Young & Restless

  • Majid Maqbool
  • Publish Date: May 17 2017 9:18PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 18 2017 9:13PM
Young & Restless

                                                            Photo: Mubashir Khan/KI

Why are Kashmir’s students up in arms?

They are young, bright, opinionated, and angry. Born and brought up in conflict, surrounded by guns and violence, they refuse to accept the status quo. Having fearlessly taken to the streets in protest against the crackdown on Pulwama Degree College by Indian military, the school and college students of Kashmir have come to represent, through their defiance, the sentiment of a people. But what drives them to come out and, often, pelt stones, risking teargas, pellets, and even bullets? What are they fighting for? Do they have a dream they want to realise?

 

Kashmir Ink randomly chose a few of these young men and women and asked them that most loaded of questions: what do they want?

 

The responses are as varied as they are telling.

 

‘As long as our voices remain unheard, the problem will fester’

Peerzada Muzamil, 21

Lives in Nowshera, Srinagar

Studies at Amar Singh College, Srinagar

The India government has always used statistics against Kashmiris. But in the recent parliamentary by-elections, only 7% voted. They stayed silent on this but it conveyed a strong message.

Mere statistics are not enough to understand what the people of Kashmir want and what their desires and aspirations are. Unless this is understood, the forest fire that is Kashmir’s street now will consume the country. Just witness the students pouring their resentment out on the roads.

 As a student, I think our community is psychologically more vulnerable than other sections of the society. By doing injustice and instilling fear, the state has repeatedly failed us. Being children of conflict, our psychological conditioning has happened in an atmosphere where nobody would desire to live otherwise. But they can no longer take us for granted. The incessant perpetration of violence has made us resilient and fearless.

We live in a place and age where even the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing have serious political implications. We are conscious of being economically and politically deprived, subjugated and suppressed, and that guides our actions. Being young, there is no limit to our efforts and actions even though we are conscious we might be crippled, raped, blinded, even killed. It is sad we have had to take recourse to “violence” but we are left with no option. Sometimes, I take refuge in a “constructive” outlet for expressing my sentiment; I write resistance literature, for instance. But not all students are artists, and since they cannot use brushes or guitars, stones and guns are their only means of expressing their political desires. It has come to this because their voices have long gone unheard.

Indifference is more dangerous than outright rejection because it is offensive and humiliating. History tells us that humiliation has given birth to endless wars and brought nothing but more bloodshed. As long as the Indian state maintains the status quo, our voices will remain unheard, our desires unaddressed. Unless the government understands our desires and aspirations, with a little empathy and moral intelligence, the problem will fester. As Bertrand Russell put it, “If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths.”

------------

 

‘Caging us won’t solve anything’

Aiman Peer, 22

Lives in Sopore

Studies at Women’s Degree College, Sopore

It hurts to see how the student community is being treated in Kashmir. Trying to crush student protests by the use of pellets, chilly grenades and tear gas shells is immoral and inhumane. We, the students, come from that class of society that clearly sees the difference between right and wrong. A girl with volleyball in one hand and stone in another is considered a threat by the Indian state rather than the result of injustice.

If a state faces such opposition from the student community, then the need of the hour is to address the issue delicately. Shutting the institutions down, banning social media and caging us in our own homes, schools and colleges isn’t going to solve anything.

How is it justified that everywhere school and college students enjoy the right to protest openly against any injustice but not in Kashmir? Why are we alone showered with pellets and bullets?

If they are denied even basic rights to education and free speech, it is only natural that literate and conscientious people will rise up in revolt, and be the vanguard of the revolution.

I had hoped to complete my graduation in 2016, apply to a good university for a master’s in English literature and then maybe prepare to join the civil service. But by mid-July everything had turned grey. I couldn’t even take the help of internet to study. My dreams turned cold. How was I supposed to even study when I was constantly hearing of boys and girls my age being blinded by pellets, their dreams being crushed?

Our anger is rooted in history. And our rebellion is like an old Chinar tree that has gripped the earth far and wide. You can burn it, cut it, but you can never uproot it completely.

The Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved. This land is populated by human beings; it is not some prize to be claimed. We live lives that matter as much as anybody else’s anywhere.

I dream to live in a place where it is not a crime to speak your heart out. And Kashmir will be that place one day. We will do whatever it takes to uproot the feeble tree of occupation.

