Every year 14/15 August reminds the people of the Subcontinent the pain of being separated from each other but at the same time, the joy of achieving freedom from the colonial power gives them the satisfaction of ruling their own land.
Both the dates have become black dots in my memory. I have never been allowed either to enjoy or mourn what I have lost or achieved for the past seven decades of my life. I am placed under constant curfew or am flooded with the stories of caged bird generations of Kashmir who have remained hostage to an uncertain and dark future.
Freedom has different meanings for different people. It gives you entitlement over your land, or you get rights to lead your life or you create institutions to look after your well being. For me, the freedom is to move in your locality without showing identity cards, travel in public transport without getting searched or visit any office without getting frisked or loiter on the road without getting killed. Unfortunately, I have been deprived of all this since people in India and Pakistan got their freedom.
My father would always mourn by saying, “the day India and Pakistan achieved independence, Jammu and Kashmir lost its”.
I always greet my friends and relatives in India and Pakistan on every Independence Day and they do reciprocate with kind messages. Yet, they know in the core of their hearts my pain of subjugation has consumed four generations of Kashmir since 1947. They behave like they are devoid of these feelings and I never blame them…..
At the earliest I was taught in school the Indian constitution, its significance and the rights given to every citizen including people of Jammu and Kashmir which guarantees the ultimate freedom in the largest democracy. I was also taught that the same constitution further guarantees my special status under Art 370 and Art 35A which nobody has the right to snatch from me. Every time the lesson of history was taught to me, my teacher would twitch her ears but I would get a tight slap if I so much as raise my eyebrows.
It was so different at home; contrary to what we read in the school. My mother would tell us stories with every feed that could break our heart and force us to plan mentally for the fight we have to take against oppressor in the future. She would curse the only leader of Kashmir who not only snatched her fortune of aristocracy but handed us all over to India at the time of partition when we had been given a choice to either accede to India or Pakistan, two nations emerging on the map of the world at the time of closure of colonialism in the subcontinent. Our Maharajah, whom my ancestors despised to the guts, had demanded Freedom for Kashmir and did not get a chance to fight for it.
Every morsel my mother would feed me was coated in hate for leaders who never treated my parents humanely; I am the victim of same prejudice and intimidation………..Time for me stopped in 1947……..
Don’t ever think I hate India, I love Indians who are no different than me, and most of them share my pain of suppression but they feel for their safety. Yes, I hate the leadership that thrives on human misery and human blood. I hate those who have no respect for pledges or promises made to my generations. I curse those who are hell bent to strip me off, of my land, home and identity. I respect the constitution which safeguards my identity through Art 370 and Art 35 A, but the attempts to abrogate it will force me to go back to Partition era when I was given choice to choose either India or Pakistan. The recent upheaval in the Indian judiciary has made me wary of losing my identity because the expression of top judges has put a question mark over the working of this independent institution.
My father died last year on the same Independence Day when I could not perform his last rites due to curfew throughout Kashmir. I have become used to bury our dead in the darkness of the night because I am not allowed to either celebrate India’s freedom or mourn my subjugation….
I salute those Indians who share my agony when I tell them that I am being caged and curfewed on your Independence Day.
I have not lost hope. My hunch is that people of India are very sensible and humane. They will force their leaders to listen to the Vale of Kashmir and give her the chance to enjoy freedom like they are enjoying it since 1947.
There will be one day when I will not be caged or curfewed on 15th August and I will participate in the freedom celebrations of India and Pakistan, get reassured of my identity and political freedom guaranteed by the highest office of the world. I will wash out all hate and disgust for those who robbed me of my four generations. More so, I will be able to go to graveyard of my father on 14/15 August and tell him, “Father, there is no curfew today and Kashmiris are no more caged or caught or tortured or arrested or killed”……….
Yes…. That day is not too far when I will learn the true meaning of being free……….
Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor is an ex editor of BBC news and current affairs, penguin author and former chairperson of state commission for women JK