Contrary to claims made by Prime Minister Modi’s government, the movements of my parents and other members of my family remain restricted. I am not spoken with any of them. Again, this is not, by any means, an attempt to evoke sympathy.
My parents have sustained their convictions and their faith in the resilience of the Kashmiri people in politically turbulent times before and will do so this time as well. The reductive politics all around them and the erasure of the political and socio-cultural edifice that they have always strongly believed in makes this a heart-rending period for them.
I grew up in a world in which my parents, Suraiya and Mohammad Ali Matto, were fiercely proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage, and honoured their Islamic heritage, faithfully observing religious practices, while maintaining unflagging conviction in a pluralistic polity.
My parents, with their reserved dignity, integrity, unassuming pride, and unabated love for Kashmir, have been my role models.
They have always explicitly cherished their heritage while keeping themselves at a distinct distance from those who seek to impose a History on the landscape of Kashmir.
Now that I look back with insight, I see that my parents, although well-educated and well-read professionals, did not internalize colonial beliefs about the superiority of European civilization or biased notions about the “degraded” status of Kashmiri Muslims, who had emerged from the swamp of illiteracy, poverty, and bonded labor in the 1940s.
Their unremitting loyalty to the land of their dreams and hopes, Kashmir, despite the post-1989 militarized ethos and rabidity of chauvinism has validated my admiration for their integrity and open-mindedness. They did not jump either on the bandwagon of either statism or ethno religious nationalism.
Raised in Kashmir in the 1970s and the 1980s, I always knew that I, like my parents, would receive a substantial education and would have a professional life. I instinctively knew that they would protect me from the shackles of restrictive traditions.
Although after the inception of armed insurgency and counterinsurgency in Kashmir in 1989 my parents were confronted with an uncertain future, in which the political fate of Kashmir was unknowable, they sustained their ideals through those difficult times.
In the meantime, political opportunists and carpetbaggers make hay while the unpredictability remained unresolved, destroying political autonomy and creating institutional paralysis in its wake.
India’s political and democratic practices, as Robert A. Dahl observes, “have displayed some egregious shortcomings from a democratic point of view. It has suffered from recurring violations of basic rights” (161).
The disillusionment created by New Delhi’s ploys, and the warped motive of the Pakistani military in spurring the growth of a jihadist element in Kashmir and facilitating the infiltration of armed combatants across the Line of Control (border separating Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan administered “Azad” Kashmir) have been very destructive.