Crossing Divides: What happens when pen pals reunite

Illustration depicting Duaa and Saumya

Duaa Bhat is a 17-year-old woman in Indian-administered Kashmir, probably the most closely militarised zones on the earth. Two years in the past, she turned into pen buddies with Saumya Sagarika, 18, from the rustic’s capital, Delhi, in a bid to know the other worlds they have been rising up in.

The military has been deployed in Kashmir, India’s best Muslim-majority area, since the upward thrust of an armed insurrection in 1989. As Saumya came upon via her letters, Duaa’s research have been interrupted by means of moves and faculty shutdowns. The issue used to be regularly compounded by means of the Indian govt who would intentionally close down or “snap” web and social media.

Then, in August closing yr, the federal government got rid of Kashmir’s particular standing – which supplied a point of autonomy beneath article 370 of the rustic’s charter – and imposed a conversation clampdown. Colleges have been closed, 1000’s together with politicians have been positioned beneath detention, and make contact with traces and web have been blocked.

5 months later, as the federal government started to ease conversation restrictions, Saumya started writing to Duaa once more. Listed here are edited excerpts from their letters.

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Expensive Duaa

A heat hi from Delhi. How are you? How is everybody on your circle of relatives? We did not in point of fact proceed our promise of staying “pen buddies” after our closing spherical of letters, however I’m more than happy to restart our dialog.

So much will have to have modified on your existence and the instances round you previously two years too. I were given to grasp that Segment 370 used to be got rid of from Kashmir a couple of months again and for a while telecommunications have been snapped there, and web is most certainly nonetheless no longer operating.

I’m positive the location will have to have modified. I am hoping everyone seems to be protected there?

Expensive Saumya

A chilling salaam from Kashmir.

Chilling as a result of it’s in point of fact, in point of fact chilly right here at the moment. I’m excellent and, Allhamdullilah, everybody in my circle of relatives is doing excellent. We did not proceed being pen buddies since the web here’s down more often than not and staying involved with any individual out of doors the valley is a job in itself.

I used to be in point of fact satisfied to grasp that you have began school and your research are going smartly. Folks like me have suffered essentially the most previously few months. We used to review ourselves with some lend a hand from the magic of the web. Best the Almighty is aware of how we have now finished our syllabus in time for assessments.

Folks right here don’t seem to be pleased with the elimination of our particular standing. Individually, I think depriving other people of even speaking to their close to and costly ones is a contravention of human rights.

Saumya, the general public, together with myself, don’t perceive the protests in the remainder of the rustic. Information channels right here don’t give us sufficient data to know what the CAA (Citizenship Modification Act) in point of fact is. Are you able to transient me about them?

In December, India’s parliament handed the CAA, which provides amnesty to non-Muslim unlawful immigrants from the 3 within sight Muslim-majority international locations – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It sparked large protests as many regarded as it discriminatory in opposition to Muslims, one thing the federal government denies. Saumya, a Hindu, joined the masses of most commonly Muslim girls in a Delhi side road protest in opposition to the brand new citizenship regulations.

Expensive Duaa

It’s slightly chilly in Delhi too however the temper is in point of fact sizzling.

A couple of days again, I went to the protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh. Ladies were protesting in contrast act there for the previous 26 days. Those girls don’t seem to be college professors or activists however homemakers, girls who stay in purdah, who’ve stepped out directly to the streets to protest. They’re combating this struggle so their kids are in a position to steer their lives in peace.

After witnessing the keenness amongst other people at Shaheen Bagh, I will say persons are ready to combat this struggle for our rights.

For your closing letter, you wrote that you would heard slogans like, “They sought after Kashmir to transform like India however have made India into Kashmir”, have been being chanted in Delhi. You’re 100% proper.

Since this protest motion began, all of Delhi is feeling like Kashmir. Like web/telephone shutdowns, phase 144 (curfew) being imposed, stone-throwing and police lathi-charge (the use of lengthy batons) all through protests. So I will say that as of late I perceive Kashmir and the location dealing with other people dwelling there slightly smartly.

Expensive Saumya

From what you mentioned about CAA, I think we’re going again in time as a substitute of transferring ahead. I nonetheless can not imagine that even within the 21st Century some other people discriminate in opposition to others at the foundation of caste, faith and, in some portions of society, even gender.

Those protests are an explanation that individuals nonetheless imagine in taking a stand for each and every different and that humanity continues to be alive. In contrast to different puts in India, Kashmir has been in point of fact calm about this act. In our hearts we all know this act is unsuitable however at the moment we Kashmiris could not care much less about what is going down out of doors the valley. Our voices, our rights were not noted previously and are being not noted presently.

A few days in the past, a Niti Aayog (a central authority suppose tank) member VK Saraswat defended the conversation ban and he went so far as announcing that Kashmiris do not anything however watch “grimy movies” on-line. Even if he apologized later, those remarks can’t be simply thrown out of our minds. Do other people there in point of fact suppose that approach about us? No person is speaking concerning the issues we face presently because of the web ban. Are we in point of fact invisible to the remainder of the rustic?

Non secular identities arise time and again in Saumya and Duaa’s letters. In 1989-90, in the beginning of the insurrection, masses of 1000’s of Hindus – known as Pandits – have been terrorised into leaving by means of Muslim militants. It tore aside the centuries-old unity that existed between the 2 communities.

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Expensive Duaa

I think that individuals right here believe Kashmir a treasured assets of the rustic and do not give any significance to its other people. Simply closing week, there used to be a dialogue at the movie Shikara on TV. The movie is in keeping with Kashmiri Pandits. There was no dialogue in their plight for the previous 30 years right here. And I don’t believe that individuals will move to observe this movie or speak about it even now.

Thru our letters I’ve been in a position to know so much about Kashmir and Muslims, which isn’t the same as commonplace perceptions. We have now loads of circle of relatives pals who’re Muslim however are not able to talk about such problems with them overtly, lest we offend them. This CAA factor motivated me to protest, despite the fact that I’m a Hindu.

As I’ve understood Kashmir via your letters, it has got rid of my apprehensions and made me much more excited about Kashmir and Kashmiris. Previous I used to be afraid as a result of the picture created by means of society and the media. However after our conversations, I’m excited to visit Kashmir to know and enjoy it myself. Is the Kashmir valley open for other people from out of doors now?

Expensive Saumya

I’m penning this letter no longer from Kashmir, however from probably the most holy towns of the sector – Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is an incredible feeling to observe Muslims from all over the international come to wish right here.

I think happy that you recognize the reality about Kashmir. The valley is open for vacationers now (formally) however for us Kashmiris it used to be and can at all times be open for the folk out of doors.

You understand there’s a position within the Khanyar house of Kashmir, the place worshipping puts of various religions are positioned on one hill. On the backside is a Gurdwara (Sikh temple), within the heart a shrine and on the most sensible a temple. My mom’s maiden house used to be close to that house they usually had Pandits as neighbours. In my adolescence, my mom used to inform me quite a lot of tales concerning the brotherhood between other communities.

Kashmir is a in point of fact stunning position to reside and I pray to the Almighty on this holy town of Mecca to make Kashmir a calm position once more and to revive the brotherhood that used to be misplaced. I am final this letter with the hope that my dua (want) comes true and you’ll come to Kashmir to satisfy me.

With loads of love


Illustrations by means of Neelima P Aryan

Crossing divides

A season of news about bringing other people in combination in a fragmented international.

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