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We worry about the Koshur Qaum: Kashmiris across the World try desperately to contact loved ones

Sushmita 07 Aug 2019

“I have never seen her like this before and I didn't know how to console her. "Everything will be fine, Insha Allah," I said. "How will we know if everything is fine at home? How will we know if they kill them? Will we ever be able to see Ammu Papa?" she asked. I had no answers.” Samiya Latief, Kashmiri journalist



Image Courtesy: Jewel Samad/AFP

Kashmir is reeling under a shutdown of the most opaque nature. As the government of India abrogated Article 370, the only constitutional provision that actually links Kashmir to India, ground was laid to prevent any form of resistance. Curfew was imposed late night on August 4. Internet, mobile and cellular services were shut down. Even cable TV and landlines were disconnected. Leaders of the opposition such as Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah arrested. The decision was taken surreptitiously, while the Parliament session was on, without consulation with the state assembly that had been dissolved last June when the state was brought, inexplicably, under President’s Rule. As of today, August 7, as per one report over 100 people have been arrested, one dead and six injured from the few reports that have emerged from the ground. However, there is no way to verify these figures in the absence of any reporting from the local media and the people. It is strange to even think that Kashmiri people, whose lives will be significantly altered by this move, are living in the deep shadows of a lockdown, which is unprecedented in Kashmir’s own bloodied history. Moreover, there is deep panic among the people as they have not been able to establish contacts with their loved ones since the curfew was enforced and there is no way of knowing the precise situation prevailing in the state.

As the streets of Kashmir remain deserted, in the few visuals that have emerged ever since, an exceptionally huge presence of the security forces can be seen.

In all this, those Kashmiris who stay outside Kashmir have found themselves in a situation in which they cant get in touch with their loved ones at any cost. Moreover, the fact that there is an absolute lack of clarity that when such a lockdown will be lifted and whether, if at all things will go back to the ‘Kashmiri normal’ has led to a sense of deep distress among the Kashmiri people.

Moreover, the dishonest reporting by the Indian media has led to a lack of trust among those who get in touch with their families. A page called Kashmir Beyond Borders, formed by Kashmiris across the diaspora to stay “connected” updated a status,
“A lot of Kashmiri students all over India are being approached by Indian media houses with a simple question: How do you feel? They ask this in the backdrop of the communication blackout imposed on our homes. Since no news is allowed to escape, we are supposed to be in distress, panic, and also exasperated by what has transpired in the last few days.
In a very emotive appeal, they asked, “How does one feel when not able to speak to parents and other loved ones in the evening? How does one feel when one does not have any whereabouts of everybody one has grown up with? Fear is a genuine human emotion. Of course any human will worry in a situation like this. But our fears are profound. We worry about our parents, siblings and neighbours, but not in the sense of survival, rather, in a deeper existential sense. We know that if they cook only beans at home because of the curfew, potatoes will come through the kitchen window. Nobody is going to sleep on an empty stomach tonight. Our sense of home and family is diffused; something Indians might not be able to fathom. So we worry about the Koshur qaum. We worry about the streets. We worry about the paddy fields, the rivulets and the apple orchards.”

Asking the question if they should speak to the Indian media and bare their pain, they said, “We should remember the role the Indian media has played in justifying the colonization of our country for all these years. We should remember how they have framed our struggle, weaved false narratives around it, and labelled us differently. They have spread canards that we are paid 500 rupees to throw stones at all the symbolic manifestations of their occupation of our land. They have insinuated that we carry a “death wish” in our eyes, leaving their armed forces no choice but to kill us. They have even trivialized our lives and aspirations by reporting that “Kashmir is happy”. They have brushed aside report after report by the United Nations about the violations of our bodily and territorial integrity as “airy fairy”.”

It must be noted that large sections of Indian media has celebrated this move calling it a “historic” step without mentioning the plight of Kashmiris.

Describing the sights in deserted Kashmir, deputy editor of Indian Express, Muzamil Jaleel said, "I have just come to Delhi from Srinagar. It is worse than 1846. Srinagar is a city of soldiers and spools of concertina wire. Yesterday, it took me three hours to reach office (Residency Road) from Parraypora. Phones - mobiles and landlines - have been disconnected. Internet is off. There is no money in ATMs. A very strict curfew has been imposed across Kashmir. I could only move around with lot of difficulty in uptown Srinagar. I have no information outside that small part of the city. However, I did hear there have been protests in old town Baramulla. A colleague received a text message on his dead phone - some glitch. Everyone I met is in shock. There is a strange numbness. We heard about killing of two protestors but there is no way to confirm. Kashmir has been turned invisible even inside Kashmir. The forces on checkpoints have specific instructions to disallow journalists to cross the barrier. I saw a tv crew from Delhi inside a hotel outside Rajbagh Police station - they were saying Kashmir is calm."
A report in Indian Express delved upon the pain that Kashmiri traders in Kerala’s Kochi felt about not being able to get in touch with their parents.

“In 30 years of conflict in Kashmir, landline phones have never been blocked. Last night, even that happened. When you’re sitting so far away from Kashmir and you don’t know what’s happening to your families, it’s a horrifying feeling. It is like sitting on a time-bomb and waiting for it to burst. It is a very difficult emotion, of not being able to do anything. I worry for my family,” said Sajid Khatai, who arrived in Kochi in Kerala at the age of 21 after his uncle began a business here.

