Basharat Peer

From The Economic Times: “A Letter to unknown Indian

“When poems written about totalitarian regimes echo in the hearts of a people purportedly living in a democracy, it is time for that democracy to take a hard look at the mirror. Over the past two months, as the numbers of Kashmiri protesters killed by Indian troops rose, I kept returning to a poem. In December 1970, the troops of the communist government in Poland fired and killed 49 protesting workers at a shipyard in the city of Gdansk. Three iron crosses, cast by fellow workers, stand now at the spot where the workers had fallen. On the memorial remain the words from a poem by Czeslaw Milosz:

Though everyone bowed
down before you
Saying virtue and wisdom
lit your way
Striking gold medals
in your honor
Glad to have survived another day
Do not feel safe.

The poet remembers.

You can kill one, but
another is born.
The words are written
down, the deed, the date.

When pain makes it difficult to articulate coherently, quiet remembrance helps. Like many other Kashmiris, I have been in silence, committing to memory, the deed, the date. The faces of the murdered boys, the colour of their shirts, their grieving fathers — these might disappear from the headlines, but they have already found their place in our collective memory. Kashmir remembers what is done in your name, in the name of your democracy, whether its full import ever reaches your drawing rooms and offices or not. Your soldiers of reason carrying their press cards might dissuade you from seeing it, comfort you with their cynical use of academic categories and interpretations of Kashmir, they might rerun the carefully chosen, convenient images on TV, but Kashmir sees the unedited Kashmir.

Your government is sending troops with guns, more loops of barbed wire, announcing more curfews. It might even pacify the Valley again. In his essay, On Disbelieving Atrocities, Arthur Koestler says that those not directly touched by atrocity were protected by an ability to “walk past laughing and chatting.” Koestler addressed the untouched, unaffected people, walking past: “Were it not so, this war would have been avoided; and those murdered within sight of your daydreaming eyes would still be alive.”

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One comment

  1. It has happened
    and it goes on happening
    and will happen again
    if nothing happens to stop it.
    The innocent knew nothing
    because they are too innocent.
    The poor do not notice
    because they are too poor.
    And the rich do not notice
    because they are too rich.
    The stupid shrug their shoulders
    because they are too stupid.
    And the clever shrug their shoulders
    because they are too cleaver.
    The young do not care
    because they are too young
    And the old do not care
    because they are too old.
    That is why nothing happens to stop it.
    And that is why it has happened
    And goes on happening
    And will happen again.

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