As an Indian army soldier, this is what I wanted to say to a Kashmiri child, but couldn’t

Published: October 5, 2016

The Indian armed forces have given their nod to the govenment to release the video footage of surgical strikes in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir. PHOTO : REUTERS

I have been to Kashmir.

No, not as a tourist.

I have lived there. I have worked there. I was part of the heavy military instrument of the Indian State in the paradise, guarding it from the heaven dwellers themselves. And some mischievous neighbours too.

As a 21-year-old, with the might of one of the biggest militaries in the world behind me and its command pinned on my shoulders, its determination manifested in the AK in my hand, I have roamed the towns and villages with authority which none of the Burhan Wanis or Bhatts or Wazirs or Bhans or Wattals or anybody else whose land it was, would have dared to.

Ironically, as a citizen of Nepal, serving in the Indian Army, I was a bundle of contradictions myself. When I led a group of armed men through a tense neighbourhood, I could not help recall the state I was in myself as a teenager, back home in Nepal, angry and frustrated because of the curfew imposed in my hometown, from six in the evening to six in the morning every day for years. When the Maoist insurgency was at its peak, I was a teenager.

I have been frisked, violated, insulted; made to do push-ups and squats just because I asked the police man at the check post to repeat himself when he instructed something and I did not properly hear. There were regular visits to our houses – by police in uniform, by police without uniform, by a secret police who everyone knew was a secret police; also from unknown people with weapons prominently hidden under wraps, meant to be seen and feared, demanding food, shelter, and money.

I was angry, very angry.

I was angry at the then mysterious figure of Prachanda, whose only one picture in combat fatigues was public at that time. I was angry at the ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai – legendary Nepal topper (Board First) and PhD from JNU – who was known to be the brain behind the movement. I was angry at the people who marched in my town with weapons held high, after they blew away the local bank and the police station.

I was also angry at the policeman who frisked me, dragged me by my arm, threw my bag scattering away all my stuff on the floor and pinned me down to the ground and poked the back of my neck with a pointed object. It wasn’t a stick. It was cold and heavy. I did not see it but a chill ran down my spine. It blew up the anger. I was angry at the government. At the state, which had ignored so many people for so many years that they were ready to fight, and kill and die.

Also, I was angry at myself. Without knowing the reason, without a target, the anger was building and building and engulfing me. I was lucky. I had options to flee. I fled at the right time. When I looked at a beautiful Kashmiri child, who approached me with innocent admiration and a genuine query,

“You must be Kashmiri, are you Kashmiri?” I was fumbling for an answer.

I would have liked to tell him –

“Yes, I am.”

I would have loved to say –

“Yes, we are. We are all Kashmiris. We are all heaven dwellers.”

I would have wanted him to know –

“We are here for you. We are your men.”

I would have wanted to give him a smile, a nudge, pinch his cheeks, and ruffle his hair a bit and say,

“Yes, I am a Kashmiri. And I love Kashmir. And you.”

But I did not.

Because I did not.

I did not love Kashmir. And I did not love that child. I was not a Kashmiri. And I was not a tourist. Kashmir, for me, was a duty. An assignment, an arduous task that had to be fulfilled to my utmost capability and most importantly, survived. I did not pack a camera, a few romantic novels and Faiz and Gulzar’s poetry books before stepping on to the heaven. I was trained to kill, and armed for it. My literature was bloody. As preparation, I was not educated about the beauty the land beheld but on the contours of terror that prevailed within the landscape.

I did not go through accounts of romantic unions in the scenic backdrops, but brainstormed over hundreds of case studies of bloody and fatal encounters in the terrain. For me, Kashmir was not to be appreciated, but assessed, analysed and acted upon, and survived. For me, the innocent child was not that innocent. The images of children carrying messages, supplies and even weapons, read in the extensive case studies, immediately popped up in my mind.

Even before noticing his sparkling beautiful blue eyes, pink apple-like cheeks, and lovely smile, I had to scan through his whole body to know what was hidden. Images of children blowing themselves up in front of security forces flashed before me even before I could comprehend the emotions in his voice. Even before I could think of extending my hand to ruffle his hair, the grip on the AK tightened automatically and my trigger finger was alert.

