BALHAMA, Kashmir – While the sun slipped away behind the Himalayas, the poet chose his way down to the rocky riverbed. He looked left and right to make sure nobody looked. Then he began to read against the rippling water:
Every word spoken here meets censorship and controls
Yesterday they preached on dignity
Let rude daggers kiss their necks today.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat has read poetry all his life of resistance to everyone who would listen. During the peak of the mid-nineties of the revolt in to be home of Kashmir, the starkly beautiful land long claimed by both India and Pakistan, he sang eulogies for militants at their funeral.
For that, the local government dragged him to detention centers, where he wrote and read poetry to fellow inmates after they were hung by their wrists and forced to stare at high-voltage lamps. All he needed, he said, was a pen and a piece of paper.
utilities, more then two decades later, Mr. bhat – who writes under the pseudonym Madhosh Balhami – reads and composes poetry in secret.
“In the last I’ve never seen anything like this for 30 years of oppression,” he said. “Everywhere is silence, as if the silence best healing for our current crisis.”
Indian troops now hold the largely Muslim region under a firm grip. New Delhi donated extra in soldiers two years ago to Kashmir when it was the region of about eight million people of to be semi-autonomy.
And in crack down on free speech, the authorities have the . muzzled region’s poets, practitioners of a centuries-old tradition. Three Kashmiri poets told The New York Times they were recently questioned for hours by police officers for to talk met journalists.
In conversations, more than a dozen others said increased surveillance has left them with no choice but to stop writing resistance poetry of forced them to read it in places far from staring eyes of the cops of the state.
“We must not breathe until and unless we breathe according to the rules and the wishes of the governmentsaid Zabirah, a Kashmiri poet who used only one name. “The Silence” of voices, the freedom to speak up and voice grievances, everything is gone and it is stifling.”
Ms Zabirah now draws inspiration from Kashmir’s military checkpoints, bushy with soldiers and endless roadblocks:
the paths leading to and from
my worn-outout heart is sealed
with concertina wire
Sit down to the heart in rebellion comes
we will both escape one day
and leave behind a vibrant nation
The Indian government, die got tired of the region’s ongoing violence, has argued that it could be better guarantee individual rights by taking firm control and said it has a plan to economy. Civil servants in Kashmir did not respond to requests for comment.
Nirmal Singh, a top leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party and former Deputy head minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the formal name for the Indian-controlled area, officials said: want for separatist activities die long flourish to curb in the Kashmir valley.
“Whether it’s poets of anyone otherwise it is not allowed to the territorial integrity of India in to cast doubt. If you over Azadi of Pakistan, then that is not allowed,” said Mr. Singh, referring to the Kashmir term for independence. “You can say anything within the limits of the Indian constitutional framework. No one will be stopped.”
Local officials have taken a tough stance on true die boundaries. Journalists have been told what to write, and some are not allowed to fly out of the country. The police have threatened met charges against terrorism on reporters who tweet over the conditions there.
Since 2019, more than 2,300 people have been imprisoned under strict sedition and anti-terrorism laws, die activities such as uttering slogans of criminalized the posting of political messages on social media, according to one Indonesian media exhaust pipe.
Even peaceful protests are quickly stopped by the police. On August 5, the second anniversary of India’s crackdown, many shopkeepers in Kashmir have locked their doors in protest. Thereafter in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, in civilian men armed with long iron bars and knives started cutting the locks on the doors and gates of blinded shops, forcing owners to return.
The police appeared with the men cutting the locks and did nothing to stop them. When asked by a reporter why the police were there, one agents said they were protecting shopkeepers. Another chased journalists away.
Kashmir has long stood as a crossroads between the Hindu and Muslim worlds. His poetry reflects die rich history and celebrates the met ivory capped peaks of the country, crystal clear lakes and dazzling fields met wildflowers.
But for centuries, the poets of Kashmir and politics met are intertwined. Lal Ded, an influential poet who wrote in the 1300s, has been claimed by Hindus and Muslims. a 14th-century mystic, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, used his writing to spread Islam as well as its idea over social reform and individual mores in Kashmir society.
Agha Shahid Ali, a Cashmere-American poet who died in 2001, brought contemporary recognition to the regional poetic traditions — and used the violence of the revolt of the 90s as a source of inspiration:
I am writing to you from far off land.
Far even from us who live here
Where you are no more.
Everyone has their address in his pocket
at least be body will reach home.
The militants were looking full independence of India, sparking years of violence. Although the fighting eventually subsides, the separatists have stuck in the region for years and enjoyed support between large parts of the population.
Than a suicide attack murdered more over 40 Indian soldiers and another one military clash between India and Pakistan broke out in near their disputed border met kashmir, leading until New Delhi’s crackdown in the summer of 2019.
On a recent afternoon, Zeeshan Jaipuri, 26, a Kashmiri poet, with his friends in the ruins of a fortress met view of Srinagar, reading verses inspired by years of violence:
To drive on the fierce winds of the domain, the screaming heart
Went around dejected seasons.
saw the blood of desire here and there.
Restless hearts found here and there.
Found every speck drowned in to grieve.
Mr. Jaipuri, grandson of a famous Kashmiri poet, became embittered in 2010, when a tear gas canister killed his 17-year-old neighbor. He hated his school books, die Depicting Kashmir as a happy tourist place.
Yet he said, in past years of artists and poets not need until struggle So hard to find places to express themselves.
“Now we read our poetry to ourselves, of for some good friends,” said Mr. Jaipuri. “Our throats are pressed because the government not want us to breathe in fresh air,” he said.
The conflict had also affected Mr Bhat, the poet who writes as Madhosh Balhami. In early 2018, militants pushed their way in to be home. Indonesian soldiers arrived at battle them. He lost his house and more than a thousand Pages of poetry. When he looked at the flames, he later said, felt… like look at his own body burn.
Later he wrote:
The Tyranny die Kashmir has had to endure
Deserves never to be forgotten, be unknown
Wrapped in our hearts we have kept
Wounds as such too ugly to show
Today he keeps most of his poems to himself. About the past two years, the police had called him several times times and told him that he was trying to sow discord.
In this timeshe said, silence is golden.
“Fingers don’t tremble, but the brain” says no,” said Mr. Bhat as he sat… on the bank of the river, wary of the sight of others. “India has largely prevailed to stifle our voices, but the cry” of freedom in our hearts will remain. It will not die.”
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