Of Black Days and Blackguards

Yes August 14 and 15 are and will always be 'Black Days' - for the millions displaced in the largest and bloodiest displacement in history - of a people with a shared culture, race, ethnicity, religion and traditions

Black Days are used to commemorate unfortunate or tragic events, especially if they have been violent and affected the lives of many. The natural changeover from teenage to adulthood in the 1990s showed us many a Black Days, especially the brutal clampdown by the Indian security forces in the Kashmir Valley such as the Gowkadal Massacre. Teenage is an age of reactions, adrenaline and pure energy. One doesn't think, reflect or mull over events. There is a simple gut reaction and the whole heritage of tribal politics, community loyalty and family honour come into play. It is only when one starts grappling with major decisions of life and facing the consequences of those decisions, is there any pause for reflection and introspection becomes a habit.

We are used to August 15 being celebrated as Black Day in Kashmir. It not only involves the customary "hartal" (strike) call from the separatists, but also the usual precautionary restricted curfew by the Indian security and Jammu and Kashmir police. After a whole day of discontinued mobile services (later in the millennium) as a precautionary measure and hasty Independence Day celebrations at various district stadiums, with a handful of school children selected to participate under tight security conditions, the evenings saw us 'blacking' out our windows using thick curtains, chart papers and newspapers and relying on candles in the dark, cold nights.

Over the 27 years, as it dawned on us that 'Azadi' wasn't something just around the corner and that there was a whole history, geography, and political science to the demand of the separatists, the Black Out was relaxed and only the stubborn-headed ones stuck to it. Of course, for many of us it did not mean automatic 'all-out-joy' on the 14th of August in favour of Pakistan. The ones celebrating in the streets of Srinagar appeared as stupid and giddy fools as we watched them light fireworks, a reminiscent of cricket wins over India.

Gradually as the implications of a guerrilla warfare using our Kashmiri non-state-actors to enact Ghazwa-e-Hind dawned on us, we became disillusioned with the appropriation, distortion and misinformation of everything the separatists narratives had surrounded us with. The advent of technology and social media saw us not only directly talking to the Pakistanis but also relating with the Indians and learning about the Indian struggle for independence, in a much more nuanced way than the NCERT textbooks had taught us.

Nowadays it is amusing to see the separatists appropriate Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, and spew hatred against Nehru, whose Cabinet had banned the RSS (a Hindutva propagating organisation) at one time and then calling for a Black Day to be observed because India got independence from the Colonial British. But it gets fascinating when we delve into the history of the Indian struggle for independence in detail and the role of the Indian Muslims comes to light - how they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, and Jains to throw the British out.

Every Indian Muslim today takes pride in standing up not only to the far right Hindutva brigade slowly gaining power over the entire country, but also to the extremist forces in Islam adamant to establish a global Caliphate with Sharia law. Today, as Kashmiri Muslims, we know the hollowness of the call for a Black Day on August 15 by the separatists, their black hearts clearly revealed for what they are - upper class-elite families from Mirpur settled in the UK/US and lobbying for a break-up of India using jihad and the Leftist-Islamist alliance; an alliance blinded by post modernism, moral and cultural relativism, and multiculturalism.

Yes August 14 and 15 are and will always be 'Black Days' - for the millions displaced in the largest and bloodiest displacement in history - of a people with a shared culture, race, ethnicity, religion and traditions. For subsequent generations who continue to suffer the Partition trauma and its political aftermath. For the millions of Indian Muslims and Sikhs who are always held responsible for the breaking up of India, and have to undergo humiliation and 'dhimmitude' (second class citizen) with the cow politics in 2017 and the Indira Gandhi assassination backlash in 1984 and after.

Yet not to take away from a United British India's efforts to stand up to the colonial power and become the catalyst for the freedoms of other colonies pushing for their own independence after World War II, there is solace to be taken from few months/years that Muslims stood together with Hindus, atheists, communists and other denominations in arguing, struggling, fighting for a free India with control over its resources and governance of its people. These precious times that are lost in the pages of time and/or covered up by revisionist historians in both the countries will be needed in the coming decades if the sanity of both nuclear-powered countries is to be kept intact.

Revisionist history is the new arsenal among extremist forces in both the countries as they go for the jugulars - "Quit India Movement" was detrimental to the Indian struggle (Hindu far right) and "Jinnah envisioned a secular Pakistan" (digging up his speeches post Partition in the new Constituent Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan). It will be an uphill task for secular people and civil society in both countries to contain the fears of the minorities and the zeal of the majority, average people not having the time or inclination to sift the real from the fallacy.

Independence Days are supposed to be the days to retake the pledge to serve one's country and build its institutions democratically and strengthen their foundations in a secular, socialist and scientific way. They are Black Days too, to commemorate the memories and lives of those who were unfortunate enough to be swept away in the violence of the Partition. These are days to promise never to forget, and never to subject humanity to the brutality shown in those dark days. These are also days when new generations are promised a peaceful, harmonious future, with an all out effort to revitalise the environment, the river systems, the ecosystems, the forests, the seascapes and landscapes for a cleaner, greener, healthier tomorrow.

The Black Days can be Grey Days - added to the history of our collective consciences and used as impetus to work for a peaceful South Asia and heal our collective psyches.

The views expressed by this writer do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the organisation.

Arshia Malik is a Srinagar-based writer and social commentator with focus on women issues and conflict in Kashmir. She makes her living as a school teacher and is an avid collector of literature. She is currently writing a book about her life as a female in Kashmiri Muslim society

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