I remember a dream that I had more than two decades ago which was vivid enough to wake me up with tears flooding my face; I’ve had reason to recall it lately, as the Indian state has once again unleashed its terror and might on Kashmir.
Traveling in the nether world of dreams and nightmares—in French, the word is “cauchemar” and cauche meaning “to tread on” captures perfectly the weight pressing on my chest that I needed to push off to come awake, to feel saved from a dangerous journey. No such safety for the trodden-upon Kashmiris, not then, not now. But it must have been 1992 when I had that nightmare, that cauchemar, in the wake of the hoisting of the Hindutva-draped tricolor flag by BJP up n coming stalwart Narendra Modi with Murli Joshi in Lal Chowk, Srinagar. Or perhaps it was in 1999 when there was a “limited” war between Pakistan and India in Kargil around the Line of Control in Kashmir. Or maybe as recently as 2002 after the Gujarat riots also referred to by some as the Gujarat Pogrom against Muslims, presided over by Modi who by then was Chief Minister of the state.
What I recall as clear as day is that I dreamt the dream during one of the more heightened moments of possible war breaking out between India and Pakistan. And what I dreamt was this:
—I’m at a conference in India, having left my young kids with my husband back in New York. While there, war breaks out between the two countries. It goes nuclear very quickly. There is widespread panic and the conference delegates, myself included, are huddled into some sort of lift that promises to shoot us up into the atmosphere, to get above the nuclear radiation in an attempt to save our lives…. my last thoughts are, my children, my beautiful babies, my husband…. will I ever see you again? What will happen to Noddy, to Faryal, without their mom to love and protect them? Oh God, oh god….—
And that’s when I came awake, sobbing.
Today, the nightmare is back, the dream only inches away from reality.
I heard from my dear friends Angana Chatterji and Nyla Ali Khan, both with strong ties to Kashmir. The former is a longtime scholar-activist of the region who has risked much in uncovering unmarked graves of Kashmiris and working on reparative justice which has not come for this paradise on earth. The latter is granddaughter of Sheikh Abdullah who believed Nehru was going to uphold his promise of plebiscite and thus agreed to lead Kashmir as an autonomous region awaiting the vote of self determination; that day never came.
Today, both these women, academics at US institutions, are unable to track down their friends as Angana has been trying to do, or contact their family members in Kashmir as in Nyla’s case.
Travelling to freedom remains a pipe dream for the 10 million or so Kashmiris and for those who fight alongside them
If war does break out between India and Pakistan over this latest abrogation of the Indian constitution by Modi and his ruling party, it will surely be a nuclear one.
And that will spell the end of all journeys; a Cauchemar from which no one will wake.