15th August: Early Morning: After entering the premises of Srinagar airport, I must admit that my nation has been robbed of its identity, its constitution, its land and its skies. My people are caged to mourn this broad daylight robbery by putting nine hundred thousand guns at their heads. The valley has become graveyard of silence. The road is deserted. The houses are obstructed. And, security bunkers are surrounded by dogs. Who has named this place a paradise on earth? It should be named as a living hell on earth. Indian government of BJP has turned it into a big concentration camp, may be this is new Auschwitz of twenty first century or we have become Jews of Hitler…….
It used to be mostly police force of Jammu and Kashmir government that one would encounter at the security check points while coming close to Airport near Humhama. Today, they are sitting in the remote corner of one of the checkpoints, disarmed and disarrayed, looking at passengers with a heavy heart or broken heart. Poor police, they were more loyal to India than needed but now, they have been shown the door like the mainstream politicians. Everything seems to have been wiped off by Indian order of 5th august. Not only the special status of Jk, it has disarmed its police force, it has changed its political system, it has crippled its economy and it has humiliated eight million population. Collective punishment to Kashmir for demanding Azadi from India…..
Central reserve Police soldiers, manning the check points on way to Airport, are looking at every angle at me and my ambulance driver. They are eyeing every part of my body, watching my every action and reading my every thought. One of the stout soldiers is looking inside the ambulance car, turning seats and cushions upside down and checking every seat with the metal detector which sounds louder once he touches my bag.
Another soldier is asking me, “Why have you come to airport? are you going out? Show me your air ticket?
I am looking at ambulance driver who pities my nervousness and helplessness. Before he replies, me and driver are being asked to come out of the car. Like good children we obey. The soldier is looking minutely at both of us as if we have kept something hidden under our clothes. “Those who hide guns under their dresses are hardly visible to them. They come like lightning and start firing over them. Can they be as gentle as we are”? I keep thinking weirdly……….
He is smirking. Perhaps, drives pleasure to witness our apathy. JK police officials at the remote corner keep glancing at me again and again but soon realizing that I pity them for being disarmed, they turn their heads towards the mountains which look barren and sullen due to climate change or political change. I find it hard to bare the helplessness of our police wallahs……
First phase of our security check is over. Driver moves his ambulance forward at the signal of a soldier. Yet, it is half a kilometre road from here to airport building which is crowded by hundreds of pedestrian passengers walking due to traffic closure. They are carrying and dragging their luggage. Due to strict Curfew imposed since 5th august, they have no means to travel to airport. Traffic is off the road for so many days now.
Kashmiris are made to suffer in every way. There are only army vehicles and army bunkers. Only Indian soldiers have every right to walk, talk and control our lives. They can kill, arrest and humiliate us because they enjoy immunity by AFSPA. They are our masters. And, we are slaves in our own land…….
It is an irony that every single Kashmiri, mainstream and separatist is on an Indian scanner now. Those are now more suspected who used to hoist Indian flags. They are in jails with Indian flags in their hands. Mainstream would terrorize separatists by security crackdowns to arrests at the instructions of Indian government. The same treatment is given to mainstream as well.
My driver is whispering, “Mainstream is getting what they would do to separatists. What goes around comes around. Let them now taste their own medicine. At least, this makes me happy to see them suffering”.
He is laughing uncontrollably and makes me also laugh.
Some leaders of the mainstream camp live near the airport gate where I can see Indian flags are still hoisted at the top of their houses. But, the huge security vehicles are kept at the entrance of their houses in order to obstruct the iron gates. They are put under house arrest since 5th August. Such funny and laughable instance can only be found in JK where India has made mockery of its democracy. This mockery is making BJP to win more states.
