There is a huge disconnect between Kashmir and New Delhi and the state’s BJP-PDP government has further alienated the Kashmiris, says author and columnist Humra Quraishi, who has penned books such as “Meer” and “Kashmir – The Untold Story”, a narrative of painful stories from the Valley.
Quraishi, who has extensively reported from the Valley for the last 26 years, also said the situation has only worsened over the years.
“The discrimination against Kashmiris is so bad that they fail to identify themselves as Indians,” said Quraishi, adding that the recent Handwara incident, in which a young girl was allegedly molested by security personnel, was the latest example. “Why did the police detain the girl who was molested? The Valley erupted after the incident,” she says.
The author, who has seen life in the Valley from close quarters, says most of the time, rapes by army personnel go unreported because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that is in force.
“If a woman is raped by a security personnel or jawan, he cannot be booked because of the act. It has to be reported to the Army Headquarters in Delhi,” she said.
Reminiscing about her days of reporting from Srinagar during the 1990s, she said that it has changed the philosophy of life.
“It was a war-like situation in the Valley. In hospitals, I have seen so many deaths. Like Kashmiris, I have also become stoic in the face of death,” Quraishi said.
Now, Kashmir is like a “woman with makeup” she said, adding: “Now, the rebellion has been crushed. Under the façade, there is only anger and depression.”
The mood in the valley is quite despondent, she says.
“People say that they are stuck. They can’t go to Delhi as they are treated like terrorists. Here, they are dying. That’s the general sentiment,” Quraishi observed.
The recent incidents in the NIT campus have only added to the conflict, she noted. “I have never witnessed incidents like NIT before, thanks to the BJP-PDP government. People are angry that PDP got into alliance with BJP,” said Quraishi, adding that the situation has flared up after the BJP-PDP government assumed office for the second time after the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
“Dissent is crushed in universities and they made us feel like we shouldn’t speak.”
Quraishi noted that from her interactions with the people of the Valley, her feeling was that when Kashmiris demand independence, what they may be seeking is flexible democracy.
“It’s a wrong perception that Kashmir wants to go with Pakistan. They have seen the dark side of Pakistan too. They want independence, may be a flexible democracy. Their demand is to give them basic rights,” Quraishi said.
Being a Kashmiri Muslim is a double whammy, Quraishi felt. “Muslims are being threatened in India under the Modi government. For a Kashmiri Muslim, it’s a double whammy.”