Vulnerability is strength.

A Kashmiri Heart at Siege — A Personal Account by Omair Bhat

Feb 29, 2020

August of 2019 became a month of insomnia, despair and nightmare-ridden sleep for most Kashmiris, and particularly for those who were stranded away from home while Kashmir was put under a media, telecommunications, internet, broadcast news and public transport blockade unshy from being a complete lockdown and siege. Kashmiri poet and writer Omair Bhat presents his personal log of the first two weeks of such restless nights and tiresome days, when desperation competed with grief and anger to suffocate people like him in an endless uncertainty.

August of 2019 became a month of insomnia, despair and nightmare-ridden sleep for most Kashmiris, and particularly for those who were stranded away from home while Kashmir was put under a media, telecommunications, internet, broadcast news and public transport blockade unshy from being a complete lockdown and siege. Kashmiri poet and writer Omair Bhat presents his personal log of the first two weeks of such restless nights and tiresome days, when desperation competed with grief and anger to suffocate people like him in an endless uncertainty.

Note: An earlier version of this piece titled "Diary of Silences" appeared in the Dawn Newspaper on August 25, 2019.

Mad Heart, be brave.

Living in a simulacrum of siege outside of siege.

Kashmir was put under indefinite curfew after Article 370 was abrogated. By whatever fictitious thread Kashmir had been tied to the union of India, it was cut lose. At midnight, on 5th August mobile networks were snapped.

We will remember it as the first night of Kristallnacht.

It has been 14 days already. No phone calls can be made to home.

There is a total communication blackout.

 

Day 1.

Yesterday, at around 11 pm, while saying goodbye to my parents and my grandfather (I remembered Allah) I wasn't sure, like rest of my friends in Delhi, when and how I will speak to them again. We spoke for a while. I was mainly asked to take precautions against any hostile gathering I might confront. I promised I'd stay low and quiet. I would stay in my apartment. I would eat well. I would not worry (how could I?). I would remain in contact with my brother (promise we'd take care of each other? Yes!). Were we speaking for the last time? No. No. We'd speak again. We would. Enough money to outlast the war? Buy groceries, milk, essentials? Perhaps. We've got big hearts. See: we're still laughing. Then, they expressed a stifled wish: if we have to die, if it's written in our fate, come home, let's die together. It broke me. I couldn't sleep throughout the night. I haven't slept in the day. The sad thought that I will probably speak to them again after so many months of brutal violence, keeps me wide awake. The struggle against each passing second fills me with despair. (I remember Allah). While hope, the skylight in the attic, reassures me of the reunion with my elaborate family in this life (after we have won the war),  Faith, noor that pours in through the skylight, reassures of a reunion in the hereafter. Inshallah.

 

Day 2.

A heavy heart, it refuses a reassurance. It howls at the impossibility of the salvage from the pandemonium we have been thrown into. We're anxious. There's no news from the besieged country. At dawn, after waking up the entire night, I stand before Allah in supplication, sobbing inconsolably. I ask for the safety of my people. I ask for patience. I ask for freedom. Assi khoon dyut na? Teli kyazi eei ne? Didn’t we give our blood? Then, why won’t freedom come? The wrinkled roof of the sky–so dark, at daybreak, if you observe in contemplation you'll see your death in the shadow scurrying past the balcony of your apartment–in this split second, it stares right into my face. As it begins to rain, a little while later, I seek answers from Allah. Why did You not place a wall in the way to stop fascists from invading my country? Time slows down. I choke on my tears. My incantation (it will stay on my lips until I die, in my home, fighting fascists): Allahumma la sahla illa ma j'altahu sahla, wa Anta taj'al ulhazn idha Shi'ta sahla (“Oh Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy”). It is a routine. I sit on the window pondering over the ways we will have to fight this war (on our own).  On call, my friend tells me: someone just came from Kashmir. India has stationed its armies on our doorsteps at home. Our cities and villages have been turned into garrisons. No movement is allowed. We are witnessing one of the strictest and most brutal curfews in three decades. Allah is watching. What if? I understand his fears.  I ask him to tell the fascists, you'll only buy land in Kashmir over our dead bodies. We'll not give you an inch of land as long as we're alive. Allah is watching.

نَصْرٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ !

 

Day 3.

I haven't heard from anyone from home yet. It's almost frightening. We're on death's program. Purge awaits us. I remember Bolaño. In one of his poems, he writes about Godzilla in Mexico. Godzilla is probably the reference to the 70's coup d’état of Mexico. Bombs were falling. The air carried poison through the streets and into open windows. In the 21st century, in a forsaken place on earth, we anticipate (in fright) a similar (sort of) war against the defenceless. A simulacrum of that coup occurred in Srinagar on 5 August. It will have lethal repercussions. We're counting the days. We're hoping against hope. The siege takes a toll on us. Although, miles away, we sense the dread hovering over our homes in Kashmir. The significant question: how will we fight this war? We have inherited the stone as a weapon of war from our ancestors. However, we have also inherited immense courage. Our legacy: fighting successive oppressions and foreign occupations. Because: ہم نے گلشن کے تحفظ کی قسم کھائی ہے . We have honed our courage to the extent that, in the face of death, my people shout the loudest slogans of liberation. We'll fight you with it.

