The love of my country will not allow me to celebrate Independence Day this year. I cannot bear to listen to my favourite freedom song: Door Hato Aye Duniyawalon Hindustan Hamara Hai. My country does not feel like mine any more.
I cannot bear to watch television: the images of an Indian intelligence officer eating a plate of rice with soldiers on the empty streets of Srinagar. Does he think that the sight of him enjoying a meal when Kashmiris are not able to go out and buy medicine will reassure anyone?
I do not know how to cope with my emotions. The overwhelming sadness that has settled on my heart and the utter helplessness as I watch every brick of the foundation of a secular, socialist India being smashed to smithereens.
How can a woman who has been the foreign secretary of India tweet that she was happy to learn that the Indian parliament had passed a law that will in one stroke alienate forever Kashmiris, even those who have risked their lives defending India.
I will also be thinking of the British and how much they are responsible for the partitions of my country, how Western secret agencies have played a role in the tragedy that has been enfolding in Kashmir and also in other parts which have still not manifested themselves.
What can I say to my fellow citizens in the Kashmir valley? They have always felt that Indians have loved their land more than they love the people of Kashmir. Now they have proof of this.
Our home minister told Parliament that now we will be able to buy land in the beautiful Kashmir valley. You and I will not be buying that land. It will be big corporations who will buy the land.
A friend from Jammu told me that people in Jammu who celebrated the gutting of Article 370 now are worried because they know people will not dare enter the Valley but they will buy land in Jammu; the rents will go up and now they are worried about their future.
Naga friends who have been waiting for a solution are now asking whether any constitutional promises which this government may have made to them would be just snatched away from them?
A Palestinian poem
I know there are Indians who think that the repeal of Article 370 will integrate Kashmir with India. They have probably never met Kashmiris and don’t know of their tragic history, the great sorrows that they carry in their hearts and the anger that is going to burst one day.
For those Indians who will be celebrating I would like them to read Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, a Palestinian who refused to hate Israelis. I have just changed two words of his poem. Read the poem and you will know why we should be afraid of what is happening to our country.
I am a [Arab] Kashmiri
Robbed of my ancestors’ [vineyards] mountains
And of the land cultivated
By me and all my children.
Nothing is left for us and my grandchildren
Except these rocks…
Will your government take them too, as reported?
Write at the top of page one:
I do not hate people,
I do not assault anyone,
But…if I get hungry,
I eat the flesh of my usurper.
Beware…beware…of my hunger,
And of my anger.
And to my fellow citizens in Kashmir, locked inside your homes, those who mourn for the dead, those who cannot go out to get medicines, those who could not celebrate Eid with your families, those who are in jail, and those who have fought all your lives so that India could belong equally to all of us, to all those I remind you of another of Darwish’s poem entitled The Prison Cell.
The prison guard got mad;
He put an end to my dialogue.
He said he didn’t like my poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.
But he returned in the evening:
Where did this moon come from?
From the nights of Baghdad.
And the wine?
From the vineyards of Algiers.
And this freedom?
From the chain you tied me with last night.
The prison guard grew so sad…
He begged me to give him back
This Independence Day, I will remember all the events that have brought us to this tragedy. I will try to read more, understand deeper and in the terrible days ahead I will not forget that what is at stake is not just the future of India as dreamt of by our freedom fighters but the danger we will forget our essential humanity.
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