Diary 2: 9thaugust 2019
Please minus 6th, 7th and 8th August 2019 from my life. These three days of my incarceration are equal to three centuries of subjugation but my isolation, apprehension and fear have become so overbearing that I have lost the sense and count of the days or dates.
This day takes me back to my past memory when Kashmir burnt into flames after India arrested the popular leader and the prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir on 9th august 1953 who had endorsed the “instrument of accession” with India at the time of partition of the Subcontinent. My father, the staunch follower of Sheikh Abdullah would often say that India stabbed him in the back despite preferring India to Pakistan. “Abdullah convinced his millions of followers to remain in the secular India and reject Islamic Pakistan when jk was asked to make its choice of political future in 1947. He committed political blunder”. My father would say with bitterness.
9th August 2019 is more treacherous, and more deceitful. We are not stabbed in the back; we are stabbed from the front. And, those bleeding more have Indian flags in their hands.
The main gate of my house remains always open; no matter if there is a curfew or strike call because neighbours would drop in with issues, concerns or problems at any time. Gate is closed since 5th august due to heavy presence of trigger happy security forces, link roads and lanes are studded with bunkers. Our lane meets link road after few meters which gets connected with the main road after many snake curves. I can hear horns of few vehicles making turns and tricks on the link road. Though they are security vehicles, yet it gives me a sense of relief that life is still limping through curbs and restrictions. I move a curtain of a windowpane and see forces walking in columns by my lane, rejoicing and feeling powerful. Only they have freedom to move around in my lane. They are ecstatic by subjugating me and my eight million people.
Indian TV anchor is shouting and exhibits grandiosity about the bravery of Indian PM who degraded the state of jk into a territory. He halved my state into two union territories. Has he made me more powerful or powerless? I have no clue but I certainly know that my life is left to run on oxygen only which comes from dead leaves wild flowers and untended shrubs in my lawn. Are they still mine or I have lost them as well…..
My kitchen smells of lentils and rice. No aroma of vegetables and meat or chicken….milk is just running out. Kandur (baker) has not opened his bakery since few days. Mostly, bakers are villagers and commute daily to Srinagar to run bakeries. They are not allowed to leave houses since 5th August. I am having rather Atkins diet….healthy food or malnourished one? Does bakery come within the essential services? Or it is also in BJP’s manifesto…….to scrap it…..this manifesto seems bible for many….
I eat biscuits. We keep stock of biscuits for rainy days of which we have many in Kashmir. My helper grins every time I offer him biscuit. “Eating biscuits means our upward mobility and economic prosperity. I pray biscuits last for few more days”. He keeps smiling….
It is first Friday under new set-up. Mosque goers are whispering while daring to leave home after many days remaining indoors. Many mosques have found two letters pasted on the walls yesterday. One is written by security forces warning worshippers not to talk about Indian decision of stripping off their identity and the constitution. “If any imam or Maulvi is seen delving into it, he will be imprisoned and will never see the day light in this century”. The first letter warns. Another one is left by unknown forces again threatening people not to sell land or property to any outsider or they will be taught lessons.
Imam of the Mosque is nervous what to speak in Khutbah (Friday prayer sermon) today. Friday Khutbah is supposed to discuss the current turmoil, its impact and the ways to come out of this.
We have three mosques in close vicinity but many more in our extended neighbourhood. On Fridays the call for prayers comes from every turn one looks around. Loud and open invitation to Muslims to come and pray together. Call is coming from every minaret but sounds like there is no energy or life in these calls. May be, the Muezzins’ are too scared to call for prayers today or they have been warned to keep it low.
My neighbour is just knocking the door. I hope his mother is fine. He is inviting my domestic helper to come to mosque for prayers. My helper looks at me. I look outside at security forces.
My helper says, “Jammu Kashmir police has no rifle today. I will prefer to die with the bullet of Indian forces. I wish to die as a martyr and that too on this auspicious day”. He keeps staring at me…..
I am indecisive, should I let him go to the mosque? I cannot prevent him from Jumma prayers, what kind of Muslim am I…he leaves me in a fix and opens the gate with a big thud. My nerves get on me. I cannot afford to lose him as he is the only help I am leaning on.
The sound of helicopters distracts me. They are orbiting around my portion of the sky, or taking photos of mosque goers or me…. or of both.
Bjp government is making impression of its space technology by flying its newly bought helicopters over my head. Remember Moustache pilot, Abhinandan, who was captured and released by Pakistan during Balakote strike. My mischief makes me laugh like an insane person.
Only after half an hour, my helper and neighbour return from the mosque. Quick Namaz today, no sermon or highlighting of daily issues or the mention of our life after abrogation of Art.370 or the new regime of Union territory……hush hush….my neighbour says that “incapacitated jk police officials were counting worshippers in the mosque. The Imam has vanished into thin air after namaz. Worshippers were like zombies but their moist eyes had volumes to tell. My helper says, “Everybody is very sad, angry and humiliated by this decision. Keeping eight million under siege with gun on our head can make situation more worse. I hope it is not turning into a big storm. Many teenagers have been arrested during night raids and parents are not allowed to see them”.
I leave them both cursing being Kashmiri.
While watching the only channel available to me, a government spokesman is saying that Friday prayers went smoothly. People have gathered in huge numbers in mosques and feel happy by the decision of locking down whole population to prevent any law and order problem after the abrogation of Art. 370. There were no protests or resentment. The same channel in another report is showing protests and stone pelting in the downtown. I look at brave people of Kashmir. So many forces around with fingers on triggers and then mothers with their kids protesting….Resilient nation. I pray for their safety.
More plonking of horns on road…but my lane is deadly silent now…
Dogs have taken all the space in my lane. They are sleeping because they keep barking during night.
Population of dogs is increasing every day in Kashmir. There have been many cases of dog bites…who cares….
I become restless. What if milk runs out… how can I have tea, my last lifeline….?
My helper shouts from the kitchen. “No milk for tea… will have to wait till morning. May be the corner shop might open and have milk tomorrow. I will prepare Kahwa”
I am thinking of eight million people have they enough food to sustain them or they are incarcerated to die from hunger or siege or arrest or…..we are all dying….dying of hunger, dying of shame of helplessness…….
What type of test is this God? I can live on less but tea keeps me in senses.
I focus to read Tariq Ali’s “the Islam Quintet. The first book is “shadows of the Pomegranate tree”. It replicates my situation and scares me of the dangers ahead…
Whether one billion Indians do really know about my precarious situation their government has put me through or they support ten hundred thousand Indian forces to kill me?
Heavy raindrops on tin roof are making me panicky…my lawn is inundated… what if we have flood in Kashmir? Who will save us?
The dreadful memories of floods of 2014 are making me restless. Our boys saved us at that time. They are all in siege with me or in prison or in hiding or guarding their women now…..
Water level is increasing…I am sweating from fear of drowning…..
My eyes are flooded. And, my helper is staring at me. He brings Kahwa for me. kahwa has replaced tea so has union territory replaced my state. I am mourning in siege and Indian masses are silently watching my slow death.
Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor is an ex editor of BBC and penguin author..