By Mohsin Manzoor
I am a Pakistani when I speak of my freedom or plebiscite; I am an Indian when I speak of neither. I am a double agent when I speak of my rights; I am a collaborator when I don’t. When I fight for my rights ‘unconstitutionally’ I am a terrorist; when I fight for staying within what the Constitution of India promises I am a ‘Threat to Public Safety’. I am a hypocrite when I vote for development; I am a fool when I don’t as for my life. Ironically, I know that you know I am not any of these.
I have been long asserting for my rights, my freedom, my honour, my dignity, my fair share of justice and I will until I have all these. The first great ‘historian’ of my land, Kalhana had said, back when I was a Shivaite, “the country may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers. The inhabitants are afraid only of the world beyond”. What pains me is that I have to still demand what is my right centuries after this historical observation. Why am I denied my rights?
Is it only because I was born in a land that has a history of being a bone of contention between two hostile neighbours? Neighbours that take the territory and its people as a mere possession of honour and pride; that if let go would bring a disgrace to their name. Would losing this territory strip one state of the false principles that it boasts to uphold; would that hollow to the ideology the other was created for? Are they trying to avenge themselves, the harms they have inflicted on each another, by killing Me. Are they trying to make the large sums of money spend on the defence and arms count by testing them on Me? Is it because of the rich resources of my land that have been long exploited by one country and the other wants to as well? Is it because of the ‘strategic importance’ my land has for both of them or for the whole bunch of mute spectator countries who claim to care Human Rights?
Burden. Is it because one wants to forcefully integrate my land and its people but not assimilate me or my culture? Maybe the other narrowly thinks that it shares a part of my culture thus me too. Or is it because the world order wants me to be exploited for in the game of chess the king needs to be protected at the cost of pawns? Whatever maybe the reason it is me who suffers. And I am no less individual unworthy of dignity and honour received by the citizen of any other country.
Who are the people in power befooling – themselves, their people, me or the world, by giving a bad name to my struggle. They may hide the facts but not the fact that I was born free. Free with a life I can give for my land and my people. I may be throwing stones and getting bullets and pellets in return. My ways of protest may not be ‘appropriate’ but I know I have to fight. Fight for my own freedom, my sister’s honour, my brother’s life, my mother’s security, my father’s pain, my child’s corpse and for the innocent blood that is being shed for very long. And I will fight. Fight against the oppressor who is either disguised as a friend, a sympathiser, guardian of human rights or an open enemy, for I have grievances against them all. I will struggle to have them addressed. I will take stones in hand and bite whatever comes in return. No matter what they call me I am no disguised identity. I am a Kashmiri.
—This article was written during the peak of unrest in 2016.