The valley is an emerald set in pearls; a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains where the air is cool, and the water sweet, where men are strong and women vie with the soil in fruitfulness”. —Sir Walter Lawrence
Kashmir remains a prison that can breathe the natural unpolluted air but cannot take a sigh of relief since the time Article 370 got abrogated. It was the fifth of August 2019 when people once again found themselves grappling with uncertain future. With no access to the outer world, still, the people would sing to their tunes with a sombre smile completing their daily chores ensuring that their family members get the necessary sustenance.
Certain people while using their phones often get the feeling of dismay that eight million people in the Valley of Kashmir are in a daze because they cannot communicate with everyone or browse the internet properly for valid information, but sanguine enough that one day everything would be fine and they can get back the basic connectivity to enquire about the welfare of their dear ones away from the Valley. This blackout in Kashmir will go beyond indefinite denial of the internet and it hits every facet of life.
Simultaneously, when the nation was protesting against the new Citizenship Amendment Act, Kashmir was being denied any space to protest. In fact, what is happening in Kashmir goes beyond the denial of space for protest: the region is being deprived of anything remotely resembling a working political and social organization that can either articulate the sentiments of their people or formulate a response to the current crisis. All major leaders or influential voices across the region’s separatist-unionist divide are not in a position to do so.
What is more depressing is that there seems to be no imminent escape from this state of affairs. The structural nature of the situation is such. Obsession with the pacifism of Kashmir and paranoia about a mass protest guarantees a lingering siege in its myriad visible and invisible forms. This has created a suffocating environment for people in the region. It is as if every person living in the region has been imprisoned. People have no control over their lives: everything seems monitored and guided. The government too acts on its apprehension of what might happen if curbs are lifted, and so it continues to prolong the misery. And the people in Kashmir have little option but to endure it.
But you have no understanding of the depths of Kashmiri duplicity, Musa thought but did not say. You have no idea how people like us, who have survived a history and geography such as ours, have learned to drive our pride underground. Duplicity is the only weapon we have. You don’t know how radiantly we smile when our hearts are broken. How ferociously we can turn on those we love while we graciously embrace those whom we despise. You have no idea how warmly we can welcome you when all we really want is for you to go away. Your thermometer is quite useless here.” — Arundhati Roy
But the prayers and hopes of each Kashmiri didn’t go in vain as all the people around the country are facing the same problem of the lockdown due to the novel Coronavirus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared a 21-day lockdown in the entire country but the intensity of the lockdown is still less than the Valley as the people are just confined to their houses with all the necessities and of course internet to enjoy the travels in cyberspace. People have the liberty to access anything and everything they want but still cannot stop complaining that they are getting bored and frustrated in their homes. They inculcated this habit of tiredness in just a few days of the 21-day lockdown but have they ever realised what has happened to the Kashmiris in the past six months of siege?
Everyone wants to visit the Valley to experience the Heaven on Earth, but have they ever given a thought as to how people are managing without electricity, proper nutritious food, internet, phone connectivity and all the necessities? But still the people of the Valley welcome the tourists with open arms and kind hospitality avoiding to even speak of the harsh reality they are facing. Most of the people here in the different states of India are even afraid from the name of Kashmir because of the outbreak of militancy and terrorism, but have they thought of how the people of Kashmir are living each day of their lives amidst these terrifying conditions?…… but still they have a wide smile and are optimistic that someday Kashmir will have the liberty to breathe free.
Amity University, Noida
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