--------------

 

‘We are a powerless people fighting for justice’

Sheikh Saqib, 17 

Lives in Gazali Abad, HMT, Srinagar 

Studies at Tyndale Biscoe School, Srinagar

 

Wails continue to ring out from Kashmir’s homes. Our elders continue to shoulder the coffins of our young. Bullets and pellets continue to rain on us. Young boys and girls continue to be crippled. Is this what we were born for?

We are beaten, maimed and killed just for registering our protest against injustice.

My teacher once asked me, “Who has more respect than the prime minister of a country?” I couldn’t imagine who that could be. “Student,” my teacher had said.

But one would be forgiven for not believing my teacher after seeing how brutally the students who tried to protest against the crackdown on fellow students in Pulwama were dealt with by the so-called security forces. I saw boys and girls my age mercilessly beaten and abused.

It brought back the chilling memory of the winter morning I and my two friends, riding to school on my two-wheeler, were stopped by a group of army men near Lal Chowk. They welcomed us with angry faces and asked us to show our school bags. One of the soldiers present came from behind and asked us to hand over the stones. He took our bags and searched them for stones. Except notebooks and some newly bought pens, he found nothing. He handed back the bags and told us to go. But as we started, he kicked us one by one and abused us. He even abused my mother and, for whatever reason, Pakistan. We were in tears by the time we finally left. I felt helpless, humiliated. 

Another time, I was standing at my window gazing at the silent road by my house. A contingent of soldiers came by and one of them lifted his shotgun, which I later came to know is used to hunt animals, towards me. I feared he would shoot at me and quickly shut the window. I made me feel like I was in a prison, chains wrapped so tightly around my body that even taking a breath is difficult. 

We live in a place where we are denied every right. We have never known peace; we were born in conflict and live through it. We don’t even know if we can attend school tomorrow. Dissent is curbed. What is so threatening about a student asking questions?

They won’t let us raise our voice peacefully, so we have taken up stones to express our dissent. The stone is the symbol of our resistance.

------------

 

‘What is Kashmir for us? A beautiful cage’

Sundas Fazili Shah, 18

Lives in Zoonimar, Soura, Srinagar

Studies at Delhi Public School, Athwajan, Srinagar

“Aap log chahete kya ho?” an Indian friend asked me sometime ago. “What do you people want?”

Although I am not a staunch supporter of the separatist movement, I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out “Azadi”. Freedom. That is what we want. Freedom to exist.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realised the word Azadi had not come to my tongue out of nowhere. Somewhere, I realised, the summer of 2016 had settled it there.

I live in Kashmir, commonly known as the “heaven on earth”. Only this heaven is in ruins. It is a land of broken spirits and countless hypocrisies. Kashmir is made up of two parallel worlds that never meet. One is oppressed and tyrannised. People here idealise human existence. The other is just like any other place, where things turn out just the way they are supposed to. But the latter is not what defines Kashmir. It merely signifies an illusion.

Kashmir has witnessed, in the past two decades, the worst form of oppression, losing its springs very early. Youth have fallen prey to diplomacy and betrayal.

Over the years, a new wave of rebellion has swept away the fear of incarceration, of death. The crackdown on Pulwama Degree College sparked one of the greatest acts of defiance. Students, boys and girls, audaciously came out to protest, compelling the state and the society to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Boys protesting may have been seen before, but it was quite moving to see abaya-clad girls fighting it out on the streets, raising their voices. Alfie Kohn says, “Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” We are taught about a utopia, a nation free of atrocities, brimming with freedom and joy, but rarely do we experience anything even close to this in reality. Kashmir is a beautiful cage, mesmerising yet cruel. Lectures about freedom and rights are followed by funerals of innocents, wailing and resistance.

But young people, their thoughts and the fire inside them will bring light some day, guiding the way towards a future where we don’t feel cursed to be Kashmiris. Youth have the strength and power to bring change. The state can oppress everything they have authority over, but the youth can never be stopped.

----------------

 

 

‘The government doesn’t care about us’

Muneer Ahmad Mir, 23

Lives in Kanira, Budgam

Studies at IGNOU, PG English Literature

In Kashmir, there is hardly anybody who hasn’t lost someone in the conflict.

