Kashmir: My diary of incarceration

kashmir Lal Chowk 9 August 2019

day1: 5th august 2019….

It is the morning, not the one it was yesterday.

I could open door or window or heart yesterday or I could go out to talk about the leaked government orders which directed officials to prepare stocks of essentials at least for three to six months. I could ask questions to my local officials who would only guess and warn me of the perils of the coming days…it is the morning with different rays of light, different sky and different noise today…..

There is a strangeness in air today…..

I am reeling in scorching heat that has come from the plains of north India.

This is the morning without the chirping of birds or feeding pigeons on my window sill that has untouched grains left for them. I sense eerie silence around me, my house and my neighbourhood. It only breaks with the sound of army helicopters and big war planes flying very low in the sky every hour or two…perhaps army is moving towards Kargil….the same place which brought India and Pakistan close to war in 1999. The fear runs through my spine and I put fingers into my ears………there has never been a one moment of peace in Kashmir since I started perceiving dangers and deceits and political manipulations around me……

I can feel the silence of my trees, shrubs, flowers, thorns, mountains and streams…..all looking tormented and terrified…..like me….or they are all in solidarity with me……

Why is the breeze coming from opposite direction today? I ask myself……

It sounds bizarre the wind has also changed direction today…. are we bracing for a silent storm..or..the storm of the century……something is not right……

I guess I am feeling nervous at the thought of the decision the Indian government is going to announce in the parliament today. The decision will either free us of Indian shackles or will further enslave us to the extent we hardly would get over it.

The speculations of few days after leaking of official circulars have turned us into a frenzied and freaky population of eight million zombies. Our fate is hanging in balance and it has never let us live a normal life. I wish India and Pakistan resolve Jammu and Kashmir forever, allow us to live like humans with dignity and peace. I wish they both live like good neighbours and care for the poverty, illiteracy and poor health. But, as they say if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

I, who has been journalist for fifty years, never ever comprehended that I am going to be stripped off my identity, my constitution and my land and the decision will be done in the Indian Parliament in broad day light in presence of seven billion population of the world without having any regard for those eight million souls who have been kept in siege with thousands of security forces on every doorstep and with strict orders of communication blockade.

It is worse than a dictatorship….who says it is democracy…..has India declared Martial law in Kashmir?

I am cut off from the rest of the world since midnight. My phone is dead, internet banned, landline off the hook, cable TV shut and we have lost Radio to digital technology since TV took permanent place in my living room…..

I feel alone, miserable and nervous….

I try to peep through the windowpane. There are hundreds of uniformed men on the road; their eagle eyes are on our windows and their finger on triggers, ready to shoot at the sight of me. I go close to windowpane; I hear loudspeakers warning people not to venture outside as curfew has been imposed throughout the state. I feel threatened by the “shoot on sight” orders by security forces and the fierceness in their eyes. Who would dare to venture outside….we stay away from doors even………I feel scared to death….

I know that many Imams, religious clerics and Molvisand political leaders have been arrested and threatened not to speak about Kashmir, Art. 370 or criticise government for its decision. Those who are still free have been advised to praise India, its policies and its Hindutva leaders.

In my vicinity there are three mosques. I hear Azan every morning at the same time, and feel sometimes angry when three Azansare overlapping each other. There is no azan today and no overlapping either. I pray at the first break of the light like my grandparents did in old times. My father used to tell me stories about silent prayers during Maharaja’s rule who would send his army to sneak into the Muslim houses and arrest those who found praying or even prayer mats were thrown into dustbins.

Gosh! I totally forgot….it is my son’s birthday today……I remember the day I enjoyed the motherhood feelings for the first time…..I want to wish him happy birthday today….I can’t… I am in siege or in concentration camp or in open prison……I have no phone, internet or landline working. I can’t express my best wishes to him and I cannot tell him what I have been through since morning because I do not want to scare him about my precarious situation…..

I try to divert my attention. I switch on television and I have only one channel working, it has live broadcast from the Parliament, everybody present in the Parliament smiling and rejoicing at my misery….Here comes the big man, Home Minister….yes…he is there with papers in his left armpit….sweaty and smelly papers and grin on his bearded face ….he is carrying the weight and burden and fate of 8 million poor souls….I cannot sit….I change weight from left foot to right….I stand by leaning on wall. Amit Shah declares abrogation of Art.370 and degradation of Jammu and Kashmir in two union territories.  Amit Shah is shaking and could watch his hands tremor but his smirk is making me nervous, dumb and numb.

Hey world…I have been rendered stateless, powerless and helpless…..do you hear my silent cries….do you hear my broken heart…..no…You can’t listen to me….I am suffocating………..

My breathing is too heavy…

My eyes are too flooded….

My legs turn into jelly….

My neighbour is whispering from her windowpane…..”thousands of people have been arrested, all guest houses have become prisons, we have no control over our life, land and livelihood…..can we survive this onslaught of Hindutva machinery”…..I can see her voice trailing off, she is crying but I can’t hear her cries or I don’t want to hear any cry or I have become too timid…..

Yet, I want to give her hope or confidence or word…..but I can’t talk…I have my throat choked, I feel humiliation overwhelming me….I am becoming more restive…..

Hey! World, I want to tell you how I have been rendered lifeless….I cannot write because I have lost energy to write. I can’t send a word to my editor and tell him that I am useless…………there are only guns and guns wielding soldiers around me, my house and my land who have orders to kill me and my people.

I try to pray Almighty…let nobody get sick….we can’t call ambulance…..there is nobody to look after sick people in hospitals. Only few doctors are working day in and day out….no medicine and no attendants are with patients…..we have no connectivity…..we are living in total oblivion….our life has been obliterated……

My neighbour again opens her windowpane. She is whispering…”there are protests in Soura, many injured by security firing…situation is critical….we are choked”…..

I can’t take it more…I feel I will have nervous breakdown….they will kill us all…I am looking in all boxes for tranquilisers…I want to sleep, sleep for ever, forget my pain, forget Art.370, forget my identity and forget my Kashmir…let them come and kill me which can be more easier than this pain of suffocation….come and kill me…..my servant is pushing me away from window….

The noise on the road is becoming too loud….jackboots are running and opening the gates……vehicles are moving and stopping…it is going to be a long night….it is a night of terror and night of fear…dark and black night…..curfew is outside and inside my home, heart and soul……..

This is the night of 5th august 2019 when the largest democracy of the world robbed me and my eight million people of our sleep, home and identity…….

Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor is an ex editor of BBC and penguin author….



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