They call me Kashmiriwala. There are also many people who call me Shawlwala. I have many more names. But, nobody remembers me by my good name. Sometimes I feel that the borders are dividing us. By borders, what come first in our minds are some international lines that separate a country from another one. But, the definition of borders is even more for my country. If you look at the Indian Map, you will find many lines that have divided our global identity. We call the divided piece of lands as States. The Bengalis have West Bengal, the Biharis have Bihar, the Punjabis have Punjab, the Assamese have Assam. The list is even more. I belong to a divided piece of land where the Kashmiris got Kashmir. Yes, I belong from Kashmir and I love to be called Irfan Lone. However, outside Kashmir, my identity is Kashmiriwala!
“I consider myself as an Indian. I don’t want Kashmir to become a part of Pakistan neither do I want an Azad Kashmir.”
When I first stepped outside Kashmir in 1978, I was in my early twenties. I came to Burnpur with my father to sell Kashmiri Shawls, Carpets and Winter Garments. Since 1978, I have been coming to West Bengal every year. I come here in the summer seasons and go back during the winters. For last few decades, I am selling my collections in this beautiful city of Durgapur. The people of this city has helped me learn Bengali. I may not be as proficient as you are because you have grown up learning the language. My Bengali isn’t bad either, and I can easily take part in any conversation in your language. I am also talking to you in the Bengali language. Durgapur is my second hometown as I stay here for 5-6 months every year.
I consider myself as an Indian. I don’t want Kashmir to become a part of Pakistan neither do I want an Azad Kashmir. There are many Kashmiris who think the same way. And, please don’t think that since I stay and sell my products in your city, I am telling you lies. You call our state “Paradise on Earth.” Since the last few months, you have come to know about the unrest in Kashmir. But, the paradise has been bleeding for decades. If you ask me the prime reason, my answer would be – Politics.
“Tell me why should I opt for not being called an Indian!”
The ruling governments that came to power at different times never framed a long-term vision to develop the state. Have you seen the condition of the roads in Kashmir? Even the state capital Srinagar is full of potholes. The problems with the drainage system in Srinagar is getting from bad to worse. A few years back, the state was badly affected by floods mainly because of the drainage failure. The Indian army and the police administration helped us a lot during that time. An army official saved my 3-year-old granddaughter. We almost lost her. The word ‘thank you’ is very small compared to what that person did for our family. Now tell me why should I opt for not being called an Indian!
When people visit our state, they come as tourists. They go to the moderately ornamented tourist destinations. Hence, as tourists, they don’t get to see the real problem. If you want to see our real problems, be our guests. We Kashmiris are big-hearted people, and nobody will refuse if you want to stay with us in our homes.
Unemployment is a big problem for Jammu and Kashmir. There are not enough jobs in our state. The number of quality schools and colleges is also much less if you compare with the other Indian states. My elder son Amir has a Masters degree. He was good in studies, but he didn’t get a job anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir. He is now in the same business as mine. We have a small shop in Badshah Chowk and Amir looks after the business. We are happy with the small amount that we earn from the sale of our products. But, this is not the case for all people in Kashmir.
“The separatist leaders are trying to reap political dividends from Kashmir. These power hungry people are gifting us with more destruction.”
The unemployed youths are taking shortcuts to earn money. In many cases, they are also dragging their parents, sisters and brothers to adopt the same way. They are being funded by some external forces. I guess you can make out what I want to say. The separatist leaders are trying to reap political dividends from Kashmir. These power hungry people are gifting us with more destruction. They are misleading our youths to adopt the wrong ways.
Now say, who doesn’t want some extra money? Who wants to remain unemployed? If they get Rs. 200-300 per day for throwing stones, they feel there is anything wrong with it! The childhoods in Kashmir are getting sold. It is not a war between the Hindus and the Muslims. It is also not a war between the Indian Hindus and the Pakistani Muslims. However, the separatists are the masterminds behind such situations. Now see after the demonetization happened the stone pelting incidents have reduced.
On Demonetization of old currency notes – “We are happy that the central government has at least taken some steps to curb out the evils of our society.”
Amir’s business was badly affected because of what happened in the last few months. The state is very much dependent on tourism. Not only the tourism sector suffered, but all other associated sectors also had the same fate. We can now open our shop at Badshah Chowk quite regularly. Some disruptive incidents are still happening in Srinagar, but their magnitudes are not the same. Because of the demonetization and currency crisis, the sales have not yet picked up. Even I am affected with the currency banning move. I sell my products here in installments and my customers have requested me to give them some more time to clear my payments. This means I would stay in my second home for some more days.
“No system can be 100 percent perfect, but we can at least attempt to get close to that 100 percent figure.”
But, we are happy that the central government has at least taken some steps to curb out the evils of our society. I am not educated enough to assess the positives and the negatives of this currency ban, but what I can understand that the step has been taken with some good intention. Implementation of demonetization part could have been better, though. No system can be 100 percent perfect but we can at least attempt to get close to that 100 percent figure.
I am amazed to see even Didi (Mamata Banerjee) is against this demonetization decision. I don’t know for how long these dirty political games would ruin our futures! If every state government and state bodies have supported this move and acted jointly in taking the appropriate measures to reduce the ongoing crisis, then India would have been a much better country to live in.
“An India without borders could have been a real paradise!”
We are getting divided with every passing day. An India without borders could have been a real paradise where every Indian would call their fellow countrymen as Indians. However, if the border games continue, India would be gifted with some more divisions like Gorkhaland, Bodoland, etc. And, the common people would again fail to understand that somebody would reap political dividends from their sufferings!