 

Day 4.

A foreboding. After Fajr, I sleep to the chanting of 'hu, Allah'.  In the early afternoon, I wake up to the perception that I am home. There's a funeral I to have attend. As soon as I wake up, I realize it was a terrible dream. I think of the family I belong to in the Valley, a country, I could give my life for. I pray that they are all doing well. The colonial expedition turns more violent. Tyranny confronts resilience. In the hospitals, nurses tend to the injured. Pellets in the lungs. Pellets in the eyes. A critical condition. How many red flags? The sad country has been held captive to an indefinite curfew. News reaches us, in Delhi, in planes carrying Narcissus from the graveyards of Srinagar. A poet arrives. We speak briefly on the phone. She is breathless. How has your Asthma been treating you? Did you have enough medicine? Yes. How many pictures did you take of the bridge that traverses the Jhelum? None. None. The soldiers were stationed outside our gate. They wouldn't let us out. Our house was turned into a jail for us. We have been sentenced for life. Will we grow accustomed to the silence the world has adopted over our sufferings like before? I tell her I don't know. I interject with a digression. When are we visiting the doctor for check-up? Perhaps day after. When do you plan to return to the prison that might be turned into a cemetery soon? Don't go back for a while. It's suffocating here. Stay. 'No, even if home is a prison right now, it's still our home that we will hold onto, until our death…our home, where we will revolt, where we will die.'

 

Day 5.

I walk in the crowded street in a Muslim ghetto in Delhi. No one speaks to anyone, no one is going anywhere. We are emptying our rage in dust. I understand that perhaps this is the wordless language of the dead, as Calvino says, 'which can only be lived, which cannot be recorded or remembered.' A maddening discovery of silence, where we negotiate our space for the grief. The correspondence is between a sigh and a quiet prayer. The (frantic) sound that emerges, in transition, resembles the shattering of glass. We listen to it only until it lasts. Then we return to the state of war. Where else must we go? Our homes are under siege. I dial home. One more time. One more—fucking—time. The networks are—still—dead. I hear the intermittent beep, four times. It forces me into the worst kind of quandary. I would bargain anything I have to hear my Baba, my grandfather, speak to me over the phone. Just once. I would immediately ask him, 'didn't we survive this?'. The last call, on 4th August, we spoke for three minutes: he asks me, if the need arises, disguise yourself as a clown if you have to, to survive an assault. Please. What would have I told him? I stayed quiet. I listened. He spoke to my conscience. I am—slightly—fearful whether my conscience would obey him. It asks me of my silence, the dead weight on my heart, each time I hear of Kashmir—the country (currently under brutal occupation of snake charmers), its people, for whose safety I have guaranteed my life and death. When—ever—I speak to him, I will ask, "wouldn't we win it? This war over my existence? How soon? How soon?".

 

Day 6.

132 hours later. I spoke to my grandfather. How kind of Allah to hear a prayer in the times of crisis. What did I bargain? The call lasted for 3 minutes, 35 seconds.  Sighs against sighs.

I asked if I could come home. He said it'd be impossible for me to reach Lolab (the forlorn frontier valley in the northern Kashmir where I live, from where no news has yet arrived). He told me he is stranded in Srinagar. He might leave for home in the evening (although he wasn't sure if he would reach Lolab on Eid). A parting note: we'll speak again on Wednesday. Until then, he hoped, history will be made in Kashmir. History. What could have it meant?

Naeem arrived from the frontier district last evening. He lives in Langate. I met him today in a dingy tea shop in Delhi’s Zakir Nagar ghetto. I had tears in eyes when we hugged. How is home? His words (quoting him verbatim):

“Within the distance of one kilometre I had to pass through 10 checkpoints. At one check point, which was manned by the SOG [Special Operations Group] wing of the Kashmir Police and CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force], I was beaten ruthlessly. He shows me the blue bruises on his back and shin.”

Narrating an incident to me, he remarks,

“the terror and violence that these men inflict on us, back home, is brazen and affront. It doesn't recognize between the sick and dead.”

A pregnant woman, in pain, is stranded on a checkpoint. Her husband approaches the Indian military officer:

"Sahab hamara biwi pregnant hai, paidal jaaraha hai haspataal, sahab jaanay dega meharbaani hogi."

Sir, my wife is pregnant. I am going to hospital by foot. Let me go, please.

 The response:

Wo aapkay bagair hi aaraam say mar jaayegi, waapis jao.”

She will die comfortably on her own, without you. Go back.

 

Day 7.

