The Kashmir Valley, a disputed region and a sore point between India and Pakistan, is among the most militarized zones on earth. Many Kashmiri youth leave their homeland for higher studies in other Indian states, but fear and anxiety do not leave them.
The aftermath of the recent suicide bomb attack on a convoy of Indian paramilitary vehicles on a highway in Kashmir’s Pulwama district that killed 40 security personnel has made Kashmiri students even more anxious. While their families are allegedly facing harsher treatment by the Indian military in Kashmir, Kashmiri youth in other parts of the country are being targeted for revenge attacks.
The youth are concerned not only about their own safety, but also that of their family members back in Kashmir. To understand the emotional turmoil they must be going through, we asked some Kashmiris studying in Delhi to share letters written to their parents.
Below are some of the letters.
Salaam Ammi (Greetings, Mother),
How are you? And how is Abba? I heard the whole valley has been locked down. I can’t imagine the state of mind you all must be in these days. It has become hard to reach out to you. I feel terrified, and have been dreaming about us every single night. I dreamt that our house was burnt, and I couldn’t save anything. This fear and anxiety! God! I feel immobilized, and usually find myself gazing into the void for hours. Lost! I have not been able to eat properly since my friends told me that you all couldn’t find proper food in the market. That you have been eating saltless food for days due to the crackdown.
You must have heard some students were lynched here. It was gruesome and demeaning. But all hail to the Lord, no such incident took place in our college.
I need to tell you that I am perfectly fine over here. Please don’t pay heed to gliding rumors. It is all media exaggeration and concoction of the incidents. Believe me, mom, it’s better here in Delhi than Kashmir. I wish all of you were here. I am tired of being scared all the time in the valley. And yes, I’ll be home next month to eat all those mouth-watering dishes you cook. I hear you every morning, crying and praying for my safety. So, I assure you that I am all right. Take care of yourself, Ammi, and tell Abba that I love him.
With loads of love,
I am fine, and I hope everyone else at home also is. I miss your food, and also how you used to caress my hair.
I know you must be afraid because of the situation here, but believe me, it is a lot exaggerated on TV sets. Yes, there have been some incidents of violence against students in other parts of the country – but I would call them isolated. I am safe, with all my friends.
In any case, it is always worse there in Kashmir. Isn’t it? Delhi is a much safer place. There are no razor wires, barricades, and most importantly army men patrolling the streets. You can even trust Oman for running the errands. There is no one to throw stones at. Don’t tell Abbu, but I, sometimes, meander here on roads as late as midnight. Imagine me doing the same in the valley. Haha! I know you can’t.
Ok. Whenever that idiot, Oman, comes over here, do send with him some ounces of Harissa.
Yours in love,
Hope you are doing good, and so is everyone else back home. As far as I am concerned, I am doing great as well. But after what happened (the Pulwama attack) back home recently, I couldn’t find myself in a position to go out for a long time. Fear seemed to have gripped me entirely. Not that I had done something wrong and was afraid of facing people, but I didn’t want to face those who call themselves educated and eventually pass biased judgments when it comes to the Kashmir issue. I didn’t want to become a victim of those educated fools. Those days were frustrating. News all over social media about Kashmiris being targeted made me anxious. Some were beaten up, others robbed. Some were called terrorists and what not. Such was the extent of fear that I thought it would remain with me throughout my life, but eventually, I started to go out again. Deep down, I know I might be one of their targets someday, but this wouldn’t stop me from living. I live. Yes, I do.
As-Salam-Alaikum, Abba Jaan (May peace be upon you, dear father),
Hope my letter finds you all well, and makes you feel even better to know that I’m safe at the time of writing this letter. For the last few days, the atmosphere of anger, hatred, and revenge has made the lives of Kashmiris living outside the valley so miserable that we can’t even set our feet out of the rooms we are staying in. Even if we manage to muster courage and go out, it is no less than risking our lives. We have been at the receiving end of the taunts, comments, and dreadful stares from the people outside. The way we have been isolated in the past few days is not only unprecedented, but also gives a feeling as if we are the ones who have done all the wrong. The hatred seems so deep-rooted that even the people who sympathize with us are not being spared. They are being called sympathizers of terrorists and stone-pelters, which is all the more painful to us. After hearing about the violent incidents that are taking place in the neighboring cities with our brothers and sisters, we fear that it might happen to us anytime soon. Add to this, the war mongering that’s happening on national television, deployment of thousands of new paramilitary personnel in the valley, mass arrests of the locals, piling up of medicinal stocks and rations, and roaring fighter jets in the skies back home are bothering me more than what I’m facing here. I know that Kashmir is the battlefield, and you are right there. This is worrying me more than anything else.
I know you’re more worried about me because I’m far away from home. But it doesn’t matter at all, because we are all equally vulnerable to hatred, injustice and violence. Be it in the valley or outside. I pray for our peaceful survival, and request you to remember all of us in your prayers too.
Your loving son
Dearest Abbu (Father),
I hope you’re doing well, and so is Mama (Mother), Sana, and Sadia. I’ve been very worried about you all since this gruesome incident (the Pulwama attack) happened. It was appalling and shouldn’t have happened. Many posts and videos surfaced on social media after the attack stating that the two nuclear-armed countries are on the verge of war.
It was very disturbing to see people encouraging war in the area on national television. I was so worried about your safety. Sana told me that her college had been shut for a week due to the prevailing situation.
Is Sadia still going to her coaching center? That place is very vulnerable to attacks. Stone pelting can happen anytime if the situation worsens. I’m having a lot of apprehensions regarding her safety. Please, please, ensure that she is safe, and is accompanied by someone if not by you. Her friends can accompany her to the coaching center.
And how is Mama? I miss her a lot.
Ask her to be careful while going to the office. That area is safer, but still, it is better to be cautious.
I know news suggests that Kashmiris are being ill-treated and beaten up in many places, including colleges. But here in my university, things are different. People are so loving and supporting. I don’t feel unsafe here. They stand in solidarity with us. I’m good and safe here, Abbu.
As-Salam-Alaikum, Ammi (May peace be upon you, Mother),
I am fine.
I know you are worried about my safety. But here, I am more worried about your restlessness concerning my will-being. But you don’t have to worry, I am fine and silent.
Even while traveling, I don’t disclose my identity to try to protect myself.
Ammi, I know you are waiting and sobbing at the door for my letters to come to the place without a post office. No matter when my words reach you, believe me, I am fine. Please remember that I am the ‘moon of your eyes’… and am always with you.
Just take care of Baya and Papa. And ask them to carry their identity cards and come home early. I am missing your hugs and kisses. And remember, I need them all, as soon my body reaches there as my soul is already wandering there… in your peaceful lap and lullabies, the safest place on earth.
“Jahan mai hu ki khud sara jahan hu,
makaan mai hu lekin la’makaan hu.”
(I am in the Universe in such a way that I am a universe myself/ I live in a space but I am space-less)
Your Loving Son,
Arpita Singh and Tahira Noor Khan are part of Mashaemit Gharrih (Forgotten Homes), a multimedia project showing the struggles of Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits who live outside Kashmir.