I want my Paradise back

few months ago I was in Delhi with my family and at the airport when a taxi driver asked me my state of origin. When I said I was from Kashmir- the driver jumped to ask “are you are from the same place where IAS topper is from?” My eyes gleamed with pride however my pride was tempered because Kashmir has been synonymous with militancy, bomb blasts, and violence in the past. Just a month ago, I was in Delhi again and another taxi driver asked me why we Kashmir throw stones and destroy our own education? I had no answer but I kept thinking about this question.

While watching the inauguration of common wealth games on TV, I felt extremely overwhelmed with mixed emotions, happiness, sadness and anger. Happiness as I am proud of my great country, sadness as Kashmir is still in mourning and anger as Kashmir has been engulfed in yet another tragedy – the daily hartaals, stone pelting, curfews, deserted street, school closings and this spiral of violence and agitation continues unabated. Watching the death and destruction from both inside and outside the valley my consciousness would not forgive me if I don’t ventilate my frustration with the status quo and hope and pray that this article will provoke the talented thoughts and minds so that commonsense will prevail and Kashmir will be a paradise once again.

Kashmir valley, the land of Sufis and mystics, has been known for its beautiful mountains, picturesque lakes, rich cultural heritage, religious tolerance and peace. The people of Kashmir have suffered and been traumatized for the last six decades which has left deep scars on the collective memories of Kashmir. The vicious cycle of violence claimed lives of more than hundred thousand people. Although there was a brief period of relief, it seems the ghosts of violence have returned to snatch away the peace and prosperity again. The world has changed an alarming speed but we are still obsessed with the same old system of self-destruction by seeking justice by strikes, bands and stones. Protests and stone pelting have become indistinguishable and the burning of public institutions and vandalisation of public property has become routine. The recent hartaals and curfews have devastated our economy, tourism, education sector, healthcare delivery and other sectors. We claim to be the most religious people of the universe but we indulge in behavior, which has no justification. We provoke the forces by throwing stones at them. We as Muslims are commanded in the Qur'an not to begin hostilities, embark on any act of aggression, violate the rights of others, or harm the innocent. Even hurting or destroying animals or trees are forbidden.

As inheritors of sacrifices of more than one hundred thousand people, we ought to have developed at least some insight of the grave problem. If only increasing the number of dead could retrieve us from the oppression then more than hundred thousand people of past two decade ought to have delivered us. The problem with us in the current scenario is that nobody is using commonsense or logic to deal with situation. Some reasons we seem to have collective amnesia. The silent majority finds itself helpless in violence-scarred milieu. We need to understand that genuine demands- of freedom of expression, human rights, discrimination, jobs, and economic development can be achieved by peaceful means. The strength of public is enormous provided it is used for constructive purposes. While peaceful protests are part of the space that any democracy should offer its people, there is no scope for violence in any society. We don’t realize the stakes and the long lasting consequences. We don’t’ realize that very survival of Kashmir is at stake!

Our greatest misfortune has been the attitude of our own leaders, they have never done anything sincerely for us- corruption has become so rampant that Kashmir has got the honor of being the 2nd most corrupt state in India after Bihar. Part of the ongoing tragedy is the manifestation of a deep-seated rivalry and animosity between rival political parties. They routinely express a profoundly distorted view of problem. They routinely exploited people for their own electoral gains. The concept of healthy opposition is non-existent in Kashmir. Political parties are up in arms against each other; there is no dearth of taunts and rebukes. Their comments are divisive and communally charged- divisive at a time when we need unity; communally charged at a time when we need communal harmony but nobody among their ranks has the courage rise above politics to stop misleading inciting and instigating crowds to violence, mayhem and arson? The personal animosity and aimless vision of so-called leaders cannot justify the ongoing struggle. It is time that the people and the leaders stop living under the illusion of a false dream as they are only endangering the very existence of Kashmir.

Too many people suffered and traumatized, too many mothers and fathers have lost children, too many wives has been widowed, too many children have become orphans, too much destruction of public property and education has occurred. The ongoing violence has taken a heavy toll on our mental health as rates of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder, suicide and drug abuse have increased at an alarming rate. In fact according to the recent surveys, Kashmir has one of the highest rates of PTSD/suicide in whole world.

All of us may not agree but we have to accept the ground realities- we know it very well what other side has to offer us? I am not condoning Indian politicians for they have made terrible blunders in Kashmir but we need to have a thorough self-evaluation first!

