As a kid in Kashmir I always used to hear stereotypes about people and places like do not grow beard outside Kashmir, they will not treat you with equality. These narratives were planted in our minds as if places outside were communal in nature where one was seen with the lens of religion.
I always ignored those remarks and believed that India is one and everyone is treated equally under the Constitution. Today, however, this thought seems distant.
Over a week after the spate of violence rocked the national capital, this morning I was thrown out of my friend’s rented house by his landlord. The reason being, I am a Kashmiri. I spent the day wandering in the city looking for a place to crash.
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I had always thought that no matter what happens humanity will always trump evil. Today, I lost faith in that belief. What had I done that I was being made to sit on the side of the road on a hot sunny day in PM Narendra Modi’s Delhi? Is it a sin to be a Kashmiri?
This is not just one isolated incident, there are a lot of incidents and Indian democracy is ridiculously failing in providing support to the Constitution. I repeat my question of what is wrong in being a Kashmiri? Or Why are Kashmiris treated differently?
Being a Kashmiri I always find it irritating in facing frequent questions from people – even strangers – about my identity.
Maybe they feel that Kashmir is home to violence, militancy, and that every Kashmiri is anti-India, pro-Pakistan, who is away from home just to spread violence and spew venom. In fact, Kashmir is by far different than it is painted. A few days ago, I left my home in Srinagar for Delhi. I was staying with my Hindu friend in Murika near JNU for some days. Everything was normal until the house owner came to know that I am a Kashmiri. He started asking my friend when will I leave.
On the same day, I decided to leave my friend’s room and get my own flat. We spoke to many owners who were ready to give us keys until they came to know that I was a Kashmiri. When the first landlord refused to give us accommodation, we went to some other places. We struggled in Mayur Vihar, South Extension, Murika, Noida for several days looking for a room, but we were heard nowhere just because of my identity.
In the meantime, in civil lines, locals pointed out that these Kashmiris shouldn’t be allowed in our state who know what they will do. That was the heartbreaking point for me, where I realized the cost of being a citizen of J&K.
Such people do not usually know you. They keep asking questions that no one will like. They bother you and even sometimes harass you. These are people if you encounter say sorry even if you have not done anything wrong and move forward. They will drain your energy out. An alarm blares in my mind whenever I see them.
Kashmiri friends who live in other parts of the country tell me they are more prone to be discriminated against in social contact, social discourse and ordinary give-and-take between common people. Usually, they keep a distance from people.
The point simply put is this: People in Kashmir feel they are caught in a cleft stick. On one side is Pakistan’s sense of military insecurity and ambition, nurtured over decades since Partition; and on the other is the arrogance that leads New Delhi’s civil leadership to rule over the region with norms different from those for other states.
The most sensible thing for a Kashmiri to do under the circumstances is to be themselves and not get into unnecessary sentimentality and arguments that vitiate the atmosphere. It’s not only in Delhi if you are a Kashmiri you don’t get rooms in hotels outside the state because the Aadhar points that you belong to J&K.
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I don’t know why people judge every Kashmiri with the tag of a terrorist, THEY ARE NOT. They reach out to other cities in search of better opportunities, better education, better living standard, NOT FOR RAISING SLOGANS. The actions of a few can not be used to judge and chastise an entire community or worse the entire state. Please don’t do that.
India is about inclusivity and we Kashmiris are the same as you. The only difference is we have better apple orchards!
The author, Wahid Bhat is a journalist in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.