The fifteenth cup of nun chai


Jordan asked if Kashmir was some kind of city in India or more like a state. I explained that Kashmir is a contested, unresolved region with three countries – India, Pakistan and China – all trying to stake a claim. There was a globe in the room and I said it would be interesting to see how Kashmir had been depicted and where the globe was manufactured. The globe illustrated Kashmir as a place with a name but without borders; the dotted lines that surrounded other countries were absent and Kashmir merged as an open area vaguely located between India, Pakistan and China. The globe had been manufactured in Denmark in 1997.

I poured the hot nun chai into two cups and explained how India occupied the largest region of Kashmir, and that the conflict, more or less, went back to the late 1940’s. As Jordan was about to take his first sip of the tea, I spoke of last summer and as I mentioned the death of Tufail Ashraf Mattoo, a 17 year old boy only a year older than Jordan, he stopped, froze for a moment with the nun chai resting just in front of his mouth.

Jordan asked about the stone throwing – if it was meant to cause injury to the army or if it was more of a gesture. He asked rhetorically, if the UN was so good, why didn’t they step in and do something to help Kashmir? A week or so back there was a rumour that the United Nations Security Council had removed Kashmir from its list of unresolved issues. This was later clarified and Kashmir remains one of the oldest disputes on the Security Council’s agenda, while India continues to insist it is an internal matter to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

Jordan was surprised to learn that all this was going on while the Commonwealth Games took place in New Delhi. He kept reiterating how Kashmir needs to be a headline in the media and he wondered why it wasn’t. He asked if India was communist, and when I said no he asked if the people in India could vote out their government because of what they were doing and elect a new one who wouldn’t kill people. It was interesting that he associated democracy with the absence of communism. While India was a democracy there was a lot of misinformation about Kashmir within India.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last week in Burma. Jordan asked if Kashmir was like Burma. While Burma is characterised by a military junta that has prohibited democracy upon its own people, the military occupation of Kashmir comes from neighbouring regions attempting to gain ownership of Kashmir. Jordan said it was sort of like how the American’s went to Hawaii and never left. And I said it was also similar to the way the British came to Australia and New Zealand and tried to make this land their own. It was a form of colonisation.

But while these were examples of European colonialism that took root in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, today was something different. The situation between Kashmir and India was similar to Israel and Palestine. Jordan described it, with his beautiful 16 year old mind, as a kind of “intelligent colonialism”. He said it was a kind of colonialism that wore a mask.

When I thought back to the globe Jordan and I had begun with I wondered whether it would be better to see Kashmir surrounded by dotted lines like the other countries, or to see the whole world, like Kashmir, as a place without dotted lines.



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