India was created as a democratic and secular nation for the welfare of people irrespective of religion; caste and creed and equality, fraternity and brotherhood are the cornerstones of Indian constitution. If United States had shown the world that a African American with a Kenyan Muslim Father can be President of the only superpower in the world, India also had shown that a Sikh can be Prime Minister, Muslim as president and a boy from a Kashmiri village can be IAS topper- that the India we should dream about.

There is an India beyond what we see in Kashmir.
There is an India beyond these massive bunkers and security forces.
There is an India of future – 2nd most powerful country in world-a potential economic giant.
There is an India of vibrant new generation- emerging knowledge superpower.
There is an India of entrepreneurs- Azim Premji, Irfan Alam.
There is an India of Professionals: Dr. C. M. Habibullah, Dr. S. N. A. Rizvi.
There is an India of Scientists: APJ abul Kalam, Israr Ahmed.
There is an India of Social activist: Salim Ali, Shabana Azmi.
There is an India of technology- Infosys, Tata and Wipro.
There is an India of free media –M J Akbar, Barkha Dutt and Gautum Navlakha.
There is an India of Bollywood –Amir Khan, Nasirrudin Shah.
There is an India of sports- Sania Mirza, Irfan Pathan.
There is an India of Music-, A R Rehman, Ehsaan Noorani, Bismillah Khan.
There is an India of CWG 2010.

That is the India we should dream about:

We need to think clearly and realistically and do some soul-searching,
We need think with our minds and not hearts and take a higher road.
We have to make very clear choices not out of the impulsivity of the moment or religious fervor but thinking deep and hard keeping in mind the past present and future.
We need to know the harsh realities of the global scenario.
We need to realize the dynamics of international politics especially post 9/11 scenario.
We need to in mind the strategic position of J & K in relation to its neighbors.
We need to realize that this violence and hatred has given us nothing but pain, agony and despair.
We need to realize that it has blocked all our ways and means of progress and peace.
We have lost one generation to the militancy and another one to drug abuse and mental illnesses and are on the verge of losing another one too.
We need more of people like Shah Faesal who has made us proud.

We have to change and wake up now or never.
We know the task ahead is difficult but not insurmountable.
We need to know and ask:
Where Kashmir goes from here?
Why can't we change?
Why can’t we shun a politics that breeds division, and conflict?
Why let our children suffer?
Why let our people remain in darkness?
Why do we want our kids to throw stones and getting shot at?
Why put our children on the front only to wait for their martyrdom?
Why can’t we give them gift of education and prosperity?
Why can’t we teach them a moderate, civilized approach to dealing with their problems?
What are we going leave for our forthcoming generations?

Let’s cease the moment-our moment.
Let us summon a new spirit of Kashmiryat, new spirit of responsibility where each of us resolves to come in and work harder not for only ourselves, but also each other.
Lets us stop making attempts to correct history by committing one mass blunder after another.
Let’s stop making the same mistake again and again hoping to get a different result.
Lets open doors of opportunity for our kids and restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace.
Let us resist the temptation that has poisoned our valley for so long.
Let’s embrace the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past.
Let’s reap the fruits of India’s booming economy.
Let’s give you children gift of education, security and hope.
Let’s build secular, economically sound, tolerant, and politically aware next-generation.
Let’s build an educated, skilled, and intelligent; techno-savvy next generation to face the challenges of 21st century.
Let’s come out of this darkness with courage and conviction.
Let’s start afresh a morning of hope and change; and
Let’s give dialogue and peace a chance.

History will never forgive us if we don’t act wisely at this critical juncture. I hope and pray that peace returns to the beautiful valley forever!
The writer is a Kashmiri physician based in the Washington area in the USA. He invites feedback at his emailid peaceinvalley@gmail.com
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These are good points. The Doctor is saying the right words but will the people listen? Even if the people listen, will the politicians listen?
Added By Ghulam Bhat
This a great indepth observation by Resp. Doctor Sahib depicting the facts about our paradise. I believe we have still miles to go get it back on the rails. I am longing impateiently for the day to arrive. God Bless us all.
Added By satish raina
Respected Doctor Sahib I drafted a response for your letter but it came back saying that it is not a valid e,mail ID. Please sent me test mail from your e,mail ID. My e,mail ID is vvkaul@yahoo.com. Your letter is really thought provoking & thanks for the same.
Added By veena kaul
peaceinvalley@gmail.com is the email we have for Dr. Ahmed which he wants to be contacted on. Please try this emailid. Thanks
Added By Editor Shehjar