The circular glass cover of my wristwatch is broken. Time does not stop, even as it moves at a snail's pace. When it runs out, we buy more hours. It is a vast expanse of muddied water. The ripples, on the surface, signify crisis.  22:20 hrs. I long to hear my mother's voice. The siege has entered into its seventh day.  In absence of communication, I assume, we might've transformed into wretched memories back home. The residues of unfinished conversations from the spring before we journeyed into forgetfulness. That's how, perhaps, we're being remembered on the sun-drenched patios by our mothers. They are anxious for our safety. When we go back, whenever we go back, we will replace our absence with the immense sorrows of our hearts.  What weapons do we take back to break the siege? Their memories we're in possession of, their courage that we've inherited, their steadfastness they taught us as kids. It is an indestructible survival manual. Momentarily, I want to withdraw from the perception that the war has been brought upon us and, publicly, make an announcement: the despair of homesickness does not make us forget how to laugh. The previous day, late in the evening, a young boy told a gathering of Kashmiris, that he'd called on one of the satellite phone numbers given to us by the local subcontractor of the occupying troops in case we wanted to check on our families.  The call was received by an SSP ranked officer. The young boy on call: boyaa, wann theek chuka? Hey bro, are ya doin' well? The officer demanded respect: do you know who you are speaking with? The young boy: there's nothing left now. You as well will be gone soon. Please, don't try to discipline me. The officer, stunned into silence, drops the call. This short conversation reflects an attitude that will decide the fate of this battle (that, by the will of God, we will win).

 

Day 8.

The memory of home on the day of Eid: we wake up to the bustle of kitchen preparations. The aroma of cardamom in yakhin is irresistible. We make ablutions for the congregational Eid prayer.  A cloth is laid out in the drawing room. On it, a variety of bakery and confectionery assorted on steel trays. The kehwa is served first. And, salt tea follows. Then we leave for the prayer. The children run in the corridors. Occasionally, tugging at your sleeve, they ask for Eidi. At one point, taking you by the arm, "Deu ho".  ‘Give now, yo.’ A perfect arrangement of festivity. INTERRUPTION. The memory of home, like home, is under siege.  This year, our Eid was a silent protest we registered in the house of Allah. The victims of the miscarriage of justice. And yet, we know: InnaAllaha, Yamuru bil adel. And, surely, we'll leave justice to Allah. Because, He says: Fadth kuroonee adth kurkum (you remember Me; I will remember you). And don't we remember Him? Does He not remember us? We endure war. We endure separation from home. These are, indeed, difficult times. Home has been held hostage to the wagering of history by fascists. The revolution is inevitable.  Windows have been thrown open. We await it with our arms outstretched. Allah is on our side. We'll bring down the skies on our oppressors. The moon and the sun, the night and the day, the rotation of the planets, the twinkling of stars will witness their devastation on our lands.

 

Day 9.

A day of rain. J. spent his Eid locked down in his apartment. He rues the moment he returned to Delhi to resume his studies at a local college. He could have stayed home for Eid. Did he know things could turn this bad? We meet in Street 7. He lights a smoke. A passing remark: one must not give into the snare of rhetoric. It devours reason. J. recalls a story by Dostoyevsky. The dream of a ridiculous man. A madman now. What did he mean to do when he took out his pistol from the drawer, placing it in front of himself? I assume that when he says if it had not been for the little girl, he'd have shot himself: he likes to think reason disguised as despair and fright brought him back to a state of mind (before he went to sleep) where he first postponed and later called off his own execution. Why did he kill himself in the dream later? J. feigns resignation. Perhaps, the want to be transported far from the despair of reality, far from the menacing rain to the calm of utopia, was overpowering. Perhaps. What could one infer from the intuitive Dostoyevskyian curiosity? We venture into an eloquent conversation before I remind him of home. The news is bad. The curfew. The dead silence. We plunge into our sorrow. I ask him, 'when will we return to the state of normalcy? I run from place to place like a fugitive. Where does our journey end?' J. offers a different perspective. He quotes Darwish. It's our duty to know now what we long for. I return to Dostoyevsky: Freedom? Rhetoric. The cost? Reason. The rain thins into a drizzle. I negotiate my way back through the graveyard to M.'s apartment (where I must imagine myself as the ridiculous man?). I say a cautious prayer on my way. "Even if we may face death, long live the homeland."

 

Day 10.

Enough. The heart sinks into the shrieking of a sea. The calm has been rattled. I look for a reason to grow out of the confines of the fear that has been instilled in my imagination. I miss home terribly. There's a possibility. A beginning with no end. One must, after all, gamble a chance to respond to the cruelty of the colonizer. Fanon comes to my mind: we revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe. It is suffocating. The anger will erupt. The affront provocation warrants an answer. I suppose it is a war then. A bloody war. In consequence: from the debris of Kashmir, a bird will emerge and flutter away. A bloody thread will bind my soul to the primitive cherry tree in our courtyard at home. We'll turn into a pile of ash. Kashmir will be born anew. The prisons will dissolve into the porcelain of night. We'll fight the Pharaoh. We'll go back and see his determined end and the gradual victory. That's how I see our future now.

 

Day 11.

