Recently, Chetan Bhagat penned an open letter to Kashmir youth underlying ‘practical’ reasons for why they should stop ruthless bloody clashes and peacefully integrate with India for their greater benefit.
While the reasons were rational enough, the letter failed to evoke sympathy or support for Chetan’s words or logic. Bhagat’s letter was hugely criticized earning him names like ‘Chetan bigot’, especially from Kashmiri groups. Chetan had addressed the letter to Kashmiri youth where he stated ,”The rest of India should not ask for the removal of Article 370. The 7 million people in the Valley should.” Unfortunately, the only one truly listening to Bhagat is just the rest of India – with Kashmiris completely ridiculing his letter. Barkha Dutt was quick to comment on the letter on Twitter. But seems like Chetan’s reply didn’t satisfy her much. Pertaining to which, Barkha has now penned down another open letter citing innumerable examples to quote what Chetan’s letter exactly lacked – empathy, sensitivity and insaanaiyat.
She begins by agreeing with Bhagat in support of the army’s unjustified fight in the valley especially when the solution lies in political realms and not military. She also supports his claim of Pakistan being a poorer alternative for Kashmiris as a homeland. And almost unflinchingly, she agrees on having no two-ways about Kashmiri Pandit’s unfortunate exodus. But that’s all. Soon after, Barkha raises a series of questions for Chetan’s restricted sensibilities.
Chetan had begun his letter by stating terrible things happening in Kashmir. By these ”terrible things”, he referred to recent events at NIT Srinagar where ”some students burst crackers when India lost the T-20 semi-final. Many students were beaten for raising the Indian flag. Thereafter, bloody clashes have broken out in north Kashmir.” Barkha points out that Kashmir has been facing much more grave and terrible things since 25 years. The fact that it took a T-20 cricket match to get Kashmir’s problem in this ”country’s mind space is part of the reason that Kashmir is in this mess
It isn’t the sun-dappled Dal, the touristy shikaras or the ski slopes of Gulmarg, but coffins, funerals and broken hearts – on all sides of the trenches – that have been the defining picture postcards from the state.
She points out the worst here and asks Chetan if he is disturbed by the way competitive politics and rabble-rousers have ruthlessly used the NIT controversy to spark up the divide instead of choosing ways to reconcile. Next, she picks up an example of a young 19-year-old wannabe cricketer to explain Bhagat’s ignorance and insensitivity towards Kashmiri civilians.
She entails the entire incident of Nayeem’s death in a civil clash where he’s shot down mercilessly while his mother wails, ”Bring back my Gavaskar!” Ironically, as Barkha points out, Kashmir is the place to export willow and polar made cricket bats all over the world. But instead of proving to be an alliance for Kashmiri and non-Kashmiris, cricket of all things, has become the reason for this outburst. Bhagat precisely called his letter practical and rational concentrating on ”broad issues.”
Barkha on the other side, probes him about genuine emotional alienation of Kashmiris. And righteously, even if ”cross-border patronage of terror groups and the worrying radicalism among a newer generation of Kashmiris” is won over, can it ever help much if India fails to win the wounded hearts of Kashmiris? Barkha has been repeatedly questioned on her biased love for Kashmiris.
And while she admits, Kashmir was indeed her first beat and love, she also claims to capture varying emotions and truth of this Valley. Quoting her meeting with a soldier’s wife and father of a murdered civilian, she admits to taking pride in the contradictory names she’s labelled with. Because Barkha sees Kashmir as this complex valley of contradictions which failed to occur in a novelist penning letter from his home in Mumbai. Barkha is clearly penning down an emotional, heart-wrecking letter – not to Chetan alone, but much more to the Kashmiris angered by non-Kashmiri Indians’ ruthless ignorance and defiance. Chetan Bhagat got to buckle up for his next reply, for Barkha has clearly won hearts (hopefully!) with her humanist, sensitive and emotional approach (err.. or was that emotionally manipulative?). Guess, his innumerable love-stories weren’t of much help to understand a woman’s ace card! Read the full letter here.