Manu Joseph Announced Verdict: Kashmir is Happy?

Manu Joseph announced his verdict – Kashmir is Happy. One of the prominent Indian journalist and Editor in Chief of Open Magazine.

Joseph soon after concluding his Kashmir visit proclaimed “Kashmir is happy”. Joseph has come to the conclusion as during his brief sojourn, he met a few Kashmiris working for ‘Aircel’, has discussed the Kashmir issue with some “eminent” Kashmiri scribes, has enjoyed a Gondola ride in Gulmarg and has also listened to the speech of the District Magistrate in Kashmir village.

“Sorry Kashmir is Happy”. While reading the headline of the article, pictures of Doordarshan News anchors flashed through my mind. During 2010, when Kashmir was burning and more than 110 boys were killed, the Doordarshan editors in their news capsules would present some Kashmiri men in front of the camera saying “Kashmir and Kashmiris are happy”. I still remember the day when 17 people were killed in the protest demonstrations and DD was still portraying Kashmir as “normal” and the “situation under control”. Joseph’s article reflects the same mindset. After his interactions with a few people, he has drawn a far more serious conclusion about the Kashmir situation.

No one would and can deny that the development is the foremost mantra for any state or any nation and same is the case with Kashmir. I can assure this that no one in the Valley will say that they don’t need KFC or McDonalds or glitzy shopping malls.

It is true that people in the Valley need development but those who write these stories need to understand this point as well that development would be productive only if there is peace in the Valley. If there is no peace and the situation remains volatile, what an ordinary Kashmiri is going to do with the development? Kashmir has been suffering from a long spell of conflict and at this stage talking about KFC and McDonalds, preceding the peace and the end of bloodshed is foolhardy and these write-ups are no more than a mere shaggy dog story.

Everyone is aware of the fact that Kashmir is not a problem today. The dispute has taken thousands of innocent lives. There is no count of enforced disappearances, cases of rape of women folk and other such human rights violations. The thousands of probes ordered by the state government themselves need a probe – what has happened to those probes. It would have been appreciated if Joseph had visited any one of the family members of those youth killed in the 2010 protests and then understood what they think of the Kashmir issue.

Talk to a Kashmiri, who has no political affiliation, who has not lost a brother, sister, son or a father during the long turmoil, and ask him a simple question – what would you vote for: KFC or the resolution of Kashmir issue? The answer will be latter for sure. Because everyone in the troubled Valley is searching for peace and peace will not come unless the issue is resolved. And unless we have peace in Kashmir, development is not going to play a role of “magic wand”.

Holding conversations with an IAS topper and some Kashmiris in the Cafe Coffee Day will not give a clear perspective on the ground realities of Kashmir, what people actually believe and what they are actually searching for?. I am sure, if the author had spent some more time to understand the Kashmir issue; he would have presented the other side of Kashmir too. Also, people who visit Kashmir for the first time and spend some 5-7 days in Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam are most likely to conclude that the Valley residents are living under a free sky, without any worry and trouble. It is their folly.

Some observers have lauded Joseph for writing a wonderful piece on Kashmir and some of them have even said that Joseph “has the guts to speak the truth by presenting a clear picture”. Let me suggest to them – come and visit Kashmir once and spend some time with hapless mothers who have been waiting for the return of their sons for two decades now, visit the homes of those victims who have lost their dear ones during the turmoil, talk to some innocent youth who are in jails, and then pronounce the judgment.

Adil Akhzer is a young Journalist and editor, based in Srinagar India. Adil writes stories about items of interest in New Delhi and Kashmir.