It is a black day. I am imparting history lessons to my readers. India celebrates its 73rd year of independence from the British rule. The irony hits its head against the wall and bleeds to death. Over these 73 years, India transformed Kashmir into a bottomless abyss. The project of colonizing Kashmir began on the very day the Indian army landed in Srinagar. Near the makeshift airport, there was a village bordering the capital city: Gogo. The Indian Army besieged the village, put an ambush on it and massacred people during the intervening night of 27 October, ’47. A massacre. A manslaughter. The people who could survive, fled their village. When they returned, the village had been burned to ash. When they returned, it was winter. In that year of misfortune, it had arrived early. They lived in makeshift houses until the summer of 1948, when, after nearly being effaced from the face of the earth, they began reconstructing their houses. During the ’71 war, they were asked to hide themselves in the trenches, built on their farmlands, to escape war casualties. The war was over. When they returned to till the farmlands in the summer of ’72, the army had occupied acres of their fertile lands. The people were turned away—forcibly. The idyllic farmlands of Gogo were later converted into a huge garrison. It was a blatant manifestation of occupation. In the 90s, an infamous torture center was built inside the highland military camp. It devoured the poet's paradise. It was here. The near perfect replica of hell. There was only wilderness. Precisely how, on 27 October ’47, India invaded Kashmir with an affront colonial ambition, using the temporary instrument of accession as a legitimizing alibi. On 5th August, it invaded Kashmir once again with a neo-colonial ambition, scrapping the same instrument of accession it had used 73 years ago to legitimize its presence in Kashmir. It employed crude violence to force us into submission then, it is employing violence to subjugate us now. The similarities are unmistakable. The village of Gogo, and the entire Kashmir, remains witness to this repeat of aggression. In the subsequent years, after ‘47 and until today, if one were to recount the accounts of the survivors from each one of the massacres and torture chambers, the earth would explode and swallow the entire humankind. However, our hope: the perpetual resistance. It never dwindled. It will never dwindle.

 

Day 12/ Day 13: 

312 hours. No news from home. On social media the overseers of occupation are manufacturing  normalcy to lie about whatever is happening in Kashmir right now. We know what they are up to. The application of brute violence on people is not new to my countryfolk. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn rightly argues that “Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.”

 

Day 14.

Pre-dawn prayers. The hours of silent calm. The voice has been severed from its source. The rain fell on the windowsill all night long. In the same week, for the second time, I woke up from a terrible nightmare. There was no end to it. It was turmoil. I had to force myself out from the cage it had spun around me. An iron cage of a sequence of unfortunate events. Poison to an anxiety that stems from the longing for a home under siege. What could have protected me from its imminent threat? I fell asleep early. I was transported to a place I could have safely called my home. Hue and cry. Commotion. The men and women wept like willows in the wind. We were fleeing a massacre. A responsibility was entrusted upon me. I was ferrying people to safety. That is to say, from one part of the dream to another part of the same dream. The executioners ran amok on the streets. I remembered my two siblings. I looked for them everywhere I could, in each of the corners and crevices of my dream. With great difficulty, I found them curled up against a wall by the riverbank. They smiled. I was aghast. I fell on my knees, bitterly hurt. I was collapsing. This was the funeral of formal humanism. A howling savagery so blatant it could bring down the skies on the oppressor. What did I have to witness? When I woke up, I immediately recalled the story of the infant martyr of Karbala. Ali Asghar (AS). Minutes before his martyrdom, when Hussein (AS) picks the infant in his arms, he asks: Hal min nasiro yansorona? The only meaning I could render from my nightmare: is there anyone who will come to our aid?  It filled me with more sorrow. Through a dream, perhaps, a tender voice has called for me, from home. I will attend to it—in blood and flesh.

Relevant Links

Ensure Press Freedom in Kashmir — Noam Chomsky, Ayesha Jalal, Tariq Ali, Hamid Dabashi and Several Prominent Figures Endorse Letter Addressing the UN and Worldwide Organizations with 450+ Signatures by Academics, Journalists, Writers, Researchers

Ensure Press Freedom in Kashmir — Noam Chomsky, Ayesha Jalal, Tariq Ali, Hamid Dabashi and Several Prominent Figures Endorse Letter Addressing the UN and Worldwide Organizations with 450+ Signatures by Academics, Journalists, Writers, Researchers

Prominent figures from academia and worldwide press along with several researchers and scholars have endorsed a written a letter and its petition to the UN and several international organizations to demand protection and freedom of press for Kashmiri journalists “charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)” that “can carry jail time of two to ten years” and without bail, for doing their job as journalists reporting from and about Kashmir. The letter covers the last few years of state-sanctioned targeting of Kashmir journalists, particularly since August 5, 2019, when India revoked Articles 370 and 35A while maintaining Kashmir under a media, communications, telephonic and press lockdown that a wide majority of Kashmir observers, scholars and experts have called “a siege.” With only 2G internet and mobile telephony restored recently and the press allowed to operate under constant threat of persecution in Kashmir, a new series of cases have been filed against Kashmiri journalists through the “Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Inverse Journal has embedded this letter directly from its source and provided a series of “relevant links” embedded directly from their respective sources covering this series of events.

