Faazil had a patriotic fervor and an unflinching faith in the democratic credentials of India. Born in a well-off family in Sonwar area of Srinagar, Faazil was just six when his father Mehraj-u-din, a businessman based in Delhi, admitted him in a premier educational institute there.
Faazil was stepping up the academic ladder as years passed. With time, he had grown as an inherently Indian who shared the dominant narrative of Indian mainstream. The ideals of democracy, secularism, equality and the like as enshrined in the constitution of India were too appealing to his senses, polished as they were presented in media, Bollywood movies and speeches.
His father remained busy in his business dealings with no time to care for Faazil’s knowledge about his roots and no wonder, his son was swayed by the overwhelmingly, though apparent , kind heartedness shown to the people of his state (Kashmir) by the Indian establishment. The occasional encounters with people from Kashmir in Delhi were not to sow any doubt and erase even an iota of love for India, he considered his motherland showering equal affection over her children.
Faazil was now a mature person employed with a multinational company. However, once it all happened by chance that he visited Srinagar in the month of August. He had come to attend the marriage ceremony of his cousin. Faazil felt elated about celebrating the Independence Day of India for the first time in his home town. The joy of approaching the day overshadowed his excitement to celebrate his cousin’s marriage.
He landed in Srinagar on a sunny day in the first week of August. And by the time he reached his home, the vehicle which he boarded on Srinagar airport was frisked about half a dozen times. He was subjected to a volley of questions which amounted to humiliation in the normal sense of word. However, Faazil interpreted the inconvenience he was subjected as a welcome gesture for it ensured the security and dignity of people.
Over the next few days he moved out to see and visit the famous places in Srinagar. He encountered the same, even worse as 15th August was approaching. While people at large were cursing their fate, Faazil was trying to pacify the reservations that had come up in his conscience about his unflinching belief in and the fair play of his motherland. Nevertheless, Faazil stood firm in his conviction and expected a grand celebration on 15th August when the lanes will be decorated with different colours and ‘National Flags’ and people will exchange sweets and wishes. After all there is no greater aday than the country’s independence day when dreams were nourished and the destiny founded after a hard fought and a long drawn struggle.
Finally the day dawned and Faazil got up early in the morning. He made the other inmates of his house rise early. He had brought some gifts which he wished to present as a surprise to his mates and relatives who he was to greet over phone.
The whole family converged over the breakfast table. Faazil received the first shock. He called his friends in Delhi but found the network down and out of service. Faazil took it as a network error and borrowed the cell phone of his brother with a different cellular network. However, here also Faazil couldn’t contact his friends. He tried his landline phone but only found the boring tone. Faazil felt aghast at this and decided to leave his home on foot to meet and wish his relatives.
While he came out of his house, he was shocked to see the movement of the pedestrians choked, shops closed and streets deserted amid the entire state apparatus pressed into service. A few state government employees he met were pouring out sighs and anguish as they were feeling themselves fastened in chains to participate in the Independence Day celebrations.
Elsewhere, there was a terrifying silence. Coupled with all this agony, the brazen display of guns by the men in uniform and their aggressive posturing had finally the effect and Faazil returned to his home amid increasing palpitation and deep inside him there was a surging transformation. Questions sprang up and he sought the answers.
Meanwhile, the news poured in, “…the independence day passed off peacefully….
The national flag was raised across Kashmir with all gaiety…
People wished and distributed sweets. ……”.
Faazil felt stunned and wondered,
“What the celebration brings to our home when the entire populace is condemned as inhuman and people at large refuse to toe the official line.”
Curious, Faazil sat with an elderly man in the neighbourhood. Abdul Salam took Fazil through the history and made him realise that Kashmir is a case of broken promises where morality was and is continuously being thrown to winds and where democracy is being subverted, all in the midst of roaring buzz of the trumpet of democracy blown by the Indian establishment.
Faazil also found that the media which had nourished the love and faith in India in him was in reality an extending arm of Indian military apparatus in Kashmir.
That night Faazil kept thinking,
“Oppression has engulfed us since long.”
Faazil could hear the cries of those who lost their dear ones in the turmoil and felt the sighs of widows. His heart melted over those subjected to enforced disappearance and he began to experience the agony their mothers and wives were experiencing in the midst of their hopeless hope of their return.
A metamorphosis enveloped Faazil and he murmured involuntarily,
“We are slaves who don’t have and deserve an Independence Day. Slaves are disciplined before they think independently and are tied ever increasingly to what serves the ‘national interest’. Slaves are forced to remain in a forced marriage”.
However, as Faazil had developed a habit of celebrating the independence day since his childhood Abdul Salam made him visit the ‘glowing’ past of Kashmir when rulers like Lalitadatiya and Zain ul Abidin ruled as independent rulers of Kashmir and when the birds roamed free and the gardens blooming with flowers brought happiness to people.
Faazil, thus, began to feel the flavour of ‘freedom’ in his slavery.