We worry about the Koshur Qaum: Kashmiris across the World try desperately to contact loved ones

“I have never seen her like this before and I didn't know how to console her. "Everything will be fine, Insha Allah," I said. "How will we know if everything is fine at home? How will we know if they kill them? Will we ever be able to see Ammu Papa?" she asked. I had no answers.” Samiya Latief, Kashmiri journalist



Image Courtesy: Jewel Samad/AFP

Kashmir is reeling under a shutdown of the most opaque nature. As the government of India abrogated Article 370, the only constitutional provision that actually links Kashmir to India, ground was laid to prevent any form of resistance. Curfew was imposed late night on August 4. Internet, mobile and cellular services were shut down. Even cable TV and landlines were disconnected. Leaders of the opposition such as Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah arrested. The decision was taken surreptitiously, while the Parliament session was on, without consulation with the state assembly that had been dissolved last June when the state was brought, inexplicably, under President’s Rule. As of today, August 7, as per one report over 100 people have been arrested, one dead and six injured from the few reports that have emerged from the ground. However, there is no way to verify these figures in the absence of any reporting from the local media and the people. It is strange to even think that Kashmiri people, whose lives will be significantly altered by this move, are living in the deep shadows of a lockdown, which is unprecedented in Kashmir’s own bloodied history. Moreover, there is deep panic among the people as they have not been able to establish contacts with their loved ones since the curfew was enforced and there is no way of knowing the precise situation prevailing in the state.

As the streets of Kashmir remain deserted, in the few visuals that have emerged ever since, an exceptionally huge presence of the security forces can be seen.

In all this, those Kashmiris who stay outside Kashmir have found themselves in a situation in which they cant get in touch with their loved ones at any cost. Moreover, the fact that there is an absolute lack of clarity that when such a lockdown will be lifted and whether, if at all things will go back to the ‘Kashmiri normal’ has led to a sense of deep distress among the Kashmiri people.

Moreover, the dishonest reporting by the Indian media has led to a lack of trust among those who get in touch with their families. A page called Kashmir Beyond Borders, formed by Kashmiris across the diaspora to stay “connected” updated a status,
“A lot of Kashmiri students all over India are being approached by Indian media houses with a simple question: How do you feel? They ask this in the backdrop of the communication blackout imposed on our homes. Since no news is allowed to escape, we are supposed to be in distress, panic, and also exasperated by what has transpired in the last few days.
In a very emotive appeal, they asked, “How does one feel when not able to speak to parents and other loved ones in the evening? How does one feel when one does not have any whereabouts of everybody one has grown up with? Fear is a genuine human emotion. Of course any human will worry in a situation like this. But our fears are profound. We worry about our parents, siblings and neighbours, but not in the sense of survival, rather, in a deeper existential sense. We know that if they cook only beans at home because of the curfew, potatoes will come through the kitchen window. Nobody is going to sleep on an empty stomach tonight. Our sense of home and family is diffused; something Indians might not be able to fathom. So we worry about the Koshur qaum. We worry about the streets. We worry about the paddy fields, the rivulets and the apple orchards.”

Asking the question if they should speak to the Indian media and bare their pain, they said, “We should remember the role the Indian media has played in justifying the colonization of our country for all these years. We should remember how they have framed our struggle, weaved false narratives around it, and labelled us differently. They have spread canards that we are paid 500 rupees to throw stones at all the symbolic manifestations of their occupation of our land. They have insinuated that we carry a “death wish” in our eyes, leaving their armed forces no choice but to kill us. They have even trivialized our lives and aspirations by reporting that “Kashmir is happy”. They have brushed aside report after report by the United Nations about the violations of our bodily and territorial integrity as “airy fairy”.”

It must be noted that large sections of Indian media has celebrated this move calling it a “historic” step without mentioning the plight of Kashmiris.

Describing the sights in deserted Kashmir, deputy editor of Indian Express, Muzamil Jaleel said, "I have just come to Delhi from Srinagar. It is worse than 1846. Srinagar is a city of soldiers and spools of concertina wire. Yesterday, it took me three hours to reach office (Residency Road) from Parraypora. Phones - mobiles and landlines - have been disconnected. Internet is off. There is no money in ATMs. A very strict curfew has been imposed across Kashmir. I could only move around with lot of difficulty in uptown Srinagar. I have no information outside that small part of the city. However, I did hear there have been protests in old town Baramulla. A colleague received a text message on his dead phone - some glitch. Everyone I met is in shock. There is a strange numbness. We heard about killing of two protestors but there is no way to confirm. Kashmir has been turned invisible even inside Kashmir. The forces on checkpoints have specific instructions to disallow journalists to cross the barrier. I saw a tv crew from Delhi inside a hotel outside Rajbagh Police station - they were saying Kashmir is calm."
A report in Indian Express delved upon the pain that Kashmiri traders in Kerala’s Kochi felt about not being able to get in touch with their parents.

“In 30 years of conflict in Kashmir, landline phones have never been blocked. Last night, even that happened. When you’re sitting so far away from Kashmir and you don’t know what’s happening to your families, it’s a horrifying feeling. It is like sitting on a time-bomb and waiting for it to burst. It is a very difficult emotion, of not being able to do anything. I worry for my family,” said Sajid Khatai, who arrived in Kochi in Kerala at the age of 21 after his uncle began a business here.

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