#IAmNotNice

Another day, another attack, another hashtag.

In my 27 short years and even shorter 25-20 that I’ve been aware of the world and been able to understand it, I can count on my fingers the number of times Kashmir has not been in the news for a terror attack. Bombs, guns, terrorists, people dying, newspaper article, Indian politicians making speeches against Pakistan and the next day silence. Rinse, repeat for the next time.

For the longest time, I thought of terror attacks as a norm. As something that happened everywhere in the world and something that you could do nothing about. It was a reality of life, I thought, just like diesease and death. And then 9/11 happened, there was outrage and uproar and the usual condemnation. But it wasn’t forgotten the next day. Suddenly there were plans to tackle terrorism, to bring justice to the victims and all these things that to my 10 year old self, were unheard of. I was puzzled but I moved on. Shelving it in the back of my mind, and concentrated on more important things like Harry Potter and Pokemon.

And then London happened and it was the same as 9/11. In the meantime, the attacks in Kashmir continued with all the motions of a daily routine. To my slightly older & more aware brain, there was something slightly off. Sure, the people killed in London on that one day is a lot more than those in Kashmir on a single day but if you took the sum total, surely the number of Kashmiris we’d lost to terrorism was much more than in London or New York?

With this gnawing at my brain, I moved on with my life. Then Mumbai happened. At this point I was more than a little aware of this thing we call international relations and diplomacy. The war on terror was on but that this war was on terror that killed white people was not lost on me. With this, the cynic in me was born.

Since then there has been Boston, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, France, Turkey and a million other places. But the pattern was the same. Attack, death, outrage but international sympathy and action only if white people are involved. For someone born in the 20th century and grown up in the 21st, apartheid, race and class were a thing of the past. The colour of your skin was just that. Nothing more. How naive!!

Today everyone is Nice. But yesterday when Burhan Wani was killed, everyone spoke about extra judicial killings. Pakistan expressed shock and concern at how India was handling things in Kashmir. Pakistan! Pakistan that gives birth to terrorists with the sole intent of creating terror in India , Pakistan whose terror policies led to the massacre of a hundred of its own children. And the world just stood by and watched. No talk of fighting terror here. Kashmiris have been dying for ages, there’s nothing new about that.

So today, I’m not going to condemn the attacks because condemnation is not going to stop them from happening again. Today, I’m not going to pray for the victims because it is the same sadistic God who let those people die. Today, I am not Nice. What I am is outraged. I am disgusted. I am appalled. I am frustrated. I am helpless….. I am human. I am hurt.  I am sad. I am scared. I am terrified.

I am certain this will happen again. My feelings won’t change that. My prays won’t. Because as long as terror is identified with as good or bad, as long as dealt with based on the colour of the skin of the victims, innocent people will continue to die. Kashmir is perhaps the saddest example of that. But it won’t be long before the entire world is.

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2014 Independence day address 101

I’m a big advocate of celebrating national holidays. One of the motivating factors, of course, is that it is a holiday, but despite having moved to a country where it is just another day, national holidays are still something I really look forward too. I love seeing the tri-colour everywhere, the parades, flag hoisting and of course, the customary patriotic movie on TV. I think I’ve watched Border more than a dozen times but I will still sit down to watch it and sing along loudly to all the songs this friday (My poor flatmates). One of my absolute favourite things to do is watch the independence day parade and listen to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. It fills me with a deep sense of pride and belonging. the national anthem at the end just gives me goosebumps! For a few years now the Prime Ministers speech has put a dapper on my Independence day spirits but going by Mr. Modi’s pre-election speeches, my expectations of the address this year are at an all time high. No pressure Mr. Modi! Just to give him an edge, here are some points that I’d like to see him address and some I would prefer avoided. You’re welcome!

1. Our economy has been the talked to death for some years now what with the fall in the rupee value(From Rs.63 to one Euro when I left in October 2011 to Rs.80 now! Think of poor students like me on an education loan!), the price rise, inflation, etc. since the budget was just announced, outlining your plans for the next five years will give a much-needed rest to all the speculation. Please, none of the vague the rupee value will go up and the prices will come down. We know that. What we want to know is how will that happen? What are you planning on doing to stabilise and improve the economy? Also, please don’t bring up the fact that the state of the economy is due to the previous government. We know that and it is because we know this that you are where you are today (Just reminding). Let’s rise above petty politics for the day.

2. The recent spotlight on the crimes against women have earned us the nickname rape country. We know you would prefer not commenting on every single crime but it is a matter of national importance that half of the population feels unsafe in their own country. We’d like to feel like full-fledged citizens of the country with rights rather than third class citizens going by the treatment meted out to us. The need of the hour is to stress on the safety and rights of women and children. Shed light on measures to be undertaken to make the country safer for women and children.

3. The  last few days have seen repeated violations of the ceasefire from across the border. You have been very vocal about the importance od protecting our country and reprimanding our neighbours for breach of previous agreements. Implications of repeated infractions need to be stressed upon. A limit has to be set and adhered to. We are all for friendly relations with our neighbours but we will not tolerate any breach of our trust and any harm to our country and its citizens. Long have we waited and watched and our silence has been construed to be our weakness. Stringent measures need to be announced and adhered to or this game of cat and mouse will escalate.

4. There has been a spike in communal violence across the country over the last couple of months. India is a secular country and people of different faiths and beliefs have long-lived here in harmony. People still do live in harmony. It is in recent years that communal differences has reared its ugly head. What was earlier used by foreigners to divide us is now being used by some of our own countrymen to their benefit. It is mainly a few anti-national elements who provoke tensions in the otherwise peaceful and harmonious people. India has seen the arrival and birth of different cultures in her long history and she has imbibed in her these different cultures and evolved. Were she to turn hostile, we can be sure she would not exist as she does today. It is our tolerance and evolution that makes us who we are. Serious consequences for anyone who tries to disrupt the peace and harmony of our country needs to be announced.

5. Nationbuilding is not just the job of a government but of a country as a whole. Your initiative to involve people in the administration through mygov.in is an inspired idea. People want to be involved in the development and progress of the country and this is the first step in that directions. Giving importance to this topic and speaking of your plans to make governance and administration more inclusive would be a great boost to people’s confidence and raise their faith in the government.

There are, of course Mr. Prime Minister, many other issues, however, considering today’s climate, these topics need to be dealt with immediately. What better forum than the Independence day address? Show the path that you intend to take and place your faith in the people. Your of all must know and appreciate what it means to have the favour of the people. You have also just witnessed what happens when you fall out of their favour. You seem to have recognised that the spirit of India is not broken but it stands stronger than ever. This spirit when harnessed the right way can reap rich rewards. The people have chosen you to guide this spirit. It is not a right but a privilege granted to you. The independence day address is a platform for you to acknowledge this privilege and show how you plan to live up to it. We wait with great expectations. Good luck!