An open letter to all Indians on Kashmir

Inside out

It has been five days since our government and Parliament divested Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. As per the new script, we are all supposed to live happily as one large family henceforth. Cross-border terrorism will stop, and Kashmir will become as Indian as the rest of the country. (PTI File Photo)

Dear fellow citizens,

It has been five days since our government and Parliament divested Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. As per the new script, we are all supposed to live happily as one large family henceforth. Cross-border terrorism will stop, and Kashmir will become as Indian as the rest of the country.

It all sounds very good but it’s just a tale we’re telling ourselves. We have heard the many legal and constitutional arguments for and against the new reality of J&K. But all I have felt is a deep, deep sadness. And I know that I won’t be able to love anything good and kind and innocent until I acknowledge what our government has made us partners in. 

Parliament is now like a giant hall of mirrors showing us the winners of 2019. There is no Opposition to speak of. The Opposition benches are hollowed out and cannot carry their own weight, forget that of the entire country. In this hall of mirrors, there is just one kind of leader who reflects himself back to us – and he is decisive and successful. Listening to Amit Shah in Parliament, it struck me that this is the only narrative that we can comprehend because there is none other left with the ability to make us imagine things done differently.

Some may argue that this was inevitable for Kashmir, but nobody would want this done to their own. A state entirely shut down, no Internet or phone lines or cable TV , thousands and thousands of soldiers, way more than the usual, on the ground. A senior colleague remarked on the day Shah announced the decision in Rajya Sabha that it felt like the day Babri Masjid was destroyed. One minute it was there, a symbol of something Indian, even if it was highly contested, and then the next minute it was gone.

Now, something much deeper and essential has also gone up in smoke: Our belief in ourselves to be good and the desire in us for the well-being of all. I can no longer speak to my child of righteousness; cynicism has poisoned that conversation.

Narendra Modi and Shah are venerated and feted by a billion perhaps. Yet, wasn’t this their lamp to carry – the lamp of how all of us should behave towards each other as Indians? But instead of showing us the way, they have shown us that we need to lock up our own people and take away their right to have a view about their future. What is the future of this country where the Constitution was the highest thing given to us? Modi and his government have managed to take away the burning light at the centre of the holy book – the lamp that showed us how to think of ourselves as Indians, the idea and the aspiration that the State will treat all its citizens equally.

Now, there is nothing that gives us the confidence that we will find a way to correct unpardonable wrongs. Only, and if only, we can now find a way to tell the people of Kashmir why we have acted thus and seek their forgiveness can we hope to redeem ourselves in our own eyes. Short of that, it is just darkness, and more darkness, and no light to show us where we are headed.

Yours truly,
A heartbroken Indian

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