Eid in the times of curfewed Kashmir

Such is our life that even the celebration of festivals depends on somebody’s permission.

By SAMIYALATEIF

Breaking heartfelt promises is hard. It shatters your helpless self. My 12-year-old cousin Safa – who means the world to me – has not spoken to me for a week now. I broke her heart. I broke my promise of coming home on Eid to be with her.

Safa lives in my parent’s home in Sopore, the apple town of Kashmir, because schools in the Valley have been shut for more than two months now. I had promised her that I would be in Kashmir for Eid, much before the killing of Burhan Wani. My husband and I had decided last year that we would be home for Eid-Al-Adha.

And I had been earnestly waiting for Eid to come. Now that it is here, I am not going home. My Muslim friends in Mumbai and Delhi are all returning to their homes for the festival and here I am, trying to make Safa understand why I could not.

Somehow, I feel we Kashmiris are condemned. Condemned to see our blood spilling into the streets every day so we know everything around us is not normal even when we are told it is. But this is life for every person who comes from a conflict zone. Our lives, our priorities, our choices, our politics, our happiness, our helplessness, our festivals – all depend on the situation at home.

More than two months have passed since my family was caged. From phones to internet, food to market, weddings to funerals, everything depends on how the policeman standing guard on the street treats you. In emergencies, Kashmiris travel during the night or early in the morning, depending on the mood of the security forces.

This won’t be my first Eid without family, but yes, it would be the first when I have wanted to be with them, and feel utterly helpless.

At the time of writing this piece, I got to know that phone lines would be disconnected in Kashmir. But even on the eve of Eid? The first thing I did was call my mother to tell her that we won’t be able to speak tomorrow – on Eid day – but her phone was not reachable. The services had been snapped already.

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A man is rushed to a hospital in Srinagar for treatment after he was injured in clashes between protesters and police in South Kashmir. Photo: Reuters

We, the children of conflict, are quite sensitive to the smallest of things. For we know their worth. The freedom to text, to go out as per our convenience, to visit relatives or to see off our dead ones and to mourn the martyred – everything is a luxury for us. At times, I haven’t been able to speak to my family for days on end, clueless about what they must go through. Do they have enough food, enough medicines at home? The situation in the Valley has forced me to become paranoid. I now call home on alternate days, not knowing the next time I would be able to talk to my family.

To log into Facebook and Twitter is frustrating, as most of the news on my timeline is about Kashmir, killings and the wounded. A Kashmiri away from home doesn’t have the luxury to cry and mourn. Instead, I have a job that deals with the news that it makes. A job where I have to write how many were are killed, blinded and handicapped every day. For the rest of my friends and colleagues, they are numbers, but for me they are my own. But I have to carry on, stay normal and keep doing my job.

Killings are a routine to us. I have lived them as a child of conflict.

The armed conflict began in Kashmir when I was a child. We have grown up together. But now, another generation is becoming a witness to it. Safa, my cousin, knows the difference between curfew and hartal. She can tell a pellet from a bullet. May be kids her age beyond Kashmir have read about it, but she has seen it all, just as we did in the ’90s.

While kids of her age go to parks and picnics in the rest of the world, she is confined to home. The only happiness she was looking for was an Eid with me, and I took that away too.

When I was asking my mother to persuade her to speak with me on phone yesterday, Safa was in tears: “You have changed. Everyone does after marriage.” I had no answer, because I had broken my promise. I could not tell her that it was our Kashmir that came in the way. But she is intelligent, and she will understand that I wanted to keep my word, but such is Kashmir and such is our life that even the celebration of festivals depends on somebody’s permission.

Condemned, aren’t we?

Extracted fromdailyo

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