As we see our tricolor soar through the sky while we hear the words of Rabindranath Tagore echoing around us, we know that we stand tall celebrating 73 years of indepence. 73 years of freedom. 73 years of ignoring many truths. The truth that up North in Kashmir, the 15th doesn’t hold the same meaning as it does to us but is yet another day of siege and state enforced silence. The Valley of Kashmir, which goes back to over two decades, experiences a sudden change of atmosphere within moments, every year on this day. The government’s security system works on ‘protecting’ the world’s largest militarized zone but in the citizens’ eyes, it is a crafty mechanism of controlling people’s lives, thoughts, choices and desires. This oppression is carefully packaged and presented under the name of “peace and normalcy” to us, the rest of India and the rest of the world. On the morning of the 15th, Kashmiris wake up to blocked cellular services and armed soldiers on the street while we, on the other hand, can wake up knowing that freedom is our birthright. It is a day reminding the citizens of Kashmir of the fallen soldiers who fought for their nation, only now to be victims of unabashed majoritarianism with the overthrow of article 370. During any celebration in India, be it Independence day, or republic day, Kashmir is left groping in the dark to continuously make it seem as though Kashmir is not India. Of course, in the name of ‘celebration’, there is an official ceremony in which the chief minister will salute the tricolour, though it will be an empty stadium with no Kashmiri commoner wishing to attend the ceremony. It was in this stadium in 2010, that a suspended police cop threw a shoe at Omar Abdullah, who was saluting the tricolour. While flinging his shoe, the cop named Abdul Ahad Jan, shouted “We want freedom.” This slogan has haunted Kashmir for 73 years and now, more than ever, it is true. As the dusk of indepence day approaches, the prayers chanted by Kashmiri women for safe return to their loved ones are often left unfulfilled. It is said that wars are won against armies in battle fields and not against people denied of their freedom, but till that holds true in one of the corners of India, Kashmir is forced to stay home till the 15th is over.

KRITI SARAWGI (G10)

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