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An Open Letter To The Kashmir Interlocutors

By Javed Naqi

22 December, 2010

I am a voice from Kargil, an isolated barren island of forgotten people and I want to be heard. I have several questions.

I strongly believe that the call for Azadi/Freedom or for that matter political resolution and other similar demands is a concern that is secondary to us. The primary concern is on the issue of basic survival, which is threatened and remains at stake due to the geographical isolation and harsh climatic conditions of Kargil. Kargil is connected to the outerworld via Zojila pass, which becomes inaccessible atleast for six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and hence begins a period of isolation for the people of Kargil. This isolation results in great loses in terms of education, health, rural infrastructure and most importantly sustainability. During summers, the people and the government become more involved in stocking basic amenities for the winters. Thus, energy and time are invested into it and other major development issues in different sectors get ignored. We have little choice but to consume stocked stale food items, thus raising health concerns among the people of Kargil. Can you imagine how this impacts our well being and bodily and mental developments? This tragic existence rests far from the reality in which rest of India and the world lives.

The people of Kargil have been demanding construction of a tunnel through the Zojila pass or an all weather road for years but ability is forced into disability and disability is made more difficult. People who can make this happen have no justification to give. Pleas and requests find their place in the dustbin. The well-being of the people is a lip story. It hasn’t reached the hearts and the minds of those who have the power to turn the tables. The situation is gross and needs to be assessed.

This is what I feel is a sheer injustice and violation of Right to Life depriving Kargil of all weather connectivity. This gives an impression to a youth like me that the powers at New Delhi have always viewed Kargil as a battle field rather than a human inhabited territory. The aspirations and concerns of the local mass are always pushed back in the priority list and hence leaving the inhabitants to struggle for the survival.

If our country can give grants in millions of dollar in the neighbourhood for infrastructure vis-a-vis road development and connectivity, isn't it possible for the nation to spend a minute sum of it for its own people to connect them with the outer world round the year. The construction of tunnel at Zojila or all weather road will result in a dramatic shift in socio-economic development of the region. The dream tunnel will save crores of state money, now being spent for air maintenance and winter stocking of the region both by army and civil administration.

I wonder when looking at stories of technological developments in our country, isn’t it possible for this technology to break the centuries old isolation of Kargil. As a youth who believes in change plus follows and admires wonders of mankind's ingenuity, I can’t take that Zojila tunnel is an impossible venture owing to the geo-climatic conditions. There are many examples of similar and much difficult projects carried out by different nations. China made it possible the miracle train to Tibet which traverse a mountain pass sitting 5,072 meters (16,737 feet) to rise up to the Tibetan plateau. Zhongnanshan Tunnel in Shaanxi province, China, is the longest two-tube road tunnel in the world. The 18,040-metre long tunnel, crosses under the Zhongnan Mountain.

I dread the winter isolation more than a war happening in Kargil. The war would come once in a while but this isolation knocks at the door every year. The war would kill during the war but this isolation kills every year. I often ask myself a question. What is happiness and what is national pride?

I want AZADI from the six months isolation during winter. I don’t want to see it as a fate as it has been accepted by my people for this long. This isolation has rendered us as the most backward district in the entire country.

Why are we quiet? Winters are there and Kargil, my destination is cut off from the rest of the nation. I raise my voice to save lives that perish due to approach being blocked in winters and so unavailability of basic amenities, for educational institutions shut down due to harsh climatic conditions, roads are completely blocked with no resources reachable, cultivation and irrigation comes to a standstill. Under such climatic conditions year after year human life is always at stake.

Javed Naqi
A Voice of an inmate youth from the freezing prison, Kargil.