The morning of 25th Dec 2015 was not very normal for me. Instead of the sweet and heavenly verses of Azaan (the Muslim call for prayers), I woke up to the hasty and repetitious notifications of Facebook and Whatsapp. What I came to know jolted my very existence and left me in a state of agonizing disbelief. A short skirmish between the Indian army and local militants in Bandipora District of North Kashmir had ended in the death of a militant identified as Omais Bin Sheikh, a resident of Chatapora area of Pulwama district. I had known Omais for last few years now. I couldn’t trust my eyes and called some of my friends who confirmed this ominous news. The 22-year-old Omais had decided his fate eight months ago when he had snatched an assault riffle from a cop and had joined the militant ranks.
The news of his martyrdom came as a scornful shock to the denizens of Pulwama and scores of men, women and children took to the streets, and then in a jiffy the silence of the night was terminated and replaced by sky-high pinches of Pro-freedom slogans, which were chanted on the loudspeakers of the mosques. This is exactly how people here, in this Godforsaken vale of tears, mourn the deaths of rebels. Next day, Omais was handed over to the Angels of Heaven amid wailing sighs and cries, and my hands captured all the scenes with meticulous investment of experience sidelining my emotional attachment with the deceased youth.
During his last rites, Anti-Indian slogans were chanted in the whole town by thousands of youth including women, while Pakistani Flags could be seen fluttering in the air as a symbol of resentment against the inhuman occupation of India over Kashmir. The death of Omais was mourned for the next four days and his chauvinism and religious mentality was highly commemorated. In the meantime, stones and ferocious slogans greeted deployments of police and the paramilitary by youth triggering the symbolic kanni-jang (stone pelting), which was retaliated by the forces with baton charge, and tear smoke canisters, even pellet guns reverberated in the deserted markets of the bereaved town. The clashes caused injuries (minor to severe) on both sides and a few of the injured were shifted to Srinagar for medical attention.
After four days of mourning, life was expected to be fit in the cloak of normalcy but time had other plans and different deals to offer. The youth of the town would plan to install a grand hoarding at the Historical Shaheed Park (martyrs graveyard) .The historical Shaheed Park is the place where mortal remains of this local hero lie in company of many other such rebels, such heroes, such martyrs. All of them reached the doors of eternal tranquility via this route.
This installation faced stiff resistance from the district administration that defined it anti-state and seditious. The installation was hampered, but the tenacious youth were unwilling to surrender. Rounds of deliberations between the police and civil society ended without harvesting any conclusion and the plaque became the matter of pride and ego. Both sides seemed to guard their stance with naïve obstinacy and no means of reconciliation were positively workable, bringing down the life in the town to a stagnating halt.
I bear witness to empty stomachs, pitying eyes, parched lips, skewed muscles, nocturnal raids, continual absconding, arrests and tortured young boys all in the name of struggle, independence, Islam, jihad and restoration of law and order.
The twenty days of absolute deadlock has been broken after the intervention of provincial traders’ federation of Kashmir, and life pretends to be normal again. But the losses were so absolute that it has exposed the masses to the spies of jeopardy. With tempestuous agitation inside my heart against the juvenile stance of arduous thinkers, I am left with nothing – no professionalism, no emotional tie-up, just one question. What went wrong? Who did it all?