It’s everyone’s right to have a political opinion. Whatever its content, however, our ability to be sensitive to distress surely comes from another place. And let’s face it – for our peers and friends and colleagues from Kashmir, there is acute distress.

It’s only human to normalise repeated coverage of a certain kind, and the cost of modern urban life is that one does not always have the bandwidth to process conflicting narratives.

Be that as it may, one small step of attention and empathy might help you look past the noise, and uncover the human situation.

That there is a lockdown in Kashmir is an undisputed fact. From a space where your entire world rests on connectivity, can you project the multiple, interlinked breakdowns?

Contact with people and connection to the world, both gone. The phone is dead, so is the internet and TV.

Landlines only have incoming, so find a neighbour who still has a landline and wait for the phone to ring. If it doesn’t, you won’t know whether it’s because no one called or the connection’s been suspended. There’s no way to find out.

You can’t call the police, or call an ambulance, or report a fire. Hope for the best.

No news whether the bank in the neighbourhood is open; public transportation is dead. If you don’t have your own car or bike, the question is how far you can walk.

But then there are checkposts manned by the CRPF and other armed forces. At any point, you could be questioned and turned back.

Patrol parties with guns are posted to control your reactions and frustration.

There are no courts or accountability. Martial law leaves you with no option, other than the mercy of a strongman, however disciplined or professional. Protests are quashed, people arrested in raids, some of them still children. Rumors are rife. Facts are what you believe.

There are whispers of young boys transported to outstation jails, indefinitely. Safety lies in being timid.

You might get daily supplies through the backdoor of some shops, open on some days, but only before 9 am. There are no newspapers, no entertainment, nothing to distract you from the dread of not knowing whether a crisis has befallen someone you love.

There is no option to get to work – for many, there is no work. There is no income, no salary, and no idea when inflows might resume.

We are a generation with a sense of entitlement that has us abusing authorities for a five-minute inefficiency or the slightest suspicion of foul intent. Yet this is an unprecedented choke-hold executed squarely by the government in New Delhi, backed by the country, and enforced by the army. Abuse is not allowed. Expression is throttled. The paralysis is total.

Which futuristic science fiction movie can you think of that stacked up greater odds against sanity?

The point is not whether you believe this to be a necessary evil or an overwhelming excess. In either case, there is a need to accept that for Kashmiris, the past 41 days have been beyond brutal, and the future is deeply uncertain.

Those who are not home sense everything that’s going on and fear for the worst.

How do you live on, while those you love are pitched into this crisis?

Be aware and be sensitive. And if you could, extend yourself to ask just one of your peers if they might need a helping hand. In Delhi at least, multiple stories have surfaced of landlords and the police being equally rough with Kashmiris. A local’s intervention can make a big difference.

The spaces we dominate have a way of turning hostile in direct and subtle ways to vulnerable identities. Kashmiris are presently on the extreme end of that vulnerability.

Avoid initiating conversations on sensitive topics. Turn down the volume of your nationalism. If someone wants to vent, don’t judge them or thrust your opinion. Remember, the life and sanity of someone you love is not at stake.

Monetary help, if offered, might be welcome.

I was in Kashmir last year. At one time, I might have been the only outsider in a tightly packed neighborhood. All I ever got was love and hospitality. Can we say so much about our city – and ourselves?

At this time, it is your decisions that will really make a difference.

(Cover Photo: BASIT ZARGAR for The Citizen)