01 December 2008

"kashmir across india".Can you hear now ?

In the middle of the night in a house in Kashmir.
“Knock, knock, knock,” open the door. The elderly gentleman who had fought in the kargil war against Pakistan answered the door. A man sprayed bullets into him. Next he killed his wife. The sleepy children ran to escape but the men ran behind and killed another daughter.

They assaulted and bruised another younger son and daughter - leaving one with a trauma that she is still recovering from. And left the boy partially deaf because there was a damage in the ear drum. This is just another case that has been filed into the archives of the Police file. The family that was afflicted was my friends. This happened in 2002.

My friend still trembles when she recalls this. Bomb blasts and living with fear, and not leaving the house after dark was how she was raised. Some relatives who stayed as far as Punjab had been asking them to leave the place for years. But they couldn’t. This was their home – they were born and raised right in the kashmir valley. Their father was in the Border security force . They did not want to leave their home where their father was raised in. They didn’t want to be away from their uncles and aunts, cousins and nieces, some who also worked with the Border security force. The assault on Kashmir is an old story which will not stimulate the nerve of any lawmakers, policy makers or get votes in the vote bank.

The valleys of Kashmir that heard the ooh and the aah of the tourists, and where shepherds tended their flock on the foot steps of these majestic mountains had become a ground for hide and seek for the Pakistani soldiers and people of the Islamic movement.The government of India in Delhi took heed in the beginning. But they gradually grew numb of the thousands of cases and the numbers of death that piled up in the archives. They had stopped counting. They had become immune to the situation and left Jammu and Kashmir in the hands of the wild – a case of international terror. The government stepped far and slowly grew accustomed looking at the situation with a foreigner's eye.

After all the people who were dying in Kashmir were the common folk and they were countless. The people who died were people who drank their tea sitting on the floor. Their diet was not pasta or caviar. They did not attract media attention and were seldom attracted to the glitterati of Bombay. They were interested in having basic amenities in their house, infrastructure of the town, decent schools for their children, health care, employment and food on the table. And many of their deaths had stopped to attract National Media.

Journalists and reporters could not get ahead in their career reporting such cases. And rating on major national stations would decrease because it was felt that it was some far flung place up north and the media and the people of the main land was tired listening about it. Kashmiri deaths were now reported on the 5th pages of the news papers or rarely reported. It was not a news item anymore. The political candidates did not even go out to meet them during elections. The citizens of Kashmir would hear the name of the candidates from a van on a loudspeaker and from the many posters and banners that were stuck on the walls at public places

This is the nth time that India shook under terror and bombay having had its fair share.

Not far from where it happened yesterday there was a bomb blast in Masjid (around 7 miles ) around 2 years ago and on the local trains towards kandivili and Kalyan (around 25 miles away from where it happened yesterday). But none of these ever reached the ears of the government that made them sit up and listen and take concrete steps.

They were dismissed as regional terrorism. The logic was simple- as long as the revenue of the city is not affected, as long as the places of the rich were safe from the bombs, as long as the people who died were poor and faceless and as long it happened in some far suburb in Bombay (we are talking about 25 miles max here) or some 3rd tier city like jaipur (in Rajasthan) and as long as the white men (American,Canadian and British tourists) were safe the politicians refused to be proactive until it affected their fate in the next election. Callousness slowly pervaded the minds of the media and the politicians towards such nefarious activities and now ingrains in them all so perfectly. The common man was reduced to the plight of braving and escaping such incidents.

But what happened in the last 3 days was like a deafening noise to the politicians and those in power because it happened in their backyard. The noise was sharp and long, that it could penetrate the most stone hearted of governments i assume but may also prompt them to do something (I pray that they get their acts together otherwise the people will slowly harness power to revolt against them)

Terror struck along the many lanes that the rich and powerful live, and where they host their shows and attend art galleries, sing and dance and make merry at two of the finest hotels in India – the Taj and Oberoi. We think that the people who created terror have a socially destructive disorder. Sure they do, but more so are the politicians and their band of bureaurcrats who have created policies, laws, processess and systems that do not empower the organizations. They also reign as exclusives who live in a closed cordon of like minded people and separate themselves from the real issues under the din and the lights of the chandeliers of the Taj and the Oberoi. Were the chords of governance finally struck or are they still dilly dallying to make a decision? Or are they just going to heighten personal security for themselves and their assets and spend the defense budget to get more bullet proof cars or send their personal security guards to get trained in the US or UK.


Vinod_Sharma said...

Yes, An, for years no one paid much attention because those getting killed were 'them', nameless, faceless citizens who were not part of the world of the Indians who have a voice. So, after every attack, there would be perfunctory media coverage with celebrated TV anchors dropping by imperiously for mindless bytes, a few statements by politicians and then it was back to business as if nothing happened. To add insult to injury, these guys who were never touched by terrorism, would laud the 'spirit' of Mumbai, little realising that these people had no choice but to get on with the reality of survival, even if bombs and bullet had kept going off.