The blood of Kashmiris is cheap for India. When their soldiers die here, they are hailed as martyrs. But when our civilians die here, they don’t care and no justice is given to the victims. But we will get our freedom; our blood won’t go waste.

The youth is the future of a nation. But here, we have been driven to a state of utter helplessness and stone-pelting is the only one weapon we have to save ourselves. The India state doesn’t care about Kashmiris. They only want this land, not the people.

---------------

 

‘I don’t want to see more blood on the streets’

Zulkarnain Lateef, 23

Lives in Sanoor Kalipora, Beerwah, Budgam

Studies at Jammu College of Physiotherapy

I was born in the 1990s amid the roar of guns but I can understand the anger that has accumulated over the years and is being expressed by the students on the streets now. As a student, I feel insecure in this so-called democratic country where cows have more rights than people.

In recent times, there was a period of relative calm in Kashmir. The government didn’t do anything to resolve the issue during this period. Had there been some changes on ground in this period, things would have been different now. The alliance of the PDP with the BJP for power has further worsened the situation. The BJP wants to make India a Hindu Rashtra and that is their design for Kashmir, too.

I don’t want to live in a place where the blood of innocents is spilled with such abandon. I don’t want to see more blood spilled in our valley. I want to live in a Kashmir where a mother doesn’t have to mourn her lost child, where a father doesn’t have to shoulder his son’s coffin.

-----------------

 

‘When will they leave us alone and let us live?’

Malik Aasooda, 18

Lives in Sanat Nagar, Srinagar

Studies Btech at SSM College of Engineering and Technology, Parihaspora

Our revolution did not start in 2016, it dates back to 1947. Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir is nothing short of a nightmare – an endless tragedy of fake encounters, crackdowns, mass rape, forced disappearances. Is it any wonder that Kashmir is screaming for Azadi?

Growing up in the shadow of guns, the young men and women of Kashmir have a keen sense of history. They won’t let go waste the sacrifices – of the 1990s, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016. We Kashmiris are a resilient people. We won’t rest until they leave us alone and let us live in peace, in freedom. This revolution may not fructify fruit in our lifetime, but that doesn’t deter us.

--------

 

‘How can there be peace when pellets and bullets are raining on us?’

Rafya Zargar, 23

Lives in Baramulla

Studies at Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Srinagar

Every possible attempt is being made to cloud the aspirations of Kashmir’s young men and women. We are being egged, in different ways – subtle and otherwise – to choose between our personal and political aspirations, as if that is even a choice. Certainly not in a place where we witness occupation every two steps, occupation of our bodies, our souls, our aspirations. Who doesn’t want peace in Kashmir? But how can there be peace when pellets and bullets are raining on us? We students are being violently stopped from voicing our genuine aspirations. Why won’t they even talk to us?

----------------

 

‘We also want to be happy and free’

Marwah Khan, 17

Lives in Tulsi Bagh, Srinagar.

Studies at Govt. Girls Higher Sec (Amira Kadal)

What’s going on since the last few weeks has affected us all. It has somewhat enthused us. The students on the streets are not only angry; they’re dejected. We have seen atrocities since we were born. We’ve always experienced subjugation. The events we’ve lived through shaped us, molded us into rebels. We knew the difference between a bullet and a teargas when we couldn’t even tell a bat from a ball. It’s unfortunate, yes. But it is the truth.

As a student, I want to do something in my life. I want to make my parents proud. But as a Kashmiri, I feel limited. I want to become a writer one day. But whenever I write something, I fear someone might send me to jail, for I might not have written ‘appropriate’ content or written something that questions my ‘devotion’ to India. You see, the term ‘freedom of expression’ is nothing but a fib for us.

If I ever become a writer, my writing will always reflect the pain I’ve been through and the agony my fellow Kashmiris have experienced. Even if I write about unicorns and rainbows, there’ll be a tinge of sorrow in it. And it’ll be because I, like other Kashmiris, have seen a lot that I can’t forget.

During curfews last year, I’d kept this journal in which I jotted down my ‘feelings. I kept writing everyday for a month. One day my dad saw the diary. He scolded me for writing against the army. “You have no idea what you’re doing. You must be feeling verybrave by writing all this crap, huh? What if one of the army men saw this? Do you know what would happen then?” he said. It was the first time my father scolded me like that. Heartbroken, I went to my room and cried my eyes out. The next morning, when I woke up, I couldn’t find my journal. Dad had burned it.

