Imagining Gaza in Kashmir

As I write this, Gaza is in mourning. Outside my home in old Srinagar city, a strict curfew is in force. The celebration of the 13 July Martyrs Day, like any other commemoration of martyrdom in Kashmir, is met with a clampdown by the state. There is mourning in Kashmir too for 150 dead Palestinians of Gaza Strip. Mourning takes the shape of protest, of clarion calls for freedom of all oppressed people in the world. Except us.

We are a strange people. On Friday, sermons delivered from the pulpits by the clerics call for the freedom of Palestinians, freedom of the Afghans, freedom of the Syrians but they forget their own. Does God forget too?

The streets reverberate with the rousing slogans of solidarity for Gazans. I imagine Gaza in the night. The raining bombs freeze children in their sleep. A boy hugging his sibling in an embrace of death. The death of a mother robbing her children of sleep.

Gaza is not Srinagar. I imagine Srinagar to be Gaza. My friend scoffs, ‘A single bomb will flatten Srinagar.’ A house in Gaza is split into two. The family rushes to find their daughter in the rubble. A toy is found.

We sanctify death. Yes, we do. In death we announce the worthiness of our lives. Of lives shorn of dignity and freedom attained finally in death. There is silence in death. The silence of freedom. We shout freedom from the clock tower at Lal Chowk, only to find it in a bullet.

“What is freedom/Azadi?” my friend asks. There is no answer to this. He knows. Gazans are fighting to be like everyone else. There is similarity in every struggle. I imagine Gazans thinking about Kashmir. I imagine them smiling at us. I imagine them acknowledging that our fight is similar.

I imagine Gaza in the afternoon sun. The debris of houses shining in the scorching sun. I imagine its children picking stones, aiming them towards the enemy, becoming men in the process. And I imagine Mahmoud Dervish silently writing these lines for Gaza:

“Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.

Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.

The only value for the occupied is the extent of their resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones or songs. It learned these values through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.”

Originally published here —


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