I read Varad Sharma’s article titled “A Pandit POV: Why the discussion on Jammu and Kashmir is half-baked and dishonest” on Scroll.in while sitting in a room where no sunlight can enter. The window panes of our house were smashed by security forces and we had to cover them with cardboard and thick blankets to protect ourselves from smoke from tear gas shells and pellets while caged inside.

While you talk about the tech-savvy “terrorist” Burhan Wani, I wonder if you ever thought about what led him to pick up a gun. He was only 15 when he joined the Hizbul Mujahideen and he knew right then that he would not live for long – and he was proved right, being killed in an encounter on July 8, at the age of 21.

All those like him – educated children from well-to-do families, as you mentioned – who joined militant outfits, knew their fate. So did you ever think about why they chose almost-certain death?

'Government has failed us'

I firmly believe that guns are never the answer, but I also know that there are many like Wani who are being driven towards militancy because your government has failed them. In fact, just the other day, the Home Minister said in the Parliament that India’s only unfinished business when it comes to our state was “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”.

Your Parliamentarians applauded on hearing this. What message are they giving the people of Kashmir?

Rajnath Singh also talked about Pakistan being the sole reason behind the agitation in Kashmir – when I heard him say that, I laughed. Others have argued that it is only a handful of so-called miscreants who are out on the streets in Kashmir.

The fact that Hurriyat’s protest calendar is being followed by everyone in Kashmir, including traders in the Valley, should quell that doubt. Just the fact that the government has not yet lifted the curfew in Kashmir, even on the 34th day of agitations, shows that it’s not a few people but the entire Valley that is protesting against the state as well as the government of India.

The right to choose

You said that there are two dimensions to the Kashmir issue – India and Pakistan. Let me correct that. There is, in fact, a third dimension – the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

You also said the issue is not about self-determination. As a Kashmiri who lives in Kashmir, let me clarify that it is only about that. What Kashmiris want is nothing but the right to self-determination, so that people of the state can choose. This includes the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions – everyone from the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Even Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani has said many times that though he would rather be with Pakistan than India, it is up to the people to decide what they want. He advocates the fulfillment of a promise made by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru – that the UN resolution for a plebiscite in Kashmir be acted upon.

So, I would request you not to propagate what suits you, turning a blind eye to everything else.

I am not sure what you refer to when you say that Hindus in Kashmir were persecuted by Muslims. To this, I would like to Canon Tyndale Biscoe, who, after seeing the plight of Kashmiri Muslims here, wrote: “The Mohammedan did not send their sons to school as all government services were closed to them." This says tells us who was oppressed and who was not.

By saying that Kashmiris consider it a “battle between a Muslim Kashmir and a Hindu India,” you are not only wrong but also defamatory about the people of Kashmir, by giving our dissent a communal colour.

I have far more Hindu friends from various parts of India than Muslim ones. Kashmiris are not against the people of India – their anger is against the government and its policies.

Kashmiris do not want theirs to become an “Islamic state”, as you have claimed in your article. They want their rights and they want justice for all that evil that has been done to them in the name of collateral damage. Kashmiris want to live with dignity in their land and not under the shadows of guns of 8,00,000 armed security personnel. We want to live the way we want. Is that too much to ask for?

In the line of fire

You said “healing touch, Kashmiriyat, Jamhuriyat, Insaniyat” has not yielded results. I could not agree with you more. This has been nothing but rhetoric. So, ask your government to be serious about the issue and solve it by taking into account the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. What is wrong about us asking for our aspirations to be taken seriously?

You are also absolutely correct in saying that violence is no substitute for anger. But let me ask you a question.

Reyaz Ahmad, my neighbour, was on his way back from work on his scooter when he was fired upon by Central Reserve Police Force personnel. Shabir Ahmad was killed by the police at his residence. Inshah Malik, a 14-year-old girl, was sitting in her room when pellets were fired inside her house, blinding her.

None of them were protesting and throwing stones – why were they targeted?

You talk about how people in Jammu or Ladakh do not agitate the way we do. They sure do not, because nothing of this sort happens there. More than 80,000 people have been killed in Kashmir – not in Jammu or Ladakh. Mass graves have been found here and mass rapes by the Indian security forces, as seen in Kunan-Poshpora, have happened in Kashmir, not Jammu or Ladakh. Eight thousand men have been declared "disappeared" by Indian forces in Kashmir, not Jammu or Ladakh.

That is why people agitate in Kashmir.

No Kashmiri Muslim is against Kashmiri Pandits – stop making this a Hindu-Muslim battle. If you really stand with your fellow Kashmiris, as you say you do, represent their voice and do not defame them by propagating lies. We are not deranged to go out on the streets to be showered by the bullets. But when injustice becomes the law, resistance become our duty.

If India is serious about solving the Kashmir issue, they must stop being rigid. I appeal to the people of India to talk to Kashmiris if they want to know the realities of the state, rather than listening to so-called nationalists on Indian TV channels who keep shouting that Kashmir is theirs – whether or not its people are okay with that.