I believe we, the students, are on the roads instead of our classrooms because we’ve awakened. We’ve finally taken charge. We don’t want to lose more innocent blood. We’d rather have fun, travel the world or do things that we wanted to do. We’d do things ‘normal’ youth enjoy doing but for now that’s immaterial. The only thing that we want is normalcy. We want to be happy and most importantly, free.

---------------------

 

 

‘We are fighting for our rights’

Faryaal Banday, 19

Lives in HMT, Srinagar

Studied (12th), GHSS Amirakadal

Things can’t be swept under the carpet anymore. The young school and college students are defiant. They have a life ahead of them. Now it’s not possible to fool people with false promises. This government has lost the trust of people. When will this government start taking responsibility for their blunders and stop hiding behind petty measures like internet ban.  These spur of moment decisions like the internet ban do not help anybody. Social media ban will not defeat the masses; it will enrage them. How can you silence everyone’s voice and then expect peace.

Narendra Modi has earlier urged Kashmiri youth to stay away from terrorism. Choose between terrorism or tourism, he said. Don’t let your ideas and your future get corrupted by the hooliganism of select few, he added. Now, if the PM could take some time to look at the situation on ground, he would realize that the problem doesn’t exist among select few. It runs through the entire length and breadth of the valley.

Education is very important, yes, but it also pushes us all to remain steadfast in our beliefs and convictions. Education also urges us to fight for our rights and not settle for anything less than what we deserve. It gives us the power to remain abreast with what is happening around us. And should we fail to honor everything that it teaches, we may as well go ahead and close our schools forever.

 

‘Respect our Right to Dissent’

I kept writing them tributes and elegies.  Then came a day when I became one. I wrote these lines, a few days ago, in the wake of the recent uprising that has broadly been called as 'The Year of Student Uprising'. The chain of recent incidents was led by the students alone. Just when everything seemed okay in the rest of the valley, things weren't really well in District Pulwama, where few weeks ago the state forces tried to barge into the campus of Government Degree College.

Despite repeated pleas by the Principal to not enter the campus, the forces went ahead, infuriating the students there. What happened last year is still fresh in our minds and the wounds haven't yet completely healed. The pellet victims still continue to haunt the conscience of everyone here. And further provocation in such times will only deteriorate the situation.

As the troops entered the campus of the college, the angry boys as well as girl students started protesting. But they were dealt with tear gas, pellets and lathi charged, which injured many students, many of them girls. The doors of the hospitals had to be knocked again. The pellet horror was revisited that day. The masses waited for action from the government. And action was taken strictly, but not against the police who created havoc; it was taken against the principal who tried to pacify the situation there. Irony dies there! 

 With anger seeping in, the KUSU gave a call for Valley wide protests in all colleges and universities against the highhandedness of the state forces. This call was religiously followed by all students, and the next day we had students from all colleges and universities across Kashmir on streets, protesting, demanding justice and punishment to the guilty. To protest is the right of every citizen of a democratic country, but seems India has decided to choke all voices that are raised against the government. Such voices are either labeled as 'seditious' or 'anti-national'. When peaceful protesters are dealt with bullets, pellets and tear gas, the only choice left with them is to retaliate with stones.

The protests that erupted at the University of Kashmir were peaceful through. As no force was used, the students registered their protest and dispersed peacefully. How I wish the same had happened in the rest of the colleges. The more force police used, the more agitated the students became. The police action left many more students injured in Srinagar too. Shocking images went viral – of police climbing the walls of Women's College and lobbing tear gas shells inside the campus. The campaigners of “Beti padho beti bachao” maintained a criminal silence over these excesses.

It's high time for the government and its police to understand that schools, colleges and universities are places of learning, where debates and discussions should be freely allowed to help students grow. They are the future of this nation. And no nation would want to remain in darkness forever. Let’s not choke spaces of our students.

The government tried its best to restore peace and normalcy, but all in vain. The people in power should understand that shutting down schools for days and banning the internet or social media is not a solution to the issue. Justice can help to a certain extent. But a lasting solution has to be chalked out. Right to dissent has to be respected. The government must stop interfering in matters of educational institutions. Let the students live in peace.

 Fazili Zabirah

Graduate student, Women's College, M. A. Road.

Age: 21

Residence: Soura, Srinagar