Now that terror has hit home and now that they personally know someone who has either died or survived the attack, the talks have got real and the concern and call for action meaningful. Let us hope something concrete comes out of it.

manju said...

Anrosh, yes, the stories we hear about the situation in Kashmir are horrifying. Your friend's story is indeed very sad.

The truth is that we, Indians living outside Kashmir, have let down the Kashmiris.

As you say when luxury hotels are attacked, politicians have to react. But we citizens do the same thing. Our protests are loudest when the elite are attacked and our memories are short when rural/poor India is attacked.

We have forgotten how to empathise.:(

Indian Home Maker said...

Anrosh in some ways this may be the worst mistake the terrorists outfits have made. They had not realised that a terror attack could unite the people of India. Our Politicians have been exposed This time a huge number of victims are influential, aware and rich citizens, - ordinary citizens not interested in politics, this time they have been cornered into leaving their daily lives (I have nothing against their living their lives comfortably, so long as they pay their taxes and don't break any laws)- they have been shaken awake and now there is a chance that they will motivate and mobilize some serious changes. Will we get the Politicians we REALLY deserve?
It's amazing to hear even the uneducated say things like 'all these guys are the same'. I hope this wave grows into a change we deserve.

Indian Home Maker said...

And if this happens successfully, then it HAS to benefit every Indian, in every corner of India, Kashmir and North east included. Or else it will have failed again :(

Does it matter said...

But you have also raised an unconfortable question - is this public outcry and media attention because of 2 reasons:

- the sheer scale, and number of deaths

- the fact that rich Indians, and foreigners, were targetted?

Is the life of a middle class Indian who wanted to take the long distance train from CST any less cheaper than the rich businessman dining at Tiffins?
Or, the hundreds in Kashmir?

Our social structure has so long been discriminatory, it has seeped into our conscious and/or sub-conscious minds.. There is discrimination in life, and it is so in death.

Well, for whatever it is worth, if it required an attack on South Mumbai to make the rich and privileged come together, and use their power/influence to get positive change that benefits the masses, so be it.

Does it matter said...

Old habits die hard.
South BOMBAY, South Bombay, South Bombay..


Gopinath's "Artickles" said...

Hi, Anrosh. Yes the high and mighty have been ruffled by the whizzing bullets and finally they have stirred from their cosy couches to some "real action". We can only see the positives from what is otherwise deeply hurting wounds on our hearts and minds. Let us hope that the necessary security measures are taken at all places without preference for South Bombay as DIM has put it correctly.

Anrosh said...

vinod, are they still paying attention? they should be using their heads instead of pointing fingers !

hello manju - we citizens protest but the media refuses to hear us - that is we are not heard. are you saying that you have not heard protests. or you have never protested.

IHM, of course " all these guys are the same" how can you blame the uneducated ones - they speak what they hear from the educated lot. i am also not against the rich and the powerful. if they truly call thesemselves powerful, they have to show something that will be called powerful. everyone knows to talk and wine and whine and dine ..that is not powerful..they are called oppressors ( have you read paulo freire ? )

Does it matter - I say it again with you -SO BE IT.
if wishes were horses ..if our old habits were bold ones we would have stopped kashmir in kashmir itself.

welcome gopinath.. i was looking for a humorous comment -:) you have to make us laugh to keep us angry and Fight.

manju said...

Anrosh- not hearing protests or not protesting myself? Both, I think, to some degree.

Some years ago I was part of a group where we organised a couple of lectures on the Kashmir situation. Then we all wrote letters to the PM urging him to initiate some action on the situation in Kashmir.

But we did not follow this up when there was no response. So I suppose I am also guilty.

About media bias- we are witessing that currently. I do not remember any other terrorist attacks having so much media coverage.

Anrosh said...

hello manju - i wrote letters to prime ministers too ..( that is when i was very young 15 and 16 ) and when i started working i was in the company of those people who have even stormed the mantralaya.

- creating awareness is a very big thing that is the first and most best thing - most of us do not know so many things - basic rights when we come to the police station etc etc. 49-0 ..i read on this first on vinod sharma's blog. ihm put it up again -

there we have no way to meet our Mayor or MLA or their representatives -there are no briefings that some organization has met them ( dekenge, karenge) etc etc ..that is where we fail.

Our media thinks that they are kings - sadly they belong to the ownership of foreign enterprises ( there is a link in my post on media on who belongs to whom)

it is funny that this country has a system that a person like me can meet my state senator and the person in congress ( though we are meeting only their aides ) but we still do and the petition can be made. at least we in bombay can start this. it is possible. educators in colleges have too much time on their hands (i am surprised why the iniative is not taken.

getting obama elected in a depressed time in america was a phenomena...otherwise how could an african american even come into the presidents seat..

i applaud you for being so HONEST.i am not without mistakes. i accept i do not know so much and there is so much to think about everything. welcome - may so many like yours more increase and stand together. we can win.

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