No, my friend, I am not a Kashmiri. I could not be one. I was not expected to be one.

Therefore, I was not educated to be one. I was not trained to be one. And I do not love you or your Kashmir. I cannot. I was not expected to. I was not educated to. I was not trained to. I was fumbling for an answer. I did not reply. The child’s mother came running, lifted him up and dragged him away hurriedly, slouching a bit, without even looking at me.

Today, he must be Burhan’s age. And I still don’t love him. And that is one of the reasons why Kashmir burns.

This article originally appeared here.

Dinesh Tiwari

Dinesh Tiwari

The author is a former army officer and studied at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rehan Ali

    Brilliant putRecommend

  • Test Test

    Kashmir burns because of the hate of the Valleyites. They must pay their karma for ethnic cleansing of 1/2 a million Pandits from the valley. They must pay for sins committed by their parents and themselves. The day they invite and treat others with respect and humility is when they will be happy. How can they be happy when they massacred hundreds of thousands of Pandits. These pandits have been living there for millenia, yet these radical fundamentalist people massacred, raped and ethnically cleansed them from the valley. How will they gain any sympathy?Recommend

  • Striver

    Excellent, because one would not expect this from an Indian army officer (x-army) and because its untainted by the usual jingoistic nationalist sentiments come to be associated with Indians.Recommend

  • pk

    The problem is Pakistan state sponsored extremism which made inroads since 1980 after soviet defeat. Not just in Kashmir but in every part of the globe it is producing destruction. To prevent extremists infiltrating across LOC India has to keep larger military. Recommend

  • menon mohan

    Another prpaganda piece using fictitious Nepali army man.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Brilliantly planted story, psychological warfare.Recommend

  • Kashmiri

    You seem to get too angry with everything.Recommend

  • Nasir Hameed

    Nice one. The biggest mistake Pakistan made is to let India’s narrative prevail that Kashmir is either an India/pakistan issue or the internal Indian matter. It is in fact an issue of people of Kashmir who want to break away from a hegemonic Indian state.Recommend

  • Frank

    Brilliant article. The Indian occupation of Kashmir is one of the great injustices of the modern world.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Well some of the reasons are religion and Chanakiya doctrine as well. Where BJP lead Govt is isolating of Muslims in Kashmir making army housing colonies to populate Hindus just like Israel is doing in Palestine. You were just a tool used then decommissioned.Recommend

  • Srivastava

    Agree with author 100%, I have the experience of being “Insulted by police”, and there is nothing that makes a young man angry than insult by the state in his own street. This is the price of armed conflict.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was effective…..but it was far from the whole truth. This burden rests on our seriously myopic leadership on both sides…..but your tale of moral self flagellation was both potent and thought provoking.Recommend

  • Atiq

    Remembering the poem “The two April morinings” by Words Worth and one piece of it I looked at her and looked again , But never wished her mineRecommend

  • Acorn Guts

    Then why complain? You just justified their struggle using a very twisted logic which I condemn. This is not how nations progress.Recommend

  • Ehsan Habib

    What is this guy doing in army? ?? That too Indian.
    Impressed. !!!!Recommend

  • Striver

    Typical Hindutva frame of mind. They pluck an accusation from a figment of their imagination and throw it at the Muslims – Kashmiris, PKs. They know they are lying but the point is they want a “one-up” on their perceived adversary. Truth always takes a bashing when Hindutva is at work.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    WOW!! Finally the truth is coming from someone who has served in Kashmirs everyday. Bravo for being bold and speaking the truth outRecommend

  • Gratgy

    People who drove away their neighbors for belonging to a different religion deserve no sympathyRecommend

  • Ahmad

    Shun violence, Talk to Each other Live in Peace.Recommend

  • chakrs

    The Kashmiris have genuine grievances but you have chosen to repeat a false charge.Recommend

  • chakrs

    The numbers are exaggerated but the accusation is true.Recommend

  • chakrs

    The Indian Army has been recruiting in Nepal since British days.Recommend

  • chakrs

    Note that the writer didn’t turn against India. He is studying in an Indian university.Recommend

  • chakrs

    This article shows the difference between military and police training.Recommend

  • LS

    This ethnic cleansing is not happening since 1989 .. it has been taking place since last 500 or more years.. the day Ancestors of Sikandar Bushikan stepped into valley. This guy was responsible for killing, converting, raping in millions.. Today the ancestors and the converts are claiming that the land is theirs after having kicked the original settlers out.

