This article on Kashmir by HILAL MIR was written in 2008, when a land transfer dispute became a catalyst for azadi protests of a scale not seen since 1991. Two years later, it remains relevant.
Moo! Moo! Oh ye white men in blue camouflage uniforms and caps, hearken to my bootless cries.
Unlike Kashmiris I am not a habitué of this place and never before have I come knocking at your door seeking, what is that damned word, yes, the intervention. Kashmiris often seek the intercession of Saints in earthly and divine affairs.
A boy with a single digit IQ would often pray for 100 percent score in algebra. And to ensure the wish is granted he would tie a votive thread on the grille of a Shrine’s window. It doesn’t therefore come to me as a surprise when they come to you, raise heavens with ancient slogans, and wait for you to come out of that blue and white Tudor Mansion wearing that deadpan, “neutral” expression on your fresh faces. In the mundane affairs, too, they seek intercession of politicians and officials thrust upon them. And funnily, or tragically, they complain against the treacheries of the same politicians and officials in the reams of memorandums you have received so far. Poor Kashmiris! Caught in a situation where even the most glaring contradictions fit perfectly like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. What else can they do? Oppression can alter human personalities so radically that astute Freudians would go nuts fathoming them. Ask David Devadas, the journalist who has written a book abou
t the puzzling ambiguities in the nature of Kashmiri personality, and still figuring out what a Kashmiri is.
But the sheer number of memorandums accumulating in your office, or perhaps fuelling the pyres, or filling the dustbins, is becoming revolting, even to my calm bovine nature. Always supine, always in a state of supplication before God Almighty (so say the divine scriptures of humans), I find it disgusting that millions of men, women, and children of all sizes and ages, with erect spinal cords, have handed in those memos and waited eternally for that intervention from the skyscraper in New York where nations are said to assemble. The intervention is not coming. To presume that I am intervening on behalf of Kashmiris when the divine help is not forthcoming would be blasphemous. And don’t think I am a fool to call the UN, as others call it, the mistress of the sole super power. God forbid. There are more decent words in the present gender-equal world: a consort, a partner would be apt. The result of such an imbalance of power, I am told by angry liberals, is that Kosovo can be freed at Uncle Sam’s bidding, while every move to unchain the Palestinians would be thwarted. Ditto for Kashmiris. But in the vastness of Western traditions one can still find the semblance of human values (animal rights are indisputable, and if violated sternly punishable, thankfully.)
In this part of the world, however, the line between the humans and beasts has melted away. Two years back Indian troops set ablaze twenty houses in a village called Behrampura, Pattan, during an encounter with two supposed militants. Instead of militants, the bullet riddled body of a stout, smart, but a loony local man was found in the fields. Not far from him, half a dozen of my specie died of either bullet wounds, or were burnt alive in their sheds, for in the instinctive flight for safety the freedom-seeking people often lock us inside sheds, unmindful of the fact that we too might need to escape when bullets start raining. The carcasses of my fellows were lifted and given a burial.
Ironically the troops who worship us, and whose co-religionists sell our Urine as medicine, and burn humans if we are slaughtered, became the cause of our death. While lamenting the state of the affairs of Kashmiris and my specie, I shouldn’t become blind to the fact that dozens of chickens and a couple of sheep also died in Behrampora encounter. And who knows how many of our creepy-crawly brethren. Hundreds of us have died in such encounters and our cowsheds razed along with the houses of our human masters. The local news agencies, thankfully, don’t forget to mention the casualties of our species and our razed cowsheds in their bulletins. In fact our deaths get special mention: the death of humans is boringly routine. So you see Kashmir dispute affects everyone. I am not seeking parity with humans, who, according to one Shakespeare are the crown of all creation. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty, and so on. Puh! Words, words. Ask any Kashmiri what a piece of work a man can be if he is the man in a uniform, an automatic rifle or a bamboo stick in hand, and with Roman powers to rule.
I am content with being a cow. My specie doesn’t form a league of nations where you can have two sets of values for two nations and where fate of an oppressed six million people can’t be even discussed, though a plebiscite was promised them sixty years back.
Rummaging through a heap of garbage, looking for something to eat, I stumbled upon a newspaper report concerning your stay here, in Sonwar Mansion, with a Sufi Saint’s Shrine just across the road, and the entire power structure within earshot, on the slopes of Gupkar. The report says the Indians contend that UN mission in Kashmir is no longer necessary after the UN backed Line of Control was set up in 1972. The report further says many people question if the $ 17 million dollar budget for the mission is not out of this world particularly when the job is restricted to receiving memos once in a blue moon, and even rarer, a trip to the LoC to monitor violations of the ceasefire. I don’t think the two armies care two pence about the violations. They need to fire at each other regularly if the cricket matches are not being played. What is going to sustain the hostility so essential to the existence of the two nations? They also need to fire at each other to announce their claim over the piece of land in between. The question, however, remains. Why doesn’t Indians pack you off? Omar Abdullah, who lives not far from your Mansion, has the answer.
He says that when it comes to the U.N. mission in Kashmir, India is in a bind. It does not want the peacekeepers there, but it will not petition the U.N. Security Council to end to their mandate.
At least on this count Indians are truly on the horns of a dilemma. “I think the government of India has taken the view that it would probably be more troublesome to get rid of them than to just have them here sitting, doing nothing. Getting rid of them would require another discussion in the United Nations and the government of India does not want that. Because then it opens up the whole question of Kashmir and a discussion of Kashmir in the United Nations again,” said the junior Abdullah whose legendary grandfather once fought for 23 years for that elusive plebiscite whose keys are supposed to be lying with you. The movement was named Mahaz-e-Rai Shumari, the Front for Plebiscite. The world plebiscite is so ingrained in the political consciousness of Kashmiris that linguists might be in the process of including it in Kashmiri dictionary. They already have patented their own pronunciation of the world. It is Pel-bi-sit, with an emphasis on the last syllable, probably because they have sat in crackdown search operations, torture rooms, prisons, roadside roundups, sit-down protests, public rallies, and army camps.
In the Indian dilemma there is, however, a silver lining: you are going to stay. Now Kashmiris can conveniently pass on the ritual of handing in memos to the future generations. In the digitised world the new generations might come up with innovative ways of reminding you about the promised plebiscite, like, for example, ride on our backs carrying huge LCD monitors flashing WE WANT FREEDOM, our lowing providing the requisite percussion. Or worse, they would slaughter a couple of us in front of your gate, let the carcasses rot, and the stench waft over the blue Iron Gate, drifting along the corridors of the Mansion into your bedrooms, and irritate your sensitive nostrils. You never know where despair can lead. Boo! Boo!
Sorry. Moo! Moo! Moo!
[First published in Greater Kashmir.]