By Fatima Chand
The photo of five year old Omran Daqneesh, victim of Aleppo, Syria airstrike stirred the whole world. His dazed and confused expression, dusty and bloody face moved souls. What about the pellet riddled faces and bodies of young Kashmiris? Why the indifference? Why is the world shunning Kashmir? Like Syria, Kashmir too is in a crisis, a humanitarian crisis. Every day a youth gets killed, hundred get injured. The only difference between Syria and Kashmir is that Syria is witnessing a civil war whereas in Kashmir, the armed forces are suppressing the protesters with unwarranted force of teargas shells, pellets and bullets.
In Kashmir, it’s the might of the protesters stones against the armed forces weapons. Newspapers flash photographs of pelleted faces and bodies every day. Sometimes the victim is a child, a mere seven year old, who was playing football, got caught in the crossfire, or a father being hit by a bullet…he was out to get stationery for his son.
While, Syrian Omran Daqneesh’s image became viral in just 48 hours, Kashmir’s photographs are yet to leave an impact. The question is why? Fifty days of uprising is not a joke. The central and state governments tried to control it through barring mobile telecommunications and internet. This prevented the outflow of vital information. For fifty continuous days, Kashmir has been cut off from the rest of the world. Maybe, the government took a page of two from the 2010 Arab Spring which spread like wildfire into Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The revolution which fizzled off in mid of 2012, left quite an impact, a revolt of the 21nd century.
The citizens took to social media to protest. Millions came on to the streets against dictatorship and decades of atrocities. Powerful photos of the Arab uprising had the world on its toes. It was publicized on social media. Human rights violations can no longer be swept under the carpet. The United Nations, United States of America, and the United Kingdom have to respond. The Kashmir problem cannot be brushed aside. It’s an international issue. There has to be dialogue and not just within India and Kashmir but on a global platform.
The state government has deprived its people of the basic human rights. It was voted into power by the same people who have now taken to the streets with stones in their hands. When the reigning party had given them the party’s flags to wave, it should be ready for stones being hurled. Why cry foul now? Kashmir is a democratic state, for and by the people. When the people are not happy with the rule, the government should work on itself. Try to improve and work as per the promises it had made. Or was it just to get into power?
Every leader has a rise and fall. Kashmir is in a state of conflict. It’s not a leader’s haven. There are far too many issues for the leaders to handle. Kashmir is a political issue. It needs to have a political solution. Pellets, bullets and on-going curfew is not the problem. In the 1900s, when India was getting into the freedom struggle mode, there was no internet; no proper means of communication. Men left their women and children behind. They protested. They participated in rallies. The colonial reign charged them with bullets and lathis. Millions died. But this didn’t deter their spirit for freedom. More and more freedom fighters came up. They had a single voice and only one need, ‘azaadi’.
This is what Kashmir has been crying for. And this time, more than ever, the Kashmiris are determined. They have said enough is enough. The world can no longer shun them. Their basic rights cannot be stamped upon. If not today, or tomorrow, there will be a day when Kashmir will get its ‘azaadi’, a new dawn will dawn.
—Fatima Chand, a foreigner, married and settled in Srinagar is a freelance journalist and author of children’s story books, and interested in international relations and politics.