Witness – It felt like counting stars

By Amir Hussain
To witness is to live.  And to live is witnessing moments that sink in memory, brain and heart forever.  On 2nd August after witnessing a curfew, confinement and frustration for 25 days, I somehow along with few friends managed to sneak out of my curfewed town-Islamabad (Anantnag). Soon after treading few miles on bikes and escaping police barricades, we reached Nanil –a village , traditionally a jamaat bastion , where Pakistani flags were being waved  by people amid sloganeering while moving  in a motor rally, and the very sight of green flags and green paddy fields was soothing for eyes that had been desolate in curfew.  While we marched with the rally, I saw women blessing the youth and children with prayers and encouraging them with slogans.
An aged woman, barely able to walk using her walking stick was placing her hands on photos of Burhan pasted on some vehicles and then kissing her hands and repeating it again and again till she saw another photo. A boy who must have been not more than five years old, was kissing the Pakistani flag in his hand and not allowing other children to touch it, as if he was protecting some costly inherited gift from his forefathers.
After reaching Kanelwan, another village which had witnessed night raids by Indian forces, but people were still out on streets as if they had no homes to live and protect but streets were there palaces. A young man who hurt himself after skidding on a slippery road, kept his fists clutched tight together to not let go Burhan’s photo and green Pakistani flag. I tried counting the vehicles but soon lost count. It felt like counting stars.
We soon heard of another procession marching to Khirram, a village famous for a shrine thronged by many on auspicious occasions, but I had never seen so many people from different sects, diverse thoughts but with one flag and one slogan marching towards a shrine. Green had become the color of day and Burhan was the only name I could hear and shout myself. This whole area known as Dachnipora, had been a hotbed during the armed uprising in 1990s and I have faint memories of having seen a parade of Hizbul Mujahideen on 14th August 1993 in this very area. But since then much water has flown in Lidder, the river that roars to the left of Dachnipora.
There are not more than six cadres of Hizb active in this area. But the effectiveness of these six is amplified by the social networking sites, new strategies, heroic stories, myth making machineries, sacrifices, sentiment, and Burhan. Some historians are of the view that Dachnipora area was the last to convert to Islam, and most conversions took place at the time of governor Islam Khan, who along with the town of Islamabad owe their nomenclature to the spread of Islam in Dachnipora. Thus for any religious or political movement to succeed in Islamabad town and district, this very area, Dachnipora is significant.
Be it the advent of Islam, the success of Mughal governor Islam Khan, the success of Jamaat-i-Islami, the armed rebellion of 1990, or the counter measures from the Dogra Maharajas and Indian state, like construction of Apple cart road to Pahalgam and levying extra taxes, formation of PDP and unholy alliance with religio-political groups to mainstream them, Dachnipora has seen it all and what it is witnessing since last few days has got to be significant too. Huge rallies, green flags, unprecedented unity marches, discipline, sentiment, display of emotions and love, and praiseworthy organizing capabilities.
As we marched to another area, Arwani, that had witnessed four killings during recent protests. We witnessed similar scenes there too. At one congregation in Jablipora where Hurriyat and religious leaders were addressing a huge gathering of more than thirty thousand people, volunteers were doing everything so well that it seemed they were born to do so . Volunteers even accompanied media to show them various flags, banners and graffiti that had been put around and in the eidgah that they had assembled in. A young man on seeing this scene exclaimed, myaeni khudaaya azaadiyuw! (Oh my god…this is azaadi).
We left for Khudwani in Kulgam which is said to be the bastion of new militancy. On way to Khudwani, near Chinigam that is home of Lashker commander Ayatollah Bhat, a sign board “welcome to Pakistan” welcomed everyone. Last year when Ayotallah was martyred, I had visited the village to offer funeral prayers and I had witnessed two villages fighting for his dead body, each claiming more ownership over the martyr’s last rites.
But it was different today. I saw a procession of children singing assalaam Asalaam aay shaheedon asalaam . Finally, we reached Khudwani, and two men from Lashker-e-Toiba were addressing a crowd with AK 47s casually slinging from their shoulders and carefully speaking so as to not let the mask covering their faces slip. I found everyone crying as soon as he uttered the following lines…..
wafa agar na karew bewafaai ti ma karew, agar wafa nahi karsakte …bewafaii bhi mat karo. (If you cant be faithful to us, at least don’t betray us ).
Indian state would often claim in 2010 mass uprising that the problem is just limited and spread to six police stations and some towns. This propaganda they themselves began to believe too! Yes, Indian forces do control six police stations and few towns by imposing strict curfew, teargas shells, pepper gas, bullets and cellular communication ban, but three fourths of south Kashmir at least looks liberated, where by nothing but green is seen all around and everyone is either an organizer or a participant in rallies that look more of an assertion of liberation and challenge to the writ of Indian state than a mere protest.

—The writer says he has been a witness to India’s war on Kashmiris.

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