Isolating, Forgetting Kashmir

  • Amit Sengupta
  • Publish Date: Jan 10 2017 6:02PM
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  • Updated Date: Jan 10 2017 6:02PM
Isolating, Forgetting KashmirIllustration by Suhail Naqshband

In mainstream India, in its political and media discourse, once again, Kashmir seems to have disappeared in the frozen infinity of the fog, the snow and the icy cold in minus measurement. No one seems to have the imagination to penetrate the haze and choose to gaze at its collective and individual tragedies, broken hearts and aspirations, even as festivals and greetings stalk the landscape. 

For a state which has been bulldozed and brutalized with such fierce and cold-blooded ruthlessness in the recent past by the State apparatus, with its suffering drying up in its saline waters of swollen eyes and poison pellets, almost as if it is nothing but petty revenge, the arrival of the new year is like a poem written inside a concentration camp. The poem fades as fast as it is written, ironically, because the writing on the wall says yet again that Kashmir, trapped and frozen in this winter as a ritualistic compliment of the seasons, has been decisively forgotten from the ‘political unconscious’ of mainstream India.

The North-East was briefly remembered because of the violence and blockade across Manipur, and the conflict within ethnic communities. That too after a prolonged spell of bloody strife and much heartburn and difficulties faced by the ordinary people. It was as quickly forgotten and dumped into the garbage can of mainstream history. On this side of the border and LoC, Kashmir is not even a dot on the map. It’s like a surgical strike in the icy cold once again, to kill the bad memory and the bad faith, once and for all. No questions asked.

No one seems to know in Delhi as to what is the impact of demonitisation in Kashmir. Are the ATMs and banks working in the snow, how are people surviving without cash in the cold, how do they buy their daily subsistence, are they warm in their homes or are they standing in long lines, Waiting for Godot? Who cares? For a state where internet and telephone lines are cut-off in normal circumstances, and especially during protests, peaceful or otherwise, where newspapers are banned, where people are forced to disconnect from each other, even on festivals like Eid, where loved ones can’t see or talk to each other because of zero communication, security barricades, barbed wires and endless, relentless curfews, who cares  a damn in the corridors of power in Delhi, or in newspaper and TV offices, as to what is the impact of the prime minister’s ‘permanent revolution’ on the insulted, hounded and humiliated people of Kashmir?

On his grand New Year eve address to the nation, the prime minister missed out on both Kashmir and black money. He speaks to the nation as if the nation-state is a figment of his own, feverish imagination, almost as if induced by the magic potion of the comics of Asterix and Obelix, or, like a 3D bioscope, suspended in hallucinatory magic realism. Even Garcia Gabriel Marquez could not conjure up such magically potent hallucinations of both illusion and delusion, as the nation is asked to celebrate the Great Leap Forward, almost like what North Korean dictators have pushed down the throat of the party and the populace during the collective catharsis of simulated patriotism.

Tens of thousands of people across the country are living on the threshold of despair, jobless, cashless and hopeless, almost futureless, but there is no end to the magic of the Great Helmsman; the magic vanishes into the dark, it arrives from thin air, hangs in suspended motion of belief and disbelief, appears, reappears, disappears. I tell you, there is magic in the air.

So who cares for Kashmir’s isolation and suffering in this forsaken fog of fantastic make-believe, where human trafficking too, along with Naxalism and terrorism etc, has been driven into defeat, by the digital doctrine paytm-ised, with Chinese inspiration. Is that why this entire phenomena somehow reminds us of the madness of the ‘cultural revolution’ during Mao’s botched up affair, along with the gang of four, almost around this time four decades ago?

If the banks and machines don’t have cash, where do the lines go? Where do the teeming masses disappear when they feel abject despair and helplessness? Do they stand in the queue to see Dangal? Or, do they watch the New Year eve’s prophecy on TV screens, eyes open, wide shut?

In the end, or, in the beginning of the end, Kashmir floats, unlike the other cliché: Hope floats. If you end up looking at your own selfie in the narcissistic waters again and again, how can you break the ice and discover the image of a young face with swollen eyes in a damned, frozen landscape?

(Amit Sengupta is a senior editor and journalist based in New Delhi)