Dear Nobel Laureate Malala, Let me begin by saying that your grit and courage is an inspiration to all young girls worldwide who yearn for an education but are denied it by religious fundamentalism. I also think that you are yet too young and not well-informed on all political matters across the world. For this reason, I thought I would apprise you about the situation in Kashmir that you seem to be so passionately concerned about.
Dear Malala, please take this letter in the spirit it’s meant to be- I understand the situation in Kashmir better in the same way you understand the politics of the SWAT valley.
In your address to the UN you said that the inhumanity and the heartbreak in Kashmir must be halted. You also urged India and Pakistan to stop the ongoing inhumanity in Kashmir so that they can live free of fear and repression. You also seem to be very concerned about the children who cannot go to school due to ongoing curfews. Dear Malala, you did say that the 14 million Kashmiris are close to your heart. Let me bring their reality close to your eyes.
Malala, you have been advocate of girl’s education for several years now. In SWAT valley, the Taliban banned girls’ education and shut down the schools. Compare that with the situation in the Kashmir valley. Several Christian and National schools, which were a pride of the education system, have been burnt down and closed by the religious fundamentalists. Many good schools do still exist. However, you cannot attend them because instead of a school calendar your parents are forced to follow a ‘strike and protest calendar’. Common people including children are forced to participate in bandhs, hartals and marches led by the Hurriyat Conference. Organisations, institutions, shops, trade, everything is brought to a halt in these protest rallies. Anyone defying the ‘protest’ orders is terrorised and eliminated. People are (forced or bribed to be) on the streets to protest - either the killing of an armed militant or to allow an armed militant to escape/launch an attack. As soon as the curfew is lifted, violent crowds descend on streets to burn public property and to kill or maim security personnel. Armed forces retaliate and the vicious cycle continues. Parents are warned not to send their child to the school, teachers are terrorised not to report for duty and young children are monetarily incentivised to lead protest mobs and throw stones at policemen. The education system in the valley has become a farce.
It is not the Kashmiri separatists don’t value education. Far from it. All the children of the separatists’ leaders are well-educated working as doctors and engineers and businessmen all around the world. You are aware that education brings power, the ability to question and to challenge. It is easy to control and disorient someone who is not well-read or well-educated. Ignorance breeds poverty and dependence which allows easy brainwashing and misleading of gullible youth. When there is nothing to do and nothing to look forward to; life becomes irrelevant. Imagine a world where you can’t watch movies, play an instrument, participate in sports, read books from around the world because none of this is ‘allowed’ by your ‘politico-religious masters’ and imagine a world where you don’t have the education and wisdom to question this ‘farmaan’. Your master says pick up the stone, throw it, get arrested, raise an ISIS flag and you follow the orders like a zombie. You justify every politico-religious command as you take pride in your ‘importance’ as ‘disposable cannon fodder’. Malala, this is a deep, dark world you are familiar with- it will do you no favours to forget your roots in order to pave way for your political ambitions.
I remind you of the day when you were shot by the Taliban and want to introduce you to a 14 year old girl called Inshah. Keen on education, she was not part of any protest march but watching the commotion from her window, when pellets from a police pellet gun blinded her. A human tragedy, an innocent bystander. There are many more such heart breaking stories. Young policemen drowned alive in a river or burnt inside their vehicles. Beautiful girls raped and cut on sawmills by armed militants. Young fathers and sons suddenly disappearing or killed. Gallant Army officers shot point blank while waiting for a bus. Innocent young men returning from work killed in revenge attacks. I could go on and on... A bullet, a pellet, a mob or a stone doesn’t discriminate between innocent and guilty, between soldier, fathers and studious children. Revenge always makes you dig two graves. Innocence dies, so does reason.
You mentioned the 14 million population of Kashmir. I am not sure where you got the population statistics from or what areas you consider as part of Kashmir. This is education dear Malala - pay attention. The princely state of Jammu & Kashmir comprises of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan; China occupied Aksai Chin and c2000 Sq Km territory sold off by Pakistan; India administered Jammu, Laddakh and Kashmir valley. The total population according to 2011 census is around 19 Million. The population of Kashmir Valley is around 7 Million. There is a dissent brewing in the Kashmir valley, propped up by Pakistan’s Army, ISI and its politicians. Pakistan is supplying arms and providing militant training to these young people and setting them up to kill and die in the name of Jihad.
Dear Malala, this is the inhumanity and heartbreak that must stop in order for peace to prevail. Pakistan funded Hurriyat Conference declines peace dialogue with Indian politicians and rejects development packages on education, jobs and trade. Militant organisations with AK47s shoot and kill Army personnel and the dissenters. Young kids are brainwashed to prop up ISIS flags and throw stones at the police. Violent mobs are instigated to surround public property and police stations and set them alight. They demand azaadi...freedom from a democratic country to become an Islamist nation ruled by the Sharia Law. Malala, this is the 5% population of the Kashmir valley that is holding the rest of the citizens of Indian administered Kashmir to hostage. Can you feel the pain of innocent Kashmiris being squeezed by the armed militants, politico-religious leaders and the Army? I do. And, I will defend to my last breath their right to live with dignity, freedom and inclusiveness in a democratic India.
I had written an article a while ago - ‘Handwara’s Malala’(https://www.myind.net/handwara-malala-potrait-courage) . It’s about a young girl who was molested by the local youth after her school. She complained through a video message telecast all over the world, her tears telling the truth. Immediately, the local militant leaders put immense pressure on her, her school and her family to change her statement and blame the security personnel instead. This young girl stood by her statement for a few weeks and inspired me to write that article. Do you want to know what happened next? She was eventually put under so much pressure through force, coercion and humiliation that she changed her statement and complained against the police personnel instead. Not everyone is propped by a social system - some exhaust all their courage and eventually crumble. This is the harbinger of a dark future where truth and honesty will be extinguished to make way for false propaganda that furthers a skewed politico-religious doctrine.
Malala, so far the whole world respects your positive statements regarding right to education. You are now 19 and I think you are steadily venturing into politics - which is not a bad thing. You can make or break opinions, you can encourage or discourage your followers, you can set a distinction between right and wrong. With this power and clout comes huge responsibility. Responsibility to research your subject, responsibility to be impartial and responsibility to stay true to your beliefs. Because, let’s face it - education becomes merely a prop in areas of armed conflict.