read more
Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Over 170 Academics from Around the World Demand India Restore High-Speed Internet, Release Kashmiri Political Prisoners

Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Over 170 Academics from Around the World Demand India Restore High-Speed Internet, Release Kashmiri Political Prisoners

While the world readjusts to handle the Coronavirus, Kashmir is stuck under 2G internet (which was first rolled out in 1995) and without adequate equipment and facilities. As a result, the following letter has been sent from the Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN) and Concerned Academics & Professionals from around the world to the World Health Organization, UN Special Rapporteurs, and various international health organizations. You can view the official letter here. We have included relevant links embedded directly from the original news sources at the bottom of this letter. For more, check out our Kashmir 2019 Siege section.

read more
Professor Hafsa Kanjwal on the Last 100 Days of Kashmir Under Siege

Professor Hafsa Kanjwal on the Last 100 Days of Kashmir Under Siege

Professor Hafsa Kanjwal, who teaches South Asian history at Lafayette College and completed her doctorate specializing in contemporary Kashmiri history and women’s studies from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), has been a prominent voice on Kashmir under siege over the last 100 days. Here is an aggregated list of articles, interviews and media and television participations by Dr. Kanjwal, including a basic bibliography of resources pertinent to her work concerning Kashmir and its history. All media embedded/linked directly from their respective sources. As more material is published in the public domain with Hafsa’s participation on different platforms, we will keep on updating this “visual bibliography.”

read more
Professor Angana Chatterji Testifies About Kashmir Before the United States Congress

Professor Angana Chatterji Testifies About Kashmir Before the United States Congress

On October 22, 2019, the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on human rights in South Asia with a special focus on Kashmir. Here is the video of Professor Angana P. Chatterji’s expert testimony before the US Congress, along with a cited biographical profile of her professional, academic and research experience and the written submission that the three speakers on Kashmir were offered to make. Her submission is a 31 page document that is concise yet meticulously detailed to provide the proper context for her testimony as an expert with decades of research, academic and professional experience in multiple intersecting fields that have Kashmir as a core focal point. Professor Chatterji is also the Co-Chair of the Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Initiative, and Research Anthropologist at the Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkeley, and the Founding Co-chair of the precursor, Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Initiative at the Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business (2012-2015). She has worked extensively on Kashmir from multiple angles, producing a notable and highly referenced body of academic work and research material that has had a profound impact on scholarship and human rights activism. As such, we include references to some of her academic publications and other resources here in the context of Kashmir to bring greater attention to her extensive work. Note: all embeds are made directly from the source with each source cited.

read more
Professor Ather Zia on Articles 370/35A and the Ongoing Siege, Lockdown and Blackout Imposed on Kashmir

Professor Ather Zia on Articles 370/35A and the Ongoing Siege, Lockdown and Blackout Imposed on Kashmir

Here is a list of Professor Ather Zia’s interventions in the global media regarding the Indian government’s abrupt and secretive decision to repeal Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. Also included is a useful visual bibliography for our readers, scholars, researchers and journalists to become more acquainted with Professor Zia’s extensive work in multiple relevant and intersecting fields of knowledge centered on Kashmir, its past and its present, and above all, focusing on its peoples.

read more
International Book Club Discusses the Now Classic 'Until My Freedom Has Come' (Penguin, 2011)

International Book Club Discusses the Now Classic 'Until My Freedom Has Come' (Penguin, 2011)

Hoda Khatebi converses with Sanjay Kak, editor of “Until My Freedom Has Come” (Penguin, 2011), contributor Mohamad Junaid and Professor Hafsa Kanjwal about the present circumstances faced by Kashmiris in context of what the important text discussed eight years ago upon its publication. This revisitation to the book is as relevant as ever, especially considering the current climate entrapping Kashmir. Attached along with the Youtube Live Stream of the one-and-a-half hour discussion is a series of bibliographical references and resources to familiarize readers with some of the extensive work about Kashmir by the participants.

read more
Imprisoned Kashmiri Journalist Receives International Press Freedom Award in Absentia

Imprisoned Kashmiri Journalist Receives International Press Freedom Award in Absentia

On October 17th, the American National Press Club held its annual Fourth Estate Gala in Washington, D.C. where imprisoned Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan was awarded the Foreign Press Freedom Award for his journalistic writing for Kashmiri Narrator, a Kashmir-based magazine. In absentia of the recipient, John Donnelly (President of Military Reporters & Editors, and Chairman of the Press Freedom Committee at the US National Press Club) accepted the award on Aasif Sultan’s behalf. Here are the award acceptance speeches from the event relevant to Aasif, along with select press about Aasif’s imprisonment since August 2018.

