Soul Imprints

chinar: restoring once robust roots
June 19th, 2018

Soul Imprints

chinar: restoring once robust roots

June 19th, 2018

June 19th, 2018

Via e-mail only


Mr. António Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General

The United Nations

New York, NY 10017


Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

I write to you fraught with anguish at the plight of children in the Kashmir valley who are dealt unkind cards and shackled to an inescapable destiny.

My deep love for my native land, India, is no secret; it permeates my identity. Similarly, my relationship with the Kashmir valley, an integral part of India, is a profoundly personal one. While the searing stories of civilians speak of atrocities, the omnipresent heavily armed police, Indian army, and paramilitary, along with concertina barricades, checkpoints, and curfews—are evident signs of (remnant and) ongoing conflict. It stabs my soul to learn that unlike the childhood afforded to me in this hauntingly beautiful land, the life offered to the children of Kashmir valley is a combination of battleground and graveyards.

We continue to buy time (at the expense of children) and collect statistics, making us increasingly apathetic to the life of each suffering child. One such child was 8-year-old girl Asifa Bano, an innocent child from the nomadic Bakarwal tribe. Young Asifa—whose exposure did not travel beyond her illiterate community, herds of sheep and goats, and the mountains—was abducted, held captive, gang-raped, and murdered. If world leaders care enough and dare to transport themselves to vulnerable Asifa’s horrific reality—of distress, disorientation, and degradation, perhaps in those quiet moments of finding their conscience, with stinging tears and boiling blood, they will realise that the truth of one life is evidence enough—to say ENOUGH.

Caught in the crossfire, disfigured by years of militancy, the life of children in the Kashmir valley is governed by trauma and unrest. Here, the course of a child’s life is chequered with disrupted schooling, economic hardships, and property damage, and marred with physical and sexual violence as well as chronic illness. Besides, a child often witnesses the torture or/and death of their loved ones, ending up orphaned only to be re-victimised. When children of conflict live under constant vigilance, with unpredictability, and fear permeating the air, how can they have a reference to peace, normalcy, and stability? This cruel reality can only foretell the youth of a foreboding future.

Fact is also that long-term ramifications of war disfigure children emotionally and psychologically. Armed conflict not only exposes children to hunger, abuse, and disease, it leads to post-traumatic stress and comorbidity of psychiatric disorders, which then has a menacing ripple effect on the most vulnerable in society.

Moreover, when impressionable young minds witness loved ones dragged out of their homes at gun point or/and being raped in front of them or/and are left disfigured with pellets, while simultaneously denied exposure and education, instead poisoned with hate and sent to militant training camps, it is but natural that their fuel of choice will be violent reprisal.

Mr. Secretary-General, with this extent of combined destruction, what could be the narrative of the children of Kashmir valley?

Conspicuous in this conflict is the isolation of Kashmir valley. One has to survive structural abuse at the hands of perilous perpetrators to know that perpetrators immobilise their victims to carry out their cruelty. The organised and systematic nature of structural abuse—similar to slow poisoning a victim to break down the resistance of the human body—enables perpetrators to conduct their crimes in full view of and with the support of society. Furthermore, communities rife with corruption who participate in structural violence—based on caste, gender, ethnicity, and so forth, enable structural abuse—darkness supports darkness. Also, where isolation created by perpetrators promotes violence, the stereotypical beliefs of an ignorant and cowardice society assist in the further breakdown of victims by stigmatising and devaluing.

A culture that affords impunity only protects perpetrators. Moreover, specific eco-systems will vehemently deny the truth while inundating victims with punishments. Research proves that the greater the crime—within a family/marriage, establishment, or society—the greater the lengths perpetrators and their enablers go to discredit the victim(s), making sure no one believes the victim(s), conveniently erasing history. But how can we airbrush history? And how can we continue to tolerate systems of quiet oppression against the most vulnerable? Instead of silencing children and stripping them of sheen, children (and adult survivors of conflict, including the survivors of the 1994 Kunan Poshpora mass-rape) must be allowed to share their testimonies. To deny survivors their truth is to deny their life and to deny their life is to airbrush history, and to airbrush history is a CRIME.

Mr. Secretary-General, in the manner I am appealing to you to protect the privileges of children in the Kashmir valley, I would like to impress upon the children of Jammu and Kashmir to acknowledge the crimes of their ancestors. We cannot purge generational crimes; they automatically become the burden of the younger generation—no different from Germans who are burdened with the guilt over the Holocaust. Refusing to acknowledge crimes and suffering will only serve apathy. Children must recognise that Kashmir, one of the oldest unresolved conflicts in the world, stands as is; it is the demography that changed with conflicts and war starting from the 1947 Jammu massacre of Muslims at the hands of extremists, both Hindu and Sikh, to the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus in 1990. To rebuild their future, children must seek truth in the words of Albert Einstein: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” It is in Kashmir’s plentiful nature that her children can become aware of the significance of diversity and inclusiveness.

There is no doubt that the United Nations deals with an onslaught of world issues. Moreover, Kashmir (thanks to the Shimla Agreement) could be a massive undertaking. Nevertheless, I request you to take a slow journey through Kashmir, engage with the children and listen to their hearts. When you feel children’s world from their viewpoint, you can study the arc of uprooting and war, and its effect on children.

There is absolute truth in the words of the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel: “Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor—never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.” Resigning to the state of affairs is as good as getting into the coffin, an act best left to corpses—bystanders, pretenders, and silencers.

Kashmir is a land so abundant it spawned a tourism industry, but now left thoroughly drained of its vitality and tranquillity. Where we reaped the best from the naturally fertile landscapes of Kashmir, we think nothing of leaving Kashmir’s children with dark pigments that translate into personal canvases of danger, despair, and death. This piercing reality should serve as a reminder that tourism and trade are only garnishes; it is security and exposure that must be staples for the children of Jammu and Kashmir (and the world over). For all the vitality Kashmir gave us during her heyday, we must erect the scaffolding, and restore the rights of children in this conflicted land, rebuild Kashmir to its original state—infinitely bountiful.

Mr. Secretary-General, I wish your leadership, along with the support of collective courageous voices, heralds a new chapter for the future of Kashmir’s children.

Thank you for your attention.


Heera Rajagopal




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