As many in the country target a community in hatred, read the account of being marginalised and misunderstood in the country’s capital.
It is easy to protest when there are people to answer your slogans. While in Kashmir, I participated in some of the street protests. I protested when my friends got killed and blinded by the ‘non-lethal’ pellet guns. I knew the risks of participating in such gatherings; death, an injury, or a life full of misery. However, I had made peace with such possibilities under the belief that protesting was indispensable to a democracy. I had concluded that this equanimity was justified.
After shifting to Delhi four years ago, I found myself in a different situation. I came across people who knew little to nothing about the Kashmir conflict, and people who thought they knew everything. The latter was more difficult to deal with. Their primary source of knowledge about Kashmir was Bollywood movies and biased news media. I had two options- one, stay quiet and the other was to make them understand what the conflict is all about. I chose the latter.
As a Kashmiri studying in a premier Indian university, I have witnessed the cognitive dissonance of the supposedly intellectual lot of the country. Being a student of journalism, I cannot run away from these discussions. But it has been a daunting struggle to balance my safety and will to speak the truth. I can recall an event of my early days at college when a police officer was baffled to see Urdu on my Aadhar card. To quench his astonishing curiosity, I amicably mentioned that this is how Aadhar cards are in Kashmir. However, I had amplified his suspicion. “Kashmir se hai, phir toh acche se bag check karva” is what he said. Ignorance offers complete impunity to the perpetrators of intolerance.
Repeated shutdowns and curfews forced me to migrate. Delhi was not my first choice. However, I couldn’t get my passport on time because of the ‘thorough’ and slow verification process that only Kashmiris undergo. The conflict followed me to Delhi. I realised that no matter how quiet or non-opinionated I become, I will be attacked for who I am. My survival is a protest in itself. I and various Kashmiri students like me are the educational refugees who have made a decision to leave their homes for an education. Many Kashmiri students, in the past, have been charged with sedition for unjustified reasons. As Kashmiris, our each move is scrutinised, and each action is seen as for or against the state. We brave numerous odds to get an education but then it is our comrades back home who face the worst.
The recent attack in Pulwama unleashed the bigoted ‘reactionary violence’ on our community. A wave of suspensions and xenophobic attacks against Kashmiri students followed. Kashmiris like me who live in various Indian states for a decent education are being attacked on the pretext of supporting the militants in Kashmir. There have been repeated calls for violence against Kashmiris on social media and no action has been taken against the culprits. As a student who has been bearing the brunt of this conflict and the hate that it accompanies, I want peace more than anyone else does but this ‘blood for blood’ attitude will always result in more violence. We must not let this hate consume more blood.
In the end, we are just normal students with our own dreams to achieve. But we cannot afford to let our guard down at a time when our identity and our rights are being trampled upon. A life of normalcy is a distant dream for us but hope for a better future is what keeps us going.
“Hope is a weapon. Survival is victory.” –Dunkirk
Feature Image Courtesy: Kashmir Reader