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Kashmir: Who is the Victim?

What Kashmir is suffering from today is collateral damage of the mind.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

Ernest Hemingway’s famous words appear in A Farewell to Arms, his book about the First World War. Unlike him, I don’t have war in my life, so maybe I don’t have the experience to truly understand what he was trying to say. My guess is, if we don’t allow ourselves to be broken, we will be killed. If we are good and gentle and brave, we will be killed in a hurry.

I am quite sure I will not be killed in a hurry. Death will hound me but will not kill me. I will keep surviving it because I know I am not its prime target.

The wars of today have found their targets in Syria, in Nigeria, in Afghanistan, in Kashmir. I am low on war’s radar.

This situation presents me with a dilemma of sorts. If there is no special hurry to kill me, it means the world has not managed to break me. It means I am not yet strong at the broken places. It means I am neither good nor gentle nor brave.

People like me are not directly affected by conflicts, yet believe they are part of one. We indulge in passing the blame, creating Photoshopped images for Facebook and WhatsApp posts and commenting on the conflicts of our times, such as Kashmir.

Kashmir today stands at the crossroads, and it is we, the common people of India, who are afraid of being broken and proven wrong, who are pushing it over the edge. For the past 28 years, the infiltrators and terrorists backed by Pakistan have successfully stoked a fire. Ironically, it has been done in a place that had a history of communal harmony for thousands of years. If Kashmir today is not a paradise, it is because the Kashmiriyat of Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits has been forced to desert the valley. The objective of the infiltrators is to prevent that Kashmiriyat from coming back. If we keep fighting each other, why would they need to send an army across? It’s a thought through tactical move that seems obvious at the surface, yet is quickly ignored.

It makes the two warring groups look down upon the suffering of each other rather than condemn it with mutual empathy. What Kashmir is suffering from today is collateral damage — suffered both by civilians and the army. It stokes alienation amid the innocent civilians who have nothing to do with terrorism, and it draws honest soldiers into a guerrilla warfare where opening fire brings a risk of being called inhuman while not reacting can mean losing one’s life.

People who are not part of either of the two narratives wonder what they can do to bring back Kashmiriyat. The people of India are the cheerleaders in the arena that is turning red with the blood of our fellow men. We need not take out our own swords to propagate blame and defend our arguments at every turn. We need not call every Kashmiri a terrorist and every soldier inhuman. Can we acknowledge that no suffering, be it of the Kashmiri Pandits, the Kashmiri Muslims or the Indian army, is lesser or greater than another’s?

Lieutenant Umar Fayyaz may help us in doing so. A Muslim from a suburb of Kashmir, he chose to be an Indian army officer rather than a militant, bridging the gap between the two narratives. Fayyaz was killed by militants. Can we remember that he was a Kashmiri, a Muslim, an Indian and a brave army officer all at once?

I think a world war of his time made Hemingway figure that out. For us today, lest not forget that death doesn’t chase us. It chases the people of the wars of our times, of the conflict zones of Kashmir or Syria, day in and day out. It chases both the civilians and the army men. It will not come after us in a hurry. Can we not fear being broken? Can we then be good, gentle and brave?

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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