read more
You Have the Right to Remain Silent — by Sheikh Saqib

You Have the Right to Remain Silent — by Sheikh Saqib

Sheikh Saqib arrives in New Delhi to work on his writing projects and communicate through the internet while making severe adjustments to continue with the pursuit of his education as an undergraduate student. In the process, he brings us this piece that narrates what young Kashmiris in Delhi have been experiencing through the communications blockade that has kept families apart and out of touch. The piece reflects the initial two months of the ongoing Indian siege on Kashmir, offering concrete examples of what it means when phone and internet services are deactivated by those in power and how such limitations cause severe loss, distress, and anxiety.

read more
The Fear of Being Caged and Cut off from the Rest of the World — by Sheikh Saqib

The Fear of Being Caged and Cut off from the Rest of the World — by Sheikh Saqib

Having graduated recently from the Summer Institute at the Iowa International Writers Workshop, young Sheikh Saqib summarizes his experience of the ongoing lock-down and media blockade imposed on Kashmir, right upon his return from the USA. As a student barely past his teens, Saqib describes the atmosphere observed and felt by the people of his native Srinagar, days before the Indian government’s announcement abrogating Articles 370 and 35A on August 5th and the weeks that have followed since. Accounts such as his are essential to understanding the situation in Kashmir from a Kashmiri perspective, and are welcomed at Inverse Journal, from Kashmiris of all walks of life, to narrate and describe what they have felt and observed under the latest siege that has put the Valley under complete lock-down and in an unprecedented halt. This time, the account comes from a young student who, just a few weeks ago, was learning how to write more effectively under the guidance and mentorship of faculty at University of Iowa’s prestigious MFA program to then landing back in Kashmir to face the present and enforced circumstances along with the rest of the Kashmiri population.

read more
Hand over your agency, Zooni — by Tabish Rafiq Mir

Hand over your agency, Zooni — by Tabish Rafiq Mir

Tabish Rafiq Mir provides a prompt critical response and interpretation to the recent Raw Mango fashion campaign that undermined the current situation in Kashmir while attempting to capitalizing on Kashmiri culture, tradition and history. The piece clearly exposes the orientalist and exoticizing gaze that repeatedly seeks to define Kashmir and Kashmris in unequal relation to India and its public, this time with Kashmiri culture becoming yet again a subject of “high end” consumerism served to a willfully oblivious Indian consumer base. Tabish Rafiq Mir’s article delves into the matter in greater detail and in unapologetic terms to expose a larger malaise that goes unquestioned as well as unnoticed. Tabish’s piece elucidates the insensitive and inconsiderate manner in which Kashmiri subjects are presented and represented beyond Kashmir, usually by non-Kashmiri others. The company has since withdrawn and recalled the release.

read more
Amid Communications Blockade, Kashmiri Journalists Report via Alternative Indian and International Media

Amid Communications Blockade, Kashmiri Journalists Report via Alternative Indian and International Media

In the spirit of sharing knowledge, at Inverse Journal we have employed oEmbed technology that allows us to cite and reference news and media items directly from their original source through direct embedding of such content displayed here in a visual format. Attached is our latest content aggregation of the stories emerging from the pens of Kashmiri journalists. Our purpose quite simply is to bring attention to Kashmiri voices during the ongoing media blackout and internet shutdown enforced since August 5th. Since there are limitations restricting the Kashmiri press in being able to do its job, especially in disseminating news reports of on-ground happenings via the internet, members of Kashmiri journalistic community have slowly been able to report in cooperation with alternative Indian and international media houses to get their reports, stories and coverage across, past the internet clampdown that continues to be imposed on the valley’s people.

Historically, Kashmiri journalists have had to follow a very strict protocol of reporting given the overreach of the Indian state and the militarized environment that Kashmir has been turned into, especially over the last three decades, with already several restrictions to freedom of press enforced seasonally, along with monitoring of what is written in local newspapers and publications. Within this context, and considering the fact that there is a greater volume of reporting coming from India and Pakistan about the current situation in Kashmir, it is important to highlight Kashmiri voices, and particularly, those emanating from the Kashmiri press at such a crucial hour. Given that Kashmir remains under a communications and media lockdown (with mobile and internet services down), an alternative media perspective has been required and logically emerged to give voice to silenced Kashmiris, among them members of the Kashmiri press. The possibility of recognized international media channels and alternative Indian press outlets finding their way into Kashmir has resulted in Kashmiri voices being heard as the media blackout remains intact and freedom of press severely denied or limited.
Kashmiri journalists and their readers will find an anonymous URL submission form at the bottom of this page in case they wish to share the link to their published work directly embedded along with the content already visible on this page. The content you submit must be published in compliance with the aforementioned curatorial approach, giving priority to Kashmiri voices, and can consist of stories and media co-produced with others.

read more
Professor Nitasha Kaul On India's Revocation of Articles 370 and 35A — Additional Media and Bibliography Included

Professor Nitasha Kaul On India's Revocation of Articles 370 and 35A — Additional Media and Bibliography Included

Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor in International Relations and Politics at University of Westminster, speaks in the global media about India’s revocation of Articles 370 and 35A. For the sake of knowledge-sharing, we have included additional media and a visual bibliography of some of her extensive writings on Kashmir that further contextualize the current situation. All content items are embedded directly from their original sources.

read more
Day 26: Select Indian Press Coverage of the Siege on Kashmir

Day 26: Select Indian Press Coverage of the Siege on Kashmir

In the spirit of bibliographical citation and referencing, here are some of the main stories and media (aggregated in a visual format) from the Indian press regarding the revocation of Article 370 and 35A and the events that have followed. The coverage on display here is properly embedded directly from the source and offers a view that is distinct to what mainstream Indian TV channels have been reporting when they claim that normalcy has been maintained in Kashmir. In abscence of Kashmiri journalists being able to do their job adequately and local press being severely restricted through the imposed internet and media blackout, Indian and international press outlets have taken on the task to report the happenings on the ground. This selection includes certain opinion pieces as well to provide further perspective on this historically abrupt chain of events enforced by the Indian government on August 5th.

read more
The US Calls India to Respect the Basic Human Rights of Kashmiris in a Transparent Manner

The US Calls India to Respect the Basic Human Rights of Kashmiris in a Transparent Manner

The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, chaired by Congressman Adam Smith, made a press release of the call made by Congressman Smith to the Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

The call by Congressman Smith to Ambassador Shringla refers to “legitimate concerns about the ongoing communications blackouts, increased militarization of the region, and enforcement of curfews” imposed on the people of Kashmir.

The statements made by the US Congressman also emphasized that the “Indian government must take steps to reduce these fears and offer greater transparency for the world to see what is happening there” while also demanding India’s “commitment to the protection of basic human rights and equal rights.” Congressman Smith also sought India’s “recognition for the potential disparate impact of this decision [Revocation of Articles 370 and 35A] on the region’s Muslim population and other minority groups.” The full statement from the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee is linked directly herein.

read more
#TheKashmirSyllabus - A List of Sources for Teaching and Learning about Kashmir

#TheKashmirSyllabus - A List of Sources for Teaching and Learning about Kashmir

Our readers have been asking about reading material to better understand what far too many Kashmiris have bitterly and desolately called The Forgotten Conflict.  As such, and now more than ever, the following embedded Google Doc titled #TheKashmirSyllabus is a course plan with weekly readings compiled by Kashmir scholars and experts from multiple fields of knowledge and with years and decades of experience in research, writing and scholarship on the topic of Kashmir and its unresolved history. The result are readings and resources from a diverse field of academic knowledge called Kashmir Studies. The document is featured in our Academia section and is embedded directly from its original source such that any updates and changes will be reflected immediately.

read more
The International Press Covers the Ongoing Indian Siege on Kashmir

The International Press Covers the Ongoing Indian Siege on Kashmir

The following is a Pinterest-like selection of videos, media and articles from the international press in its attempt to cover the ongoing siege of Kashmir by the Indian state, whose armed forces are patrolling every street corner and public place of gathering. With over 500,000 armed soldiers already placed within Kashmir for almost three decades, another 35,000 have been mobilized into the Himalayan territory. Phone lines and internet services have been disconnected, a military curfew has been imposed, and civilian movement stands severely restricted.

It is difficult at this time to gain access to ground-level reports from Kashmir (and Kashmiris themselves) as journalists have been kept from doing their job and press outlets restricted from carrying out their daily duties, with all such news outlets going out of circulation, particularly on the online medium. Added to that, the public assembly of people has been strictly disallowed, while despite the fact protests have emerged with armed attacks through tear gas shelling and pellet fire perpetrated by the Indian armed forces on Kashmiri civilians as the standard procedure policy of crowd containment that India has enforced in the valley.

Under such circumstances, this journal of contemporary culture has had to invoke the capital C in culture to fulfill the tasks of the press in some limited manner by presenting a compilation of materials that are already in circulation so that our audiences can be informed about the recent developments in Kashmir after the Indian election (that to a great extent obstructed us here at Inverse from routinely publishing the type of content that we all love, from poetry, fiction, to writings and reflections on film, music, art and academic writing). Needless to say, this editorial introduction is exclusively grounded in the limited news that has emerged from Kashmir along with the content provided by international outlets covering the dissolution of Articles 370 and 35A from the Constitution of India.

Given the rather secretive and abrupt decision by the Indian government to override provisions of the Indian constitution and the subsequent lock-down and media blackout in Kashmir imposed by the Indian state, there is great speculation as to what extreme measures (added to the current ones) the Indian government will take. Such measures translate directly to use of police and military force in case Kashmiri civilians respond through mass protest as would be expected since no democratic consensus has been established in revoking Articles 370 and 35A to incorporate Kashmir as a permanent union territory. Incidents of brute force against protesting and marching civilians have emerged, particularly from on-ground coverage by the BBC.
It is difficult at this time to gain access to ground-level reports from Kashmir (and Kashmiris themselves) as journalists have been kept from doing their job and press outlets restricted from carrying out their daily duties, with all such news outlets going out of circulation, particularly on the online medium. Added to that, the public assembly of people has been strictly disallowed, while despite the fact protests have emerged with armed attacks through tear gas shelling and pellet fire perpetrated by the Indian armed forces on Kashmiri civilians as the standard procedure policy of crowd containment that India has enforced in the valley.

