The First Political Voice from Kashmir Heard in Over 40 Days
'We don’t want to be killed, we don’t want to be destroyed.'
NEW DELHI: I am really really disturbed. I have seen difficult times in Jammu and Kashmir, we have seen Kashmir remain disturbed since 1990 itself, we have been witnessing death and destruction. We have lost our friends, our family members, I have been attacked personally but I was even in the worst of times never as disturbed as I am feeling today.
I ask myself with disbelief, whether I could really have seen such a horrible time. I pose this question to myself, was it really possible to live through today, when the very foundation of the unity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India is being assaulted by those mandated to protect the very same foundations of the Constitution?
I am surprised, to tell the truth, I am totally shocked. We did not expect much from today’s regime but nevertheless as a citizen I never thought they would be so desperate, that with one go they will say goodbye to those constitutional provisions negotiated by the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir with the founders of the Constitution here in Delhi. This was the result of a protracted struggle of the people of Kashmir, when the raiders came, when Maharaja Hari Singh himself was vacillating about whether to join India, but the people of Kashmir decided not to accept the diktats from the other side but to join secular India.
They were not forced, they were not compelled, it was rather out of their own good sense, their values based on the commonalities between the Kashmiris who fought against autocracy and the others in the country who fought against British rule. Today the very bonds that were created between the people of Kashmir and the rest of the country, the leadership there and here, those bonds have been assaulted.
I am worried about that. No consultation, no discussion, no debate: that is why as a concerned citizen, through you the citizens of my country, I appeal to all as citizens to please listen to us. You have listened to one version, listen to the people of Kashmir as well. We don’t want to be killed, we don’t want to be destroyed. Farooq Abdullah and all the others in jail are not terrorists. I am not a foreigner, I have paid the price for the country and I am proud of that. Yeh nahi ki maine kisi pe ahsan kiya, par hamein bhi saath lekar chalo (It is not that I have done anyone a favour, all I am saying is take us along with you). We are not asking for the heavens, we just want the chance to march with you.
In 2016, during mass unrest all the opposition parties met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I told him that the situation is very bad, it needs to be contained. This is not the responsibility of our soldier, he has not contributed to the worsening of the situation, usne halaat kharab nahin kiye, uske kandhon par yeh bojh mat daliye (he didn’t ruin things, do not put the burden on his shoulders). Yeh halaat kharaab hain hamari wajeh se, kashmiriyon ko apnaiye (Things are bad because of us, so embrace Kashmiris instead). He said how can this be done? I said talk.
We are today living in this world where the Valley has been locked down for over 40 days, and we are told this is normalcy. Think of just seven similar days in Delhi or any other city, without phones, without the internet… what will happen to you, to your business, to the children, to hospitals?
And even then we are asked, are the shops open, we say no; are the schools open, no; no patient has been able to avail of the hospital insurance schemes, and even then you say in the evening that everything is normal. Yeh kya naya mantra hai… koi mara to nahin. Arre mar rahe hain, dhire dhire mar rahe hain, ghutan ho rahi hai wahan! (What is this new slogan, at least no one died? Everday they are dying, slowly and slowly, there is deep suffocation there.)
I appeal to the poor citizens hum bhi jeena chahte hai, ek kashmiri bol raha hai, ek hindustani bol raha hai, hamein bhi zinda rehney ka mauka milna chahiye (We also want to live, one Kashmiri is saying this before you, an Indian is saying this, we should also be given the opportunity to live).
The CPI-M leader from Jammu and Kashmir Yousuf Tarigami, a voice of consistency, bold and courageous from the Valley addressed a press conference in Delhi. The reason he was able to do so was that his party and its general secretary Sitaram Yechury petitioned the courts, and got permission to visit the state leader who was among the hundreds of politicians arrested, and finally had him transferred to Delhi for treatment.
With tears in his eyes Tarigami made this passionate plea for justice, being the first political leader to be able to do so in the 44 days of the clampdown.
Later, answering questions he said that terrorism has to be fought by the people of the state, and that developments since the midnight of August 4-5 have not inspired trust or confidence. He said his effort along with other political leaders has been to reduce alienation through the process of dialogue, and to isolate those who want to use violence to destabilise the atmosphere in Kashmir.
But that confidence has been vitiated, he said, and developments seem to have provided fodder to the forces who want to create violence, obliging those who want to destabilise Kashmir and India.
“Militancy can be contained with the help of the people. I ask you that by beating people, putting them in jail, disconnecting their phones and the internet, finishing off day to day life, have you created trust and confidence amongst the people? Will this make Kashmiris happy or the enemies happy? When people are united you can fight terrorism. Omar Abdullah was once a junior foreign minister in the Vajpayee led government, then he was okay and today they are all in jail. Farooq Abdullah is locked in one room in his house under the Public Safety Act. They are applauding across the border saying ‘What we could not do you are doing’.”