Warning signs and the invulnerability of truth

Arshid Malik

The mobs in Kashmir stand infuriated once again. This time over the hue and cry is over the banning of prepaid SIM cards of all mobile network operators in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The ban was instrumentated by the Central Government and announced by Home Minister, P Chidambram, recently. For the Valley people it sounded like yet another agenda point of the “detestation campaign” of the Center towards the people of Kashmir. “They just won’t let us live in peace”, lashed out a student enraged by the prospect of losing his main medium of personal communication to what he called “spiteful policies”. And of course, with so much already on our minds, we were least prepared for this “scourge”.
This time it is prepaid SIM cards and the next time it may be all kinds of SIM cards. Can that be ruled out? Not at all, I would say. The Center has the right and the impunity to ban the very air that we breathe; it is only a matter of thinking up an excuse to do that. For, after all is said and done, we are eventually a population under siege.
So the point is whether we should simply shift our weight when a ban or breach is announced and carry on with the rest of the day, or should we brave the odds and protest – in the light of the fact that the police and “security forces” are soon to be equipped with Taser guns (electric shock guns that send 50,000 volts of electricity spiraling through your body and rendering you immobile for a considerable period of time – knocks the lights out of me).
My interpretation of the situation is that we, the people of Kashmir, should never forget that we are “under siege” and thereof be prepared to meet any obstacle that makes living a little bit more difficult with a brave face, isolate adjustable mechanisms to keep on living and at the same time lodge our protest.
After all, how hard can it get. I remember the early 90s when the neighborhood would wake up to the screeching halts of cavalcades of vehicles and the subsequent shouts of “security forces” commanding us out of our homes and out on the streets in the dead of cold winter nights. “Crackdown” was the catchword. We did not even get the time to dress properly. Squatting on the snow and ice with no access to warmth we would become mute spectators to the exercises of the forces who consistently paraded us before vehicles laid out nicely like slices of bread, inside each one of which sat a “rogue assailant” aiming to single out people for a prolonged stay at one of the city’s interrogation centers before being mounted on with butts and barrels and loads of abuse. The same horrendous drama started out predawn and rolled out with nightfall, almost every 10 to 15 days. The interwoven fabrics of memory of such insidious enactments of statecraft tell me that we can withstand a lot more than would be expected.
The individual right to information and communication is primal to the core concepts of freedom and democracy. By denying us (and millions of people across the country) these rights, India is making obvious its torturous intentions towards all possible prospects of staying democratic. Simulations do not last long.


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