    Also it is not just Kashmir that has this problem, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Syria, Egypt to Morocco.. None of them were muslim countries and none them became Muslim peacefully… Today same thing is happening in EU, Americas.. Muslims are killing others..Recommend

  • LS

    Answer the following:
    1) How did Kashmiri become Muslim?
    2) Who was Sikandar Butshikan?
    3) Who started the armed conflict in Kashmir? Was it India or Kashmiri themselves?Recommend

  • anil sahu

    its only because of wahabi invasion these daysRecommend

  • Sane

    Hinduwta mindset is hegemonic and based ion injustice. This is the only reason that Kashmir is burning and people of Kashmir wants Indian army to leave and let them live. Freedom struggle always meet success, no matter how many years it take. Kashmir is to liberate.Recommend

  • Sane

    Mere propaganda and nothing. You will never achieve anything. May be for the time being you can sell this propaganda. But, not forever. You are biasedRecommend

  • Sane

    He has become a preacher now and wants Indians to mend their ways.Recommend

  • Sane

    God bless him for his truth. Let’s see extremist Indians do not do anything else with him, for which they are famousRecommend

  • Gratgy

    Propaganda is what your textbooks teach you. Recommend

  • anil sahu
  • Anil Bahu

    Er, no.Recommend

  • Striver

    1) Kashmirs converted to Islam in the 12th century and it became a majority Muslim country. ( I know where you want to go with this). The last Kashmire Rin Cin Shah also converted to Islam. Iranian preachers converted them.
    2) Kahsmiris became Muslims 100s of years before Sikandar became ruler.
    3) India started the armed conflict because Indian army was deployed in Kashmir to force the Hindu-ruler to sign the accession documents. He singed them under duress. Kashmirs never wanted to be part of India and don’t to be part of it now. You know this but hate to admit it.Recommend

  • LS

    1) Kashmir was never a country ever in the history and was identified as part of British India. Typical of Muslims where-ever they go.. first they convert a few disenfranchised ones by badmouthing their religion and once they are in significant numbers they use violence to convert. Same has happened everywhere in the world including Iran (Zoroastrians were decimated, IRAQ (Byzantines were killed mercilessly), or in EGYPT or the latest one as that of Lebanon (Where muslims came to study, then Palestinians came in droves and they eventually started butchering them so much so that only Christian Country in Arabian Peninsula was no longer christian majority. Muslims introduced terrorism and devastated the country – Hezbollah is still active there)
    2) Only a few became Muslims, followed by Mass violent conversions by force including Sikandar
    3) Pakistan started the armed violence when Jinnah collaborated with Afghan Tribesmen/ mercenaries/ Mujahid and attacked Kashmir on 6th October 1947 with a promise to keep the loot despite pakistan having signed Stand-Still agreement with J&K (Both India and Pakistan signed that). Kashmiri military (despite desertions by muslims) fought these mercenaries and delayed their advance esp by destroying the bridge in Uri sector thus delaying them by total of 3 days.. At this time Hari singh approached India and India airlifted their soldiers to land in the valley and also signed the IOA.. By this time pakistan also introduced army regulars into the war…

    Once the UN treaty was signed which pakistan has violated consistently and continues to do so… Army was GONE.. in 1956 J&K Parliament ratified the merger with India. Army came back because paki sponsored violent terrorism started from 1989..

    What you call truth is a doctored narrative taught in pakistan.. like everything else.. like Pakistan studies.. Better go back to Madarsa.. History is not for your country which believes pakistan was established when Muhammad bin Quasim arrived.Recommend