NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!
I was listening to the Kashmir discussion and thought of writing in with what I had observed end of July in Srinagar and how Kashmir has registered in my consciousness, an average citizen who cares only about rozi- roti.
I am a typical North Indian (2nd generation Delhi-ite to boot, parents from Bihar, living in Bangalore for 16 years). Kashmir was always spoken about around me – Pakistan occupied Kashmir, militancy and wars need to be fought, people need to be freed.
When I had moved to Bangalore, I had been shocked to hear friends (locals) around the lunch table say Kashmir was a North Indian problem. That was among the many things that made me realise how different the south of Narmada is (Holi was NOT a national holiday and, in 2003, rotis were not included in the price of a thaali :-D.) Somewhere down the line, I met my partner. He is a Bombay-ite, living in Bangalore for 25 years whose roots are Khasi, and his family, many of whom now live in Bangalore, STILL refers to “Indians” in the conversation. I visited Meghalaya and saw the grandmother’s old village in Sohra (she left it god knows how many years ago), and I felt I was a tourist in a foreign country. And to a mainland Indian like me, who has seen only dominance of patriarchy and castes, sitting in the living room of a matrilineal family in Shillong was an unforgettable experience. And I have a couple of Kashmiri pundit friends who live in Bangalore; they were teenagers in Srinagar when their families were driven out around 1990. I must admit, I had never paid attention to the exodus till I met them.
Last year, my parents had gone to Srinagar for a vacation and loved it so much (the land and the people) that they went back again. I tagged along this time, having never been there. They zoomed off for day trips to Sonmarg and such, I spent time roaming around the new cafes and the bookshops and the old city and talking to master craftspersons in their homes and buying pashmina, local bartan and books. I would take the cab from the hotel to a logical point and then walk or take autos, etc. And I felt safe (even when alone, in jeans, T-shirt and scarf) everywhere except when I went past the army posts; there was something in the body language, in the way someone armed to the teeth occupies public space, holding a rifle in a Mughal garden while families have picnics. This was probably my first experience of a conflict zone and also, I now know, I saw the build-up of what happened within a week of my return. I was aghast to hear the Muslim craftsmen in the Lal Chowk area say they like Modi because since the governor’s rule, there has been peace and they have been earning a living and kids are studying, which is fundamentally what all want to focus on. And when they asked me what I thought of Modi, I had to tell them I was against all he represents and does. And we had engaged in a conversation around politics, a refreshing change from my normal circle, where everyone proudly says they are not political while berating corruption in between meals.
My conservative old parents from a different generation and I came back from the Valley wishing the people get what they want, to live their lives simply, with their economy built on tourism (Bhutan model anyone?), free of violence and, yes, of India, even more so after what happened earlier this month. And while I love that I live in India and are Indians, even after all that is wrong (perhaps because I am the majority), we hate what the Kashmiris are going through and have a sense of betrayal for them. I hated that the books couriered by the local store so I didn’t need to pay a heavy baggage fee to the airlines, shipped a day before the shutdown, came all opened and dirty. And I wish we all let them be.
Hi Newslaundry team,
This is my second email. Little bit about myself, like a lot of your other subscribers, I am a postdoc at Yale University. I am so proud to see the young breed of reporters Newslaundry has produced and will produce. It feels nice to see that your investment isn’t wasted. After becoming a subscriber of Newslaundry, I realised the importance of free press. That is why I have subscribed to NY Times, WaPo and The Caravan.
Coming to Hafta, it was a great idea to bring a Kashmiri subscriber on Hafta to know the views of people affected. I felt uncomfortable with her alienation towards India, but I guess that’s what abrogation of 370 did, and that’s why I feel the Congress way of dilution was much better. Had the trio-MSD (Modi, Shah, Doval) just taken care of the corruption happening on the ground in Kashmir, it would have been much better. I always feel that Modi always overdoes things, even those done with good intentions. I want to know panel’s opinion about what lies ahead for Kashmir?
Now coming to Dalit’s uprising for demolition of Ravidass temple, please don’t get me wrong, I feel for their cause. However, I started wondering that why such uprisings always happen around matters of religion, caste, color etc. and not on the issues which affect day to day life like education, health care, pollution. Why are humans so twisted?