Kashmir: Roaring Bullets and the Eerie Silence

Posted on February 1, 2010 in Society

Avnish Gaurav:

“You can never understand our pain,” said a young Kashmiri woman, head swathed in a black scarf. No word on earth can truly express the then state of her mind. This reflects just one of the many gory truths of lives of the people of the border villages in Kashmir. Once the paradise on earth is now often termed “the abode of pain”.

Some day, one village is massacred by the militants and on some other day, another one by the army. But to the India beyond Kashmir, the villages neither existed before nor do they do now. It is a tiny world of silent tragedies and invisible sufferings; sufferings that seldom make headlines.

There is a girl who wanders through the graveyard where her two brothers are buried, muttering to herself. There is a man wracked by guilt because in trying to be loyal to India, he condemned his neighbors and relatives to death. There is a mother who still curses herself for keeping her son home on an extra day of holiday-it proved to be his last. There is a widow who used to boil water in an empty pot to give her children false hope of dinner. These are some heart wrenching excerpts from the daily life of two border villages of Kupwara district. Many such villages and many such incidents add to the number that has never been counted.

Dragad-Teetwal, a village in border Karnah district, is devoid of basic amenities. The village comprising 105 households lacks any road connectivity, dispensary, ration depot and other facilities. The hospital is about 10 km away from the village. The nearest dispensary is at Gundishat, 3 km from the village. A ration depot exists about 4 km down the hill from the village. “People have to go down the mountain for food grains.” The brunt of partition has been most severely borne by the border villagers, many of whom have their close ones on the other side of the border; the situation being pretty much similar to the Israel-Palestine one. Just imagine not being in contact with your brother and sister since 58 years. Lekh Raj, a resident of Ari village (Mehndar, Jammu and Kashmir) fainted when he miraculously listened to his sister’s voice after 58 years. Many families are awaiting similar miracles.

At times villagers are exploited as forced labor by the army. During the Kargil war, villagers in Bhimbet were divided in three groups of 15 people each. Everyone was made to carry 30 kilos of military equipments on steep, snow covered slopes, without proper clothing and shoes. They had to return without food and medical assistance and many of them had severe frost bites.

The trauma of migration, living in refugee camps in one’s native place, destruction of farms in shelling, torture by army personnel and constant threats by the militants make death seem better than life, at times. Bereft relatives can be seen sitting on either side of a river, crying like anything. Marriage ceremonies are often conducted without elders of the family, who are either on the other side or have been a victim of terrorism.

In another terrifying incident, a brother and sister were playing in a village in Kupwara district. A shell landed, slicing the girl’s leg off and killing her brother. There is an entire generation of children who have lost their childhood to the deafening sounds of bullets and blasts. There has been a surge in psychiatric and cardiac problems in children. The fate of these children is quite different from that of the contemporary world, shared only by those in other conflict stricken countries-Sierra Leone, Sarajevo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

This place can entertain any number of visitors and not a single of them will return dissatisfied.

But why does it fail to look after its residents?

Why is there a never ending (and never tended to) lack of basic amenities, human rights violation at times, constantly soaring number of widows and much more?

If pondered over seriously, it is one of the most sought after (and awaited) answers of today, relevant to many parts of the world.

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