Paradise on fire screamed a headline last week. And millions of heart sank. Not again. Yes, again! And it will continue to happen again and again and again. The rather unpleasant truth about the ongoing trauma of Kashmir is the obvious and tragic fact that for decades we have been in absurd and total denial, refusing to acknowledge there is a gigantic shikara in the room. How long can we ignore the conundrum? How long can we pretend Kashmir is a chhota sa crisis, that will go away if we focus on something else? For heavens sake! Its time to wake up and smell the kahwa! Kashmir is burning. It has been turned into an inferno of anger and inflamed passions. There is no way this blaze can be doused either by bullets or platitudes. Lets yank off those blinkers and admit we may have failed spectacularly. If a tipping point was needed, 22- year-old Burhan Wani provided just that.
Why and how does one individual become that single, central figure of collective aspirations in a deeply troubled land? There are no easy explanations. We are too close to the matter to decode the Burhan Wani phenomenon. But just because we dont understand it, does not give us licence to dismiss it. Why get touchy and defensive about terminology? No matter which label one sticks on the man (whose funeral attracted thousands this week), the incontrovertible fact is that Burhan Wani was seen as a powerful symbol of the unrest we are refusing to confront. By denouncing him and his supporters, neither will the unrest disappear, nor will Burhan Wani be forgotten. The Hizbul Mujahideen forces have not wasted time nominating his successor, but it remains to be seen whether Mehmood Ghaznavi attains the same cult status. It isnt possible to clone charisma. And no matter what ultra patriots feel about this sensitive issue, Burhan Wani clearly possessed it.
Frothing at the mouth and cursing assorted traitors is the full-time job of politicians sitting in faraway Delhi. Not a hair on their heads is likely to be touched its safe to make speeches in Parliament, and recycle the same old rubbish one has been hearing for decades. Its worth asking these same Dilliwalas, When was the last time you visited Kashmir? What have you done for the average Kashmiri all those lakhs of peace-loving citizens, waiting for respite after years of blood and strife?
These hapless people, caught in a war they have not started, have been betrayed over and over again. All they want is the chance to improve their lives. And for their unemployed sons to stay out of trouble. Which right-thinking parent would willingly send children to pelt stones or grenades at policemen or soldiers, knowing full well what that can lead to? How many youngsters can any society stop from taking to the streets to vent their frustration and outrage? Yes, our soldiers and policemen have died! We dont need any more martyrs. Yes, kids dont have to lose their eyes to stones and bullets. And why should every normal joy of life get snatched away from people who have nothing to do with the conflict? Why should so many weddings and daawats be cancelled?
Because we have shut our eyes and minds. We dont want to hear or see the naked reality of a tortured land that is suffering because of political decisions taken decades ago. Nobody is willing to ask Kashmiris the question: What do YOU want? Both warring sides are busy engaging in brutal tactics without bothering to find out what those most affected by the violence actually desire for themselves. Its time we did just that. Before more lives get sacrificed, while successive governments play dangerous games with the populace.
Burhan Wani is dead. Call him what you want whatever suits your purpose. Terrorist. Hero. Villain. Icon. Martyr. Murderer. Its not going to change a thing.
When young lovers prefer death over separation, the only people who are emotionally wounded for life are the two sets of parents.
Kashmir is a love story. A dream. A fantasy. Kashmir is a poem an elegy. Why shatter its pristine beauty with ugly politics? Why not display enough moral courage, and talk? Let sane voices prevail over lethal bullets. Tough. But not impossible. Lets see if the present government has the guts to go ahead with a referendum to resolve the Kashmir crisis once and for all. Lets end the lingering pain in the region and allow Kashmiris live in peace, with the dignity and harmony they are entitled to.
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