Thousands of people have thronged to airport. Long cues are at every airline counter. Airindia counter has a long cue of people different from other counters. They have same military haircut and somewhat same dress. They are security personnel in civil dress and are being told to leave the valley. I presume they are RSS activists who have come as Yatris. Or they are from some mysterious organisation with some hidden mission. Has mission failed or they are told to leave mission un-accomplished? They seem very relaxed and are being given air tickets without any hassle. They have mobile phones and working too. They might be special people with special powers. Not like Kashmiri Muslims who have become untouchables…A tall man with short haircut is talking on phone to somebody saying that “the time has come to strike them hard so that they will not be able to live. They will get back what they been doing to us for the last seventy years. It is better to kill them all and make this place a heaven for India”. I get chills in my spine. He is rushing towards boarding gate.
I request another person in special cue to lend me his mobile phone so that I can contact my kids who are outside the valley. He gives me a dirty look and turns his head to other side. Near, at the indigo airlines counter, a lady employee tells me to use her land-line phone instead.
I am trying to reach children through the land-line but it is not working. Phone gets disconnected soon I start dialling a number. A girl sitting behind the counter is crying. Nobody is taking notice of her. I ask her the reason of being so distressful. She tells me her sad story, “My father died three days ago in one of the hospitals of Chandigarh. I didn’t get chance to speak to him before his death or relatives accompanying him. I had to walk 45 kilometres to reach airport. But, I am not able to get air ticket. There is so much injustice done to us. I don’t know is my father buried or is still in mortuary. How can I contact hospital in Chandigarh”? She is sobbing uncontrollably…
I call one of my Acquaintances and beg him to help this girl in getting air ticket to Chandigarh. She goes with him and I pray to God that she gets travel ticket to Chandigarh.
A boy of almost twenty years is begging indigo employee to give him air ticket for today or for early tomorrow for Delhi or he will lose his job. He is supposed to report Dubai for a new job until tomorrow but he couldn’t reach Srinagar from Pulwama due to curfew and restrictions. Neither could he connect with his employer due to internet ban. He is running short of money as couldn’t withdraw it from ATM which is running dry since few days. Indigo employee offers him expensive ticket but he is begging him with folding hands to give him cheap ticket. He is looking around desperately but is being pushed by other desperate Kashmiris and has never felt such helplessness like this before. Indigo employee looks at computer again and after a minute gives him another ticket for early tomorrow. But he has to pay Rs 1500 more. He takes ticket and is thinking where will he stay for night. His eyes become moist and keep looking at other desperate frenetic people.
Another acquaintance is rushing towards me and saying without greetings, “Mam, this is injustice what government is doing to us. It has totally erased our past and there is no future for us. Last night, security guards cordoned our village and arrested ten students. They were beaten, tortured and stripped off naked in front of their families. They were saying that they will come again and marry these young and beautiful girls of village. How can we tolerate this, I am leaving job soon and I swear I am going to pick up gun. I will kill them and let me also get killed. There is no other way left for Kashmir now. We have to get ready for Jihad”. He becomes surcharged with emotions and keeps looking around to make sure nobody is eves dropping. I put my hand on his shoulder in order to comfort him. He is whispering again, “first, they got all non locals out of the valley, so that they can kill us, silence us and torture us. They put 9 hundred thousand forces and guns at our head to make us to succumb to pressure but I assure you India is finished in Kashmir and even their whole army cannot stop us from our right of self determination. We gave India seven decades to understand us, believe us and let us live an honourable life within its constitution but instead it killed us, tortured us and abused us. This cannot go further even if means the total annihilation of Kashmir”. His face is turning red hot….. I wanted to tell him that the BJP intends to destroy whole India, not to talk of Kashmir only, but ambulance driver is signalling me to board the car as he is ready to leave the airport.
My heart bleeds inside while seeing hundreds and thousands of desperate Kashmiri students, children and women begging around for air tickets or for a simple phone call but security forces and a long mysterious cue at Air India counter are deriving pleasure out of our misery. They are laughing and merry making like one billion population of India who think they have won Kashmir. Believe me, you have lost it forever…….
The writer is ex editor BBC and currently a columnist of Independent Urdu UK….