I am from the generation of Kashmiris who were born in the 1990s. The armed uprising against the Indian state was in full swing during our childhood. The terrible repression of the uprising and unbridled brutalities unleashed by the state took away all the joy of being a child in ignorance of the world. It made us men before we even could be boys.
We all have seen blood & gore, marches from our streets and smell of gun powder in the air. Beyond those crackdowns that broke our backs, the fencing of abandoned houses where we would play hide and seek, the ratata of the machine gun every night; we became eyewitnesses.
I am one of them too.
I wasn’t a writer or a political blogger, just a random teen who had access to the internet. I had a blog back in sixth grade year 2003-4, mostly I would do a little diary writing then I started writing poems (love poems).
I have never considered myself to be a writer but a storyteller from the mountains of Kashmir. I still have the habit of sitting on parapets in Downtown or post prayers in Jamia Masjid, and listening to the elderly folks talking on history and politics of Kashmir. My inspiration has always been Kashmir, whenever I write I personify our country as a person who has feelings, and knowing the struggle it has gone through keeps me motivated.
After sometime, Aatish-e-Khoon took birth, the fire of the blood. I started writing and sharing my readings. In the meantime the uprising of 2010 took place; I found a lot of youngsters who were from my generation unaware of our history from the 1990s. I started compiling and creating content on Bloodied Rivers of Kashmir.
Today it has almost everything you need to know about Kashmir, from links to documentaries to news clips. Later I found a likeminded person and we created Lost Kashmir History, we are developing its website so that it becomes the go to place for the world to know about Kashmir.
My idea always has been to lay the bare truth knowing how our media works, it becomes important to have alternate voices. Whenever I have written on Kashmir, every single sentence, the goal has always been to educate.
Couple of years back I changed Aatish-e-Khoon to Aatish e Chinar, it was a conscious upgrade. I felt the blood has seeped in our roots, and Chinar signifies our identity. Plus there’s a famous couplet from Iqbal Jis Khaak ke Zameer mein ho aatish e chinar/ mumkin nahi ke sard ho woh khaake arjumand.
I studied in Green Valley School in my formative years, and later I joined Burn Hall School. I always wanted to travel and be exposed to what lies beyond the Pir Panjal, I joined International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur where I did my honours degree in Human Sciences. It’s always a struggle to choose arts consciously in Kashmir but I stuck to it that this is what I wanted to do.
Being in an international university is one of the greatest experiences in my life. I have known people from over 120 countries, from East Turkestan to Sierra Leone. It has taught me the essence of compassion which leads to universal solidarity. I have spoken at a lot of conferences in Malaysia on Kashmir, and I have always believed that a Kashmiri who studies abroad by default becomes ambassador of Kashmir. It’s important not just to educate them but also create friendships, as today’s friendships lead to tomorrow’s unity.
I have been a youth diplomat, spoken in Cairo, Istanbul and other places. I have been a youth delegate representing Kashmir at many conferences in the world. It all started from a conversation with a few Egyptians who I educated about Kashmir. They were quite moved by its story, and some months later they send an email that I am supposed to participate in a conference they organized because of Kashmir. It was very touching and I realized that there are many people in the world who care, but we need to reach out to them first.
Being away from Kashmir for half a decade made me helpless, as I was far from home and couldn’t contribute on the ground. I made sure I did what I could be it awareness campaigns or becoming an international volunteer. I worked with Amnesty International and UNHCR to help with the refugees, I felt it was my duty to make a difference however small it could be.
Thus in 2013, the idea of Kashmir Caring Foundation took birth. My close friends came up with an idea to set up a developmental organization that would work with an international outlook. It took time to draft the vision and goals, and while we are at it, the floods came about. While my friends were working hard on the ground, I was working without a rest to raise awareness and coordinate efforts internationally. KCF right now is working on a plan to develop systems for underprivileged kids in Kashmir.
My family has always been a support is it taking part in Football Nationals or going AWOL in South of Thailand. Plus they understand the risks and the needs of being a blogger and working in the community. In fact, my father keeps pitching me ideas on what to write on next while we drive home each day. Like any other typical Kashmiri family, my family’s discussions are always centered on politics.
Kashmir has no dearth of talent that is for sure, but in writing I don’t there could be a comparison. There are thousands and thousands of bloggers who keep creating content on Kashmir. Their writings are, brilliant, their poetry is powerful and they are consistent. But a little bit of guidance like I had would always do great for them. Kashmiri youth need mentors and role models who can build their capacities to grow as individuals.
Working with Youth for Kashmir, a volunteer community organization, we have done workshops for school kids in storytelling and from experience I can tell you that they are brilliant. Just a little more confidence.
Everything I am today, it is because of Allah. He brought me into this world in the house of a loving family. Being born in Kashmir was not my choice but it is my responsibility to empower it.
In the words of ~K “I tried. I failed. Kashmir is that eternal love that will drag you back from anywhere. It intoxicates. It kills. Yet, the love never dies” and to express this love one needs to get their hands dirty and work productively for Kashmir in any capacity. I believe we need to be independent not just from our minds but with the essence of our being.