By Sheikh Saqib
As people in this dilapidated valley, which has always produced doleful people, continue to sit in storefronts and other meeting places to make their tales of oppression public, I want to draw a portrait of these here. 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- the whole valley is infuriated with the Indian state and want to stamp it out and get rid of the present torment. In some moments you will find why I am at war with destiny in my home itself. The story begins.
Summer of 2010
“Like the 1990s, we continue to fear to the Indian army deployed in the valley since so long,” said my mother when I asked her why she felt so tense on seeing a military vehicle coming towards us. The story goes thus. 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 set worry in my mother’s heart. Sweat rolling down my mother’s face, she held me in her arms and started praying: God protect my son. Unable to understand what was going on, I saw tears in her eyes. After the scary Gypsy vehicle passed by, mother said, that we had been lucky not to have been stopped by them. But what would have happened had the aliens stopped our car? Would I have been among those whom we remember as martyrs? I don’t know and I don’t want to think on as this very thought and question makes me tremble and sweaty.
When I was a small kid…
Once I went out without telling anyone in the family because I was well aware that no one would allow me to wander outside all alone. The sun was hiding behind the unstable clouds and a dim light was hitting my face. As I strolled on the main road, I saw three young boys, barely around twelve years old, wildly running towards me and the police following them. Startled with the scene, I grew pale and nervous retracing my steps back towards my home but constantly gazing 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 Rakshak 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. What happened next, I don’t know.
The night when I witnessed a mother crying for her son…
Here, I want to confess that in my memory, I am not able to forget a mother, in my locality, who was dying to see her son. For me, it seems like only a few days back. I still remember the name of the boy, Gowher. I can’t forget him. He was wandering around the ware-house of our locality but was never to return home. I remember his mother would walk 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, I am talking to myself. But no one can get away from the truth and the truth was that he was killed by the Indian forces.
The moment I asked a rebel in the streets of downtown of what is the fun of mocking at what they call as their security personnel.
“How can I stay silent after witnessing the harsh stomping of my parents and other family members by Indian forces? It will be a slur on 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.
Children as targets in the summer of 2016
The children of this restive valley are briskly memorizing new anti India slogans, making every effort to overperform each other in the same. Small kids not even aged four, are always ready to utter “Hum kya chahtay? Azadi.”
Invariably, India’s martial laws have largely impacted the small kids of the valley. From the worst laws to deadly pellets, the sons of Kashmir are affected from head to feet. A friend called me and said, “Did you hear my brothers son’s latest words?’”
“No I have not,” I said. “Was it something interesting,” I enquired. “Yes, it truly is.” The young kid, barely three, could chant azadi slogans and mimic stone throwing by pelting family members with whatever was throw-able.
The next vignette is when I first heard a group of young boys raising their voice loudly and clearly chanting: ‘Azadi, Azadi, Azadi’. 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-sleeves 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 friends house, amid the unrest, suddenly his small cousin who, not more than three years old, said, “Mujhay Azadi Do.” Not being able to hold my laughter, I told him, “Baad mai dunga.”
These are some of the stories that I shared with you, but don’t think this is all. No. There are tens of thousands of stories of different people across the length and breadth of our bleeding Kashmir.
—The author, a student at Tyndale Biscoe School, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org