he is from Kashmir and I want to know more. He is years senior to me and I have great respect for him for I studied under him at University but our frank interaction had led us to a moment where I blankly asked him why Kashmiris are so coward that they cannot solve their own problems? They want Pakistani help and then they do not want Pakistani help? They have people like Gillani but then sell outs like Abdullah! Professor Khan also from Indian occupied Kashmir, a pure genius and someone I regard as an elder brother is getting impatient and slightly agitated due to my wordings and wants to reply me but Professor Wani intervenes and tells him that he wants to answer me in detail.
We sip on some Chai (tea) and enjoy some biscuits when he tells of how Indian forces will round up whole villages and force them to sit in the ground. Then the Indian forces will play Pakistani B-rated films on TV screens there and force people to look at them while mockingly asking them if this is the ISLAMIC Pakistan you dream of joining? He told me how they hid Pakistani currency notes behind their electric switch boards as if it was a religious relic hoping that one day they will use that. He told me how mothers will beg their sons to go to Pakistan. Or how people will hug their relatives who would have come to visit them from Pakistan as if they would still have some of that blessed sand stuck on them somewhere. But then he tells of how Kashmiris started to see the hypocrisy in Pakistani state. How Pakistanis sold them again and again even though they were inches away from dignity of freedom and joining Pakistan. How people like Yasin Malik finally realised that the only respect Kashmiris are ever going to gain is through an independent Kashmir from both Pakistan and India. How today a Kashmiri kid protesting in street is not carrying Pakistani flag any more, but is chanting – Azadi (Freedom)! Here Professor Khan told me how the Indian forces mascaraed dozens of Kashmiris in front of his eyes by burning their houses while just searching for a lone gunman. Or how they turn every Kashmiri freedom fighter into a Pakistani militant.
It moved me, it shook me from core inside.
I remember sitting in my room one summer day when a dear friend Mir shared with me passages of his grandfather’s book (a great Kashmiri intellectual and historian). They narrate how Kashmiris, Muslims, Hindus and even some lone Englishmen fought the evil Hindu Dogar rulers. How the Dogars contrary to Kashmiri inspirations signed documents to hand Kashmir over to India for security and how the Pakistan launched an offensive to take the area with help of irregular army of Tribal Pashtuns. How they had reached till Srinagar when still being a Dominion the Mountbatten (then Governor General of India) was able to exercise his influence on Pakistani Generals (then British officers) to withdraw. And how these Pashtun tribals portrayed since then as best Muslim fighters sometimes indulged in raping Kashmiri women or looting Kashmiri citizens.
No one told me all these before.
60 plus years on, few UN resolutions and numerous International calls to resolve the Kashmir issue – it still lingers on. Pakistan was able to successfully lobby the world until 80s when it started to lose on International Relations front and Indian diplomacy took a sharp rise. Today India at behest of being a rising economic power is able to control what world’s should ask her to do, hence becoming perhaps world’s first Soft Super Power – who is given a virtual green card to do as she wills in her backyard.
Kashmir is South Asia’s Palestine, neither Pakistan nor India cares about her or her people – but they want to have her for the strategic and economic securities it provide. Being the source of major water sources for Pakistan it gives India a virtual control valve and cuts Pakistan’s connection to China in half.
However as the world continues to play dumb, India as the upcoming Bully and Pakistan as a sour kid in playground – the Kashmiris are left to bleed and die every day. For those who survive, a stripping of their dignity and rights await them.