The year 1992 -
I was nine-years-old and living in Bhopal. The demolition of the Babri Masjid had seen its repercussions and riots in this city too. From the army cantonment where I stayed, one could see the entire expanse of the city and every now and then we would see plumes of thick, black smoke erupting. I remember being sleepless at nights. The horror of terror and deaths tormented me and as I'd lay awake next to my sister, I would think, "what if I don't live to see the next day, would my parents miss me?"
It must have been a similar thought multiplied a ten thousand times flashing through the minds of the children at the Army Public School in Peshawar. I shudder to think what must have been their last thoughts, some too tiny to even comprehend death. Was it parents or God that they thought about...or did they think the nightmare would be over soon? Did they wish to be in their mothers' arms one last time or were they innocent enough to think about not being able to play with friends that evening? I don't know...we will never know.
I'm not a Pakistani and not even a parent as yet but like many of you reading this I have had the privilege of living a childhood of innocence and as this tragedy unfolded, paralysing many across the globe, the only thing I could do to express my anger and condemnation was to send messages of support. Many like me used the hashtag #IndiawithPakistan on social media. This perhaps was our only way of reaching out to a grieving nation. But to those who have questioned this support--No, it does not in any way mean we are standing with the ISI or the Pakistani army or the terror emitting out of a country, it means we are standing up for humanity and against terror. It means we are grieving for all those little children who were massacred for no fault of theirs and for parents whose loss is incomprehensible. It means standing up for the values of love and peace that bonds people and nations.
We are not using dead children to prove a point, but you who says no to #IndiawithPakistan too shouldn't try to do that by dismissing a genuine feeling of anger towards terror and compassion towards people. You and I have read enough reports and seen many gruesome pictures from the Peshawar School attack by now. Children being singled out and shot in the head, terrorists blindly opening fire at an auditorium full of children, a teacher being burned alive in front of her students. This is not the time dear Indians to talk about the terror or the militancy that comes from across the border. I am the daughter and wife of Indian army officers. I have seen them man the borders of our country and I have worried for their lives. I have seen close friends die in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and I have honestly hated the men who did this. But the ones who did this to our people are no different from the ones who killed these children. Let's hate these men and not a nation. Let's not colour terror with religion or jingoism.
#IndiawithPakistan will never symbolise support towards Hafiz Saeed or Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi or the acts of terror on our soil...but let it be a means of reaching out to similar-minded people on the other side of the border...let it get out of a 140-character box and become a stream of words and actions that brings people together.