Kashmiris are not that bad as they are perceived to be!
Constitution of India guarantees six fundamental democratic rights to its citizens. Article 19 (1)(d) of India Constitution assures every legitimate citizen the right to move freely throughout the Indian territory as per his choice and wish. In a vast and diverse nation like India people continuously travel to different parts of the country to seek knowledge, take part in trade and commercial activities.
People of Kashmir are no different from other citizens and have been traveling to almost all parts of the Indian union. But for the last many years it has been observed that a large number of Kashmiri people are subjected to discrimination and harassment in different parts of the country; at times implicated in cases to which they are not even remotely concerned. The interesting part of this aggravation is that in most of the cases persecution is not from the fellow citizens but from the government agencies and other quasi-government organizations.
There can be many reasons for this discriminatory situation, however, wavering political situation and more than two decades of political turmoil have escalated this hostile situation. During the last two decades certain vested interests presented a dreaded image of Kashmir and its people, making the rest of the country to believe that every Kashmiri is a walking time-bomb and Kashmir a mine field. With such attitude Kashmiri people suffered immensely and many had to pay a heavy price. Poor souls remained in custody for years without trial. Several people are languishing in jails for no fault of theirs as they are unable to plead their cases properly. Very few people were lucky to be rescued well in time by timely intervention of media and other regulatory agencies. The recent acquittal of several people by the courts after many years of incarceration is a significant pointer towards the fact that something is wrong somewhere in the system and mindset of a section of the establishment. It cannot be always deliberate but system failure cannot be ruled out; particularly our multi-tiered prosecution system is prone to grave malfunction.
Usually others experience of harassment and discrimination is passed on as a routine but when someone personally goes through the same grind, the pinch of harassment and shame of discrimination become harshly agonizing. Recently, I had the chance to walk in a particular diplomatic area of Delhi, not by choice but out of compulsion as my Auto-walla deceptively left me halfway while traveling to my destination. Carrying a backpack on my shoulders I was walking leisurely deep in my own world of thoughts after a daylong hectic schedule. After walking few yards an immaculately dressed private security guard appeared out of nowhere and tried to command me towards his boss in the nearby building. I firmly refused his command with logic that he has no locus standi to interrupt me as a citizen of this country. He argued and argued a lot with intimidating gestures. On finding the name ‘Kashmir’ on my photo identity card his facial expression turned more intimidating and he tried to behave oddly. Ultimately, finding no escape from the clutches of this extrajudicial security apparatus I tactfully persuaded him to present me before the nearby PCR van stationed on the nearby crossing. Fortunately, earlier while locating my destination— International Youth Hostel (where I was staying) I had sought assistance from the same PCR van. The cops bailed me out, but my Kashmiri identity pushed their eyebrows steeply upwards and they asked me to submit all my personal details before departing. Throughout the night I prayed for normalcy in the area, because, God forbid if anything untoward occurred I was the first target to be blamed. Thank Almighty! Everything was all right and I had a sigh of relief.
This imaginary situation of fear and fear-psychosis concocted about people of Kashmir, their land and their activities is now surely losing its ground, but more needs to be done on this front both by the people of this country and authorities in particular to avoid any further humiliation and harassment to people of Kashmir in different parts of the country.