The valley of Kashmir has always produced doleful people. As people in this dilapidated valley continue to sit near storefronts and other meeting places to make their tales of oppression public, I want to draw a portrait of them. The present vortex in the valley has produced countless heart-wrenching tales – some heard and some unheard. I will make my tale public. But mark my words: most of the valley is infuriated with the Indian state and want to stamp it out and get rid of the present torment. In a few moments, you will find out why I am at war with destiny in my home itself. The story begins in the summer of 2010.
“Like the 1990s, we continue to fear the Indian army who have been deployed in the valley for so long.” This is what my mother told me when I asked her why she felt so tense on seeing a military vehicle coming towards us.
It was a cold evening and I was on my way to a relative’s home, along with my family. A military vehicle came from the opposite direction and worried my mother. Sweat running down her face, she held me in her arms and started praying to God to protect her son. I was unable to understand what was going on. I saw tears in her eyes. After the scary vehicle had passed by, my mother said that we had been lucky to not have been stopped by them. But what would have happened had the military stopped our car? Would I have been among those who we remember as martyrs? I don’t know and I don’t want to – the very thought of this makes me tremble and sweat.
When I was a small kid, I once went outside alone without telling anyone in my family. I was well aware that no one would allow me to wander outside, all alone. The sun was hiding behind the clouds and a dim light was hitting my face. As I strolled down the main road, I saw three young boys, barely around 12 years old, wildly running towards me and the police following them. Startled by the scene, I grew pale and nervous. I retraced my steps back towards my home but constantly gazed behind.
These young boys who were now caught by the police were getting beaten ruthlessly. The policemen broke their bamboo sticks on them and the boys were forcefully dragged into the white car. As soon as the boys faded away from my sight, I started narrating the story I had witnessed to one of my friends. The situation grew tense as the boys were from our locality. Some people were crying and some started raising pro-freedom slogans. I don’t know what happened next to those boys.
Here, I want to confess something. My memories are haunted by the sight of a mother in my locality who was dying to see her son. It still seems to me like this happened only a few days back. I still remember the name of the boy – Gowher. I can’t forget him.
He was wandering around the warehouse of our locality but was never to return home. I remember his mother walking barefoot up to the gate of her house, pace down the street for some moments, look both ways and then return. She would repeat this again and again. Screaming for her son, shouting at her husband, “He used to come before the sunset, where is he? Go and find him.” Gowher used to play with me but now they tell me he is dead. But no one can get away from the truth and the truth, in this case, was that he was most probably killed by the Indian forces.
“How can I stay silent after witnessing the harsh treatment of my parents and other family members by the Indian forces? It would be shameful of me,” said one of the rebels in fury. “They broke my home’s windows, doors and other valuable things.” He leans on the ground and murmurs, “They broke my house which my father had built with his hard earned money.”
For him, Kashmir is a strife-torn place, which was once known for its beauty. Silence reigned everywhere and I put my head down in sorrow and kept my composure. I couldn’t even look at him once again, for I was so ashamed of my question.
Many children of this restive valley are briskly memorizing new anti-India slogans, making every effort to outperform each other in the same. Small kids, not even aged four, are always ready to utter, “Hum kya chahtay? Azaadi.” Invariably, India’s martial laws have largely impacted the small kids of the valley. From the worst laws to deadly pellets, the children of Kashmir are affected from head to feet.
A friend called me and said, “Did you hear my brother’s son’s latest words?”
“No, I have not,” I said. I inquired if it was something interesting. It truly was. The young kid, barely three, could chant azaadi slogans and mimic stone pelting by throwing whatever he could find at family members.
Next, I heard a group of young boys raising their voices loudly and chanting, “Azaadi, azaadi, azaadi.” I laughed shyly and peered through the window of my room to have a look at those young lads. One of the boys, holding a stick in his hand, wearing a half-sleeve red shirt and a white trouser, was leading the others. Everyone in our locality heard their resonant voices with great joy. In the same summer of 2016, when I somehow managed to visit one of my
In the same summer of 2016, I somehow managed to visit one of my friends’ house amid the unrest. Suddenly, his small cousin – not more than three years old – said, “Mujhe azaadi do.” Not being able to hold back my laughter, I told him, “Baad mai dunga.”
These are some of the stories that I shared with you, but I don’t think these are all. There are tens of thousands of stories of different people across the length and breadth of our bleeding Kashmir.