Under such circumstances, this journal of contemporary culture has had to invoke the capital C in culture to fulfill the tasks of the press in some limited manner by presenting a compilation of materials that are already in circulation so that our audiences can be informed about the recent developments in Kashmir after the Indian election (that to a great extent obstructed us here at Inverse from routinely publishing the type of content that we all love, from poetry, fiction, to writings and reflections on film, music, art and academic writing). Needless to say, this editorial introduction is exclusively grounded in the limited news that has emerged from Kashmir along with the content provided by international outlets covering the dissolution of Articles 370 and 35A from the Constitution of India.

Given the rather secretive and abrupt decision by the Indian government to override provisions of the Indian constitution and the subsequent lock-down and media blackout in Kashmir imposed by the Indian state, there is great speculation as to what extreme measures (added to the current ones) the Indian government will take. Such measures translate directly to use of police and military force in case Kashmiri civilians respond through mass protest as would be expected since no democratic consensus has been established in revoking Articles 370 and 35A to incorporate Kashmir as a permanent union territory. Incidents of brute force against protesting and marching civilians have emerged, particularly from on-ground coverage by the BBC.

read more
Updated: Kashmiri Scholars and Members of the International Community Voice Dissent Over India's Latest Siege on Kashmir

Updated: Kashmiri Scholars and Members of the International Community Voice Dissent Over India's Latest Siege on Kashmir

A significant number of Kashmiri scholars, journalists, writers, members of the diaspora and the international community have their say on India’s revocation of Articles 370 and 35A. The Indian state stands in contradiction of its own constitutional logic as the primary provisions of democratic consensus have been bypassed by presidential order and employing the governor’s authorization. As it stands, there has been no democratic consensus over the matter by the people of Kashmir, who aside from not being consulted by means of a proper vote, have also been put under house arrest, under military watch on every street corner and public space, with mobile and broadband services shutdown, television channels out of service, telephone lines disconnected, public assembly prohibited and Section 144 being imposed indefinitely. Despite such extreme restrictions and mass scale silencing imposed by the government, members of the international Kashmiri community as well as global figures have not ceased to offer perspective on the matter. Meanwhile, back in Kashmir, it is impossible to receive news of any developments at ground level and people living outside of Kashmir are not able to contact their loved ones in the valley, which remains under severe military and police surveillance and watch. Attached is a compilation of media, articles and tweets from the besieged Himalayan territory.

read more
Professor Ather Zia Speaks About Articles 370 and 35A on BBC World News

Professor Ather Zia Speaks About Articles 370 and 35A on BBC World News

Professor Ather Zia provides her perspective on a special program by BBC World News covering the Indian government’s abrupt and secretive decision to repeal Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. The provisions of the articles have been illegally bypassed and contradicted to nullify the Kashmiri right to self-determination. Professor Zia provides the necessary historical and legal contexts from a Kashmiri perspective.

read more
Kavita Krishnan on the Revocation of Articles 370 and 35A (Jantar Mantar Protest)

Kavita Krishnan on the Revocation of Articles 370 and 35A (Jantar Mantar Protest)

Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML), Kavita Krishnan presents a series of logical, rational and measured counterarguments against the Indian government’s decision to scrap Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. Krishnan approaches the abrupt and contradictorily unlawful shift in the Indian government’s new order from the logic of federalism, placing particular emphasis on the simple fact that other territories governed by India maintain similar property and self-governance laws as Kashmir had been constitutionally held under for seven decades of Indian interjection in the disputed Himalayan territory. Kavita Krishnan is accompanied by other notable Indian leaders and members of India’s civil society at a peaceful protest held at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Articulating their views within the Indian legal and constitutional framework, the members of Indian civil society unanimously observed the illegality of the government in indefinitely dissolving the democratic process in Kashmir, as yet again no consent whatsoever from the Kashmiri people has been sought in repealing Articles 370 and 35A. According to the speakers, the Indian state has established the groundwork for a complete colonial occupation that is projected to create a massive shift in the demography and culture of the region. Prior to this event, Kashmir has seen over thirty years of military rule, with 500,000 to 700,000 troops placed in close proximity to civilian habitations, reducing the Himalayan territory to a police state. Kavita Krishnan’s speech is in Hindi.

read more
Share This!

About the Contributor

Omair Bhat thinks of himself as a memory keeper. His poems have previously appeared in Critical Muslim, The Sunflower Collective, Celebration, Cafe Dissensus and Kashmir Lit. In his free time, Omair reads poetry from all over the world while researching international poets and their writings. He is currently finalizing a manuscript of his first book of poems.