By Mufti Nahida
I am a student -a common student ,who from primary to higher secondary went to school, then went to college , university, like many others. All of us are defined by our experiences and each person’s experiences are unique in itself; however, I would like to think that my experiences are also very rare and even unique. I was born at a place which evoked the famous couplet, “Agar Firdous Ber Roye Zameen Ast Humi Asto Humi Asto Humi Ast” (If there is paradise , it’s here it’s here it’s here ). I must say I am proud that I belong to this place called Kashmir, where every season is a reason to live , where simplicity is found everywhere ,where every dawn is melodious and every dusk is mesmerizing .
However, this is not all. There is a rude irony involved that defines my existence. Being born at a place as Kashmir and being born and having grown in the nineties, I have another name: Conflict Child. I am not alone: other children born in Kashmir in the nineties are called conflict children. This constitutes my first rare experience.
I am the first offspring of my parents. They got me admitted to school when I was only two years old- thus began my rare journey of schooling. As time wore on, I learnt very special words like Curfew, which meant that one was not supposed to move outside one’s house , till the curfew was lifted. Another word which entered my vocabulary was Crackdown, which meant a search operation conducted by the army. During a crackdown, all male members of the family are supposed to move out of their houses, assemble at a place and all the female members are supposed to be inside. Similarly, Hartal meant transport would not ply on roads, among other things. Every Kashmiri child has this unique vocabulary of words.
I recollect vividly my childhood and growing up experiences. Each day, my mother used to dress me up for school and my father would check whether transport was plying or not. If it was plying , it meant it was a school day and if not, it would mean “yepppiiiiiii” –a holiday .Each night, I used to sleep with a prayer to Allah that it should be hartal the next day so that I could enjoy a holiday and given that in a week it used to be for more than a day , I was under the impression that Allah listened to my prayers. This went on till I understood that it was not something normal or something over which I should be happy nor was it because I was praying and Allah was listening. It was because of some conflict which till date has not been resolved , that is, the Kashmir Conflict.
The Kashmir conflict has taken birth with the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 when Kashmir was an independent state and chose to be neutral- joining neither India nor Pakistan. It was later , by virtue of the instrument of accession that Kashmir joined India with the right of plebiscite reserved with the people of Kashmir.
As I write these lines, the famous dialogue in the movie Haider, “India, Pakistan ne mil ke khela hum se border border ” resonates in my mind. This dialogue pithily summarizes the fact that the sufferers of the Kashmir conflict are the common people of Kashmir. Every Kashmiri has, in one way or the other, suffered a lot.
I have suffered in my unique way and so have other students in their unique ways
It was my 1st semester of B.A., LL.B that huge turmoil broke out in Kashmir in 2008 over the Amarnath Land Row, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured. We did not go to university for the half of semester curfew was imposed for almost three months. We were promoted to the 2nd semester and it was at the end of second semester that our 1st semester and 2nd semester exams were held at a stretch for twelve papers. For the next two semesters, the conditions were normal. Exams were held on time, even though we had very little opportunity to go to university. However, then came 2010 and another period of turmoil befell Kashmir. This too left hundreds dead and thousands injured and again we were supposed to appear for 5th and 6th semester exams at a time with twelve papers. This time around, there were no classes because the curfew stretched for long five months. This whole saga was the convoluted route to my B.A.,LL.B degree.
This is my saga of suffering and my set of experiences as a student in conflict torn Kashmir. Innumerable others have suffered in different ways. But the worst period , in my opinion, was the turmoil of 2016, where the so called non-lethal weapons or pellet guns were employed. Even though these weapons were introduced in 2010 itself, however, the gravity of usage was not as much as it was in 2016. Thousands of the people in Kashmir stood visually impaired on account of the usage of these weapons by the Indian forces. Hundreds died and countless were injured in one way or the other. Pellets , which were earlier used to hunt animals are even banned against them. Evidently, not so in Kashmir! My question is, if we are living in an age of animal rights then what happened to the human rights of the Kashmiris? To my understanding, Kashmir is the only place where pellets are used as a crowd controlling mechanism. The inference that can be drawn here is that the rights of the people of Kashmir are less important or perhaps the word right does not exist for the people of Kashmir. This constitutes the tragedy that is Kashmir!
The author is a research scholar. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org