It was a haunting sight, the face of a 14-year girl pock-marked with pellets, her eyes completely damaged. She is one of the many victims of the state’s response to the massive protests rocking Kashmir after the killing of the young militant Burhan Wani by the Indian armed forces.
But for Kashmir watchers, policy makers and intelligence agencies, this latest round of violence is nothing to be alarmed about. It comes and goes, and never mind what the majority of people from the Valley feel about that.
I asked myself what my own response be, being part of a larger Kashmiri Pandit community, uprooted during the 1989-90 mass uprising by the Muslim majority? A large section of my relatives and friends, especially the young, see this as a time for retribution and anyone expressing sympathy or empathy with the Muslims is seen as a betrayer of the community. Whenever the Pandit exodus from the Valley is debated, anyone who says that the Muslim masses are not to blame, but it is our fear of terrorist violence that led us to flee, is virtually excommunicated. The sense is that you are either with us or with “them”. There are no shades of grey.
I don’t, however, want to get into the debate of who was and who wasn’t responsible for our escaping from the Valley in the dead of night. Most of the Muslim Kashmiri friends I interact with and enjoy a warm relationship with were either too young or not even born then. They refuse to believe that their elders may have deliberately played a role in what critics call ‘ethnic cleansing’, but even then they’re repentant and want us back.
When the most perceptive chronicler of these scary times in Kashmir, journalist Muzammil Jaleel, told me, “we need you people back, for homogeneity is a curse,” I was overcome. Whatever the truth of the exodus narrative, we can’t see our lives dictated through the prism of 1989.
I see myself, like a number of others, as a Kashmiri first. Our abandoned ancestral home in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar locality is now flattened -- the last push for its complete demise came from the floods that destroyed large parts of the city.
Today, when I see that horrifying image of the young girl blinded by the violent response from the security forces, I want to respond with love, warmth and compassion to all those who have suffered in this long-drawn conflict that does no credit to either side.
Everyone who genuinely wants to end this vicious cycle of violence and death should remember an ancient adage -- unless you treat the children of others like you would your own, the world will be a lesser place to live in.
(Pradeep Magazine is a senior sports journalist. Views expressed are personal.)