It isn’t exactly a pleasant feeling to be on your own, thousands of miles away from home, in another continent and get hit by that familiar bout of bad news from Kashmir.
Six people have so far been put to death, for no rhyme or reason, OK perhaps they argued with some soldiers, pelted stones following which they were shot. The dead include a sportsman and at least three students. Even this denomination isn’t required. Death needs no defining characteristic.
How does one make sense of this? It isn’t some carnival of grief, where everyone is duly invited. Social media, the benchmark of modern outrage, is naturally up in arms. Kashmiris mostly, a marginal tribe in global analytics. A tiny data point.
Subjugation hollows you out. We have been reduced to such lows that we contend, now that we have two fresh fatalities, Indian media ought to report on us tonight. Talk of having a low denominator of looking at one’s suffering.
Even if Barkha Dutt and other creatures of Indian journalism do get in a 15 minute slot on TV, with some usual suspects, losers from the valley, panun Kashmir blokes, a random retired army wallah thrown in, how will it change anything?
How shall it comfort the mothers who lost their sons for no apparent reason today? How will it do justice to those boys felled by bullets gilded in impunity? How will it help us clear our consciences, if any of that remains? Just how?
Yes your newspapers — tomorrow — shall have screaming headlines. There would be follow up stories, that golden rule of journalism, do more stories, talk to their friends, get quotes: God fearing, mosque going, wanting to be another Sachin, humanizing it, contextualising it, trying to grapple with what’s happening to us on the whole, sketching our suffering.
In four short days we shall forget about it. In over a week that memory will fall between the cracks. The official PR machinery will get into action (or it already has!) Another event somewhere, and we shall be back to square one.
There is no escaping tyranny. It doesn’t go away; it lurks about. There is a feeling that one can get away with murder in the valley, especially if you don a uniform. It makes your crime somehow acceptable.
Regrettable but broadly acceptable. Hence the back-handed apologies, who knows, may be a commission of enquiry will follow. Heaven knows, no one was ever punished in any enquiry. It helps you forget faster. Period!
I, along with other foreign journalists, sat with a bunch of Hollywood A listers in Cite du Cinema, Saint-Denis, Paris today. Yesterday also. This is by the river Seine.
Each of us was paired with an actor, to spend the next 90 minutes, chatting up, making friends, grabbing a coffee, getting to know, and then write a profile of the movie star.
I was in the middle of cosying up with Aston Kutcher, when texts from Kashmir started to trickle in. ‘Did you hear? Two killed. Cricketer. Wait, three. Molestation. Hartal now. Stones.’ Soon videos came. And the imagery of the boys killed.
My face fell. Aston looked at me and asked if all was well. I’d been explaining Kashmir to him in the last 15 minutes, as a way to acquaint him with where I was born and raised. Who knows, we are a jinx.
‘Kashmir, I was telling you about it; things can get pretty nasty back there.’ Here, and I handed over my phone to him. ‘God! Why?’ he asked. I don’t know. Perhaps because they can.
‘I don’t know much about why it happens there but if you ask me, friend, you mustn’t forget. Ever. Remembrance alone matters,’ Kutcher offered by way of empathy.
I just hope we don’t disremember our memories. No matter what.
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