Few days back l got an invitation to lead the youth delegation, who was to engage with the central government’s Kashmir interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma.
To be candid with you, I was very reluctant to accept the invite. Even my family was reluctant, more so my dad was in acute vacillation mode too. The argument they would put-forth was:
•These talks are futile, as to why waste time in such useless exercise?
•You would be seen as a traitor by Kashmir if you participate in the talks.
Albeit after the initial vacillation I led the youth delegation to Dak Bungalow Baramulla for the talks. Wait! Before you get ideas and carve an opinion of ‘traitor-me’, read as to what transpired in the closed-door meeting.
Dineshwar Sharma: Good afternoon (with a smile on face). (We all settled down in the talk-chamber, l took a chair right next to Mr. Sharma, and it was on purpose.)
DS: So young men how have you been?
Me: Good afternoon sir…As well as one could be in valley (with a smile). Sir, thank you for giving us a platform to speak, we’re often gagged here. Freedom of speech is an exception and not a rule in this place.
DS: (Smiles…talks out-of-context) Dhoni had come here and you guys chanted Afridi! Afridi!
Me: That’s right sir. A humongous majority of people root for Pakistan cricket squad in an India vs Pakistan encounter. Not only that people here root for Zimbabwe or Kenya or whosoever when they are pitted against Indian cricket team. That’s the truth sir. We can sugarcoat things and live in a fool’s paradise or we can take the bull by the horn. The choice is ours.
DS: (Nods in affirmation). Such bitterness. Why?
Me: Sir, we don’t hate India per se. You have to put things in perspective. The face of India in Kashmir is Army Paramilitary and Police. Sir, l couldn’t have my dinner when Nirbhaya happened in Delhi. The judiciary fast tracked the case and handed exemplary punishment to culprits. Kudos! Sir, there are so many Nirbhaya’s waiting in KunanPoshpora and you don’t even acknowledge their plight. Imagine! Sir, there are fake encounters (remember Machil) and enquiries’ prove it beyond doubt and yet culprits are shielded. Imagine! Sir, you give gallantry awards to men-in-boots who tie hapless Kashmiri’s to bonnet’s. Imagine! And sir when your own institutions (SHRC) give compensation to the aggrieved, you dishonour the decree. Sir, there is a 15 year old kid in my mohalla who was booked under Public Safety Act (PSA).The kid has been bailed out. He used to play cricket with us. Now the only thing that runs on his mind is an ‘anti-you sentiment’. Aren’t you yourself pushing the juvenile and naive youth towards violence?
DS: (Nods all the way) Young people should acquire knowledge, study and make their future. That’s Azadi for them.
Me: True sir. There is a huge Diaspora of Kashmir studying in various Indian states. Sir, how many times we hear that Kashmiri students studying in your colleges and universities have been rusticated, just for cheering the cricketers of a particular nation? Sir, students are young and naive. Is this sort of treatment justified? Aren’t you playing to the gallery of the neighboring country?
DS: Nods. What do you do?
Me: Sir, I teach Public Administration.
DS: You folks should participate more and more in UPSC.
Me: Yes sir, in fact we have one of the highest ratios in India of ‘candidates qualifying to appearing’. Sir, the UPSC preparation heavily depends on internet. Ironically, we’re gagged of internet every now and then. The conflict is eating our potent-youth. How to prepare in the scenario?
DS: What do you suggest then?
Me: Me suggesting you, that’s sheer-offence to you stature sir. You know everything that needs to be done. I’m sure you’re compiling a very relevant and remedial report. The only worry is that your wonderful report/remedies shouldn’t meet the same fate as was met out to the report compiled by Dilip Padgoanker et.al.
DS: (Asks for my phone number, notes it down in his diary on the top. Stands-up…shakes my hand…and invites me to Delhi).
PS: I apologize to the other members of the delegation for not giving them an opportunity to talk and for literally hijacking the talks. Pardon folks, it was inadvertent.
Owais Nanda is an alumni of Business School, University of Kashmir and could be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org