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February 28, 2019

Kashmir and freedom


February 28, 2019

There are events that define the future course of history. Mangal Pandey, a sepoy in the 34th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry of the East India Company, is remembered in Indian history as a hero and the first Indian sepoy to attack his British officers. He was captured and hanged on April 8, 1857.

India treats Madan Lal Dhingra as another icon and the first revolutionary of the Indian freedom movement. As a student in England, he assassinated Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie with four bullets to his face. Captured attempting suicide, he spoke at his trial about “the terrible oppression and horrible atrocities committed in India; the killing of Indians and the outraging of our women”.

His last words at the gallows on Aug 17, 1909 were: “A nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war.... The only lesson required in India is to learn how to die, and the only way to teach it is by dying ourselves.”

These are only two of the many who took up arms or urged taking up arms against the British occupiers. They are revered by India as iconic freedom fighters; to the British they were rebels and traitors.

Today, Indian crimes, documented by international agencies, find a convenient scapegoat in Pakistan; a country which itself has borne the brunt of terrorism perpetrated and abetted also by India. Today, Gen Bipin Rawat gives vent to the occupier mindset by saying: “In fact, I wish these people (Kashmiris), instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I want to do”.

Irrespective of what Kashmiris do, the brutal Indian occupation has seen the martyrdom of millions of Kashmiris, rape of minor girls, and the young and old, maiming and blinding of thousands by pellet guns, arson and internments under draconian laws. Can one expect anything but anger and militancy from young Kashmiris who see the world oblivious to the horrendous genocide and to brutalities of such dastardly proportions?

Ronald Reagan feted a group of Afghan mujahideen at the White House in 1985 and gushed over them as “the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers”. This at a time when Nelson Mandela, incarcerated as prisoner number 466/64 in a cell at Robben Island for standing up to the apartheid regime, was labeled a “terrorist” by the Pentagon’s official watch list. Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, once incarcerated and deemed a terrorist, was released recently on American request. He now sits across the table, heading Taliban negotiations with a desperate Washington seeking exit from Afghanistan after seventeen ruinous years of a war that took millions of lives and cost trillions of dollars.

India, bent upon suppressing the Kashmiri yearning for Azaadi should ponder as to how a land known as Pir Waer (land of sufis and saints) and Amir Khusro’s ‘Firdaus bar roy e zamin’ (paradise on earth) has morphed into an inferno and how hands that wove the fabled and delicate Shahtoosh and Pashmina have come to hold slings and guns, and drive explosives-laden vehicles.

Kashmiris follow the path taught by the examples of aspiration for freedom in Indian history, and at times choose death to remain free. Today, every single Kashmiri is ready to sacrifice his life to be free. The only deafening sound that reverberates in the once pristine land that was Kashmir is of brutal gunfire – countered by Azad and Azaadi.

The writer is a freelancecontributor.

Email: miradnana[email protected] com

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