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Worried Faces in Kashmir

Worried Faces in Kashmir

Proff. V.K. Tripathi

I wished for 27 years to visit Kashmir to see for myself the
ground realties but time came now. Dr. Farooq Bhat, Head,
Physics Department, Islamic University of Science and
Technology (IUST) invited me to give 8 lectures to M.Sc.
(Physics) students on Electromagnetic Theory and Relativity. I
landed in Srinagar on May 23, 2017 and reached IUST campus
in university car at 12 noon. The department has young,
dedicated and competent faculty (one woman and nine men).
They greeted me with great warmth and excitement.

The openness, receptivity and brilliance of students (more than half of
whom were girls) overwhelmed me. They attended my lectures in
full sincerity and involvement and felt fascinated
Prof. M.A. Qureshi, Dean of Science, arranged my
special lecture on science and freedom to a wider audience. I did
not raise the issue of Kashmir, yet people listened in rapt
attention. I regretted having brought only 25 copies of my book
„Self Reliance in Thinking and Cultural Renaissance‟. Many of
those who got copies, came to me next day to express their
appreciation of its contents.

Dr. Farooq had made all the arrangements but could be
there only for a day as he had to rush to Delhi due to a tragedy.
Dr. Parvaiz, Dr. Mir Hashim and Mr. Mushtaq Rishi took excellent
care of everything. I was staying in University Guest House, 1 km
from Dal Lake. Caretaker Mushtaq was a man of rare innocence.
His family was living in a village as he got a meagre salary of Rs.
4500 per month. There was a professor from Jammu, Mrs. Dhar
with her family staying in the guesthouse. Mushtaq took care of
them with utmost respect like a family member.

He talked to driver Shashi Sharma like a brother. To me he represented
Kashmir. As I walked through the Dal lake and talked to local
people, their transparent simplicity and un-crooked behaviour
touched me. Their worried faces struck my heart. There was no
ill feeling against non-Muslims or non-Kashmiris. Every one
talked with an open heart, only said,” media is projecting us
wrong, we love people from India.” Thousands of shikaras were
standing on the shore as there were not enough tourists. Life is
hard.

It is an agrarian society. Apples, woollen shawls, saffron,
walnuts, almond are their speciality. Herds of sheep are visible
all over, People like Vanjaras of Rajashtan, carry herds of
thousands of sheep to forest for feeding. Cows are integral part
of rural life. People drink only cow milk. A cow costs around Rs.
50,000 and gives 15 litre of milk per day. The bulls are used in
agriculture. There are six lakh workers from Bihar who work
there for six months.

One day University car took me to Pehalgam (Pehal
means sheep and gam means village). IUST Assistant
Professors Mushtaq Rishi and Bilal accompanied me. I was
amazed to see the beauty of mountains with numerous lines of
tall pine trees and abundance of devdar and Chinar. In between
the mountains flows Laddar river with ice cold clean water at a
brisk speed. Several springs and streams join it. Mushtaq
showed me the prettiest of spots, took pictures and shared
details about his family.

He read my book in total and talked about the issues I raised. It reverberated with his thinking. He
told that his school going cousin was caught by police for the
crime of pelting stones one day. The boy denied having done
that. He went to police station and told the station in-charge that
he did not know whether the boy was speaking right or not but in
future he will ensure that he never pelt a stone. The SHO
assured he would not be charged. But later case was filed
against him for pelting stones at a very far away place along with
a group. Such cases are not uncommon.

On the last day of my stay, May 26, Prof. M.A. Qureshi
arranged my lecture at Kashmir University. Prof. Manzoor Malik,
Head, Physics Department. greeted me with warmth and
assembled 60 teachers and students for my talk at 9 AM, prior to
regular classes. I spoke about Science Imperialism and
Freedom. I ended at a note that a man from Kashmir, Nehru, led
the anti-colonial struggle. Another man, Sheikh Abdullah, was a
top rank leader of that struggle. The freedom has yet to reach the
grassroots. Kashmiri youth have a responsibility to lead the
nation in that struggle. A professor raised three questions: One,
The way you spoke to us, I can‟t speak in Delhi, Second, why
does not the people, calling Kashmir integral part of India, listen
to our grief. Third, people talk nice things to us when they visit
here, but when they go back, they don‟t speak. These questions
struck me but I hardly had an answer. I had also to leave in two
minutes for my lecture at IUST.

I only said, there are sizeable number of people who feel concerned about Kashmir. We need
to be active. Prof. Malik expressed deep appreciation of liberal
voices and said that people must understand why people came
out in such huge numbers after the death of a terrorist.
Deterioration in Situation in Recent Months
In last three months the central government has launched
a crackdown drive in Kashmir. Many of the Hurriyat leaders have
been arrested. Clashes with terrorists have grown. Much
worrisome is the rise in apathy towards the Kashmiri masses..
Attack on Amarnath Yatra

In August 2017, terrorists struck a severe blow to
Kashmiri tradition when they attacked a bus carrying Amarnath
pilgrims from Gujarat, killing 7 people and wounding several
others. The bus had separated, due to problem in a tyre, from
the group of buses moving under police cover. The bus driver
Salim showed extraordinary courage, when despite suffering
from wounds, he drove the bus away from the attackers and
saved the lives of remaining passengers. Every segment of
Kashmiri society expressed deep outrage and condemned the
attack.

The government needs to reconsider its strategy,
realizing that Kashmiri masses are our own. Their slogan for
Azadi should not be misconstrued for secession. It simply means
freedom from continued surveillance and suspicion

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