Syed Suhail Yaqoob
I have never been to Gaza. That patch of land where from thousands of deaths and all kinds of oppressive tactics, which shame humanity, have been used against the innocent and original inhabitants. To justify these oppressive tactics, religion is used, where Jews(not all), conform to the view that the land is promised to them by “their” lord. They consider themselves as the original inhabitants with utter disrespect to history. Whatever the history, it is the present that matters. Israel is born in sin which wiped out millions of Palestine families and souls. They created space for themselves by denying space to others. Over the years, this denial became much more oppressive and that country is used all kinds of technical know-how to destroy the soul and will of those oppressed people. Few years ago, phosphorous bombs were used in the Gaza strip which burnt the bodies of all ages; children, young and the old. All this has been reported in the media, both biased as well as unbiased.
It was just a coincidence. We, as friends, managed to keep up late into the night. In rural areas, keeping lights open late into night can have disastrous consequences. It attracts a lot of attention. Thank God, these days bear no similarity to the 1990’s. We chatted over tea; it was raining outside. One friend of mine saw something in darkness and went into a nostalgic mode. He stopped conversation with us and sat right close to window, and murmured: this seems to me the Gaza strip. Everyone was dead silent. We knew what he meant. We left the tea and peeped into the dead carpet of darkness. Everyone was dead asleep, like birds, no murmuring from anywhere, as if the dust of Israfeel(A.S) was thrown into the village.
All smiles went away; memories filled the air, the memories of bygones of those who rest peacefully beneath the huge mounds of earth. Hours passed and memories came alive of that boy, this man, that girl and those boys. All were killed in prime of their youth or punished like animals which made them half dead throughout their lives. When emotions filled us and we boiled, we switched off the lights and went to sleep. Before sleeping, an instruction is passed, never to look through window if you see a vehicle moving on the road, stay like dead in bed.
In the meantime, my friend reminded me of a horror story. Some memories are hard to vanish; these continue to remain with us whatever one does to eliminate these. It was the peak militancy season. Around two am , (I still remember the night with accurate precision), some movements were noticed on the road. I, unfortunately, used to suffer from extreme cough. When I tried to cough, my relative, close one, grabbed my mouth and stood on my chest, in order that people outside would not catch our attention. I felt choked for more than three minutes. My mind refused to eliminate these memories all through my life; it is a constant imprint now. My friend’s words ignited all memories, like how instantly they burnt our village; it was stark oppression. We watched everything going into flames from another village. The fire, believe me, lighted everything. You could have found a needle in the dead of night and our houses were like candles burning.
We felt dead sleep. In the morning, we still had in mind the statement from our friend ‘It seems like Gaza’. It seemed like Gaza. Turn to the road; Indian forces are closely watching your movements with fingers on the trigger. You are so close to death, you see. Armed with AFSPA, there is no accountability. There is lawlessness around. You can be picked and tortured. The privacy of the homes is not there; even now mobiles phones are checked. It is an outrageous assault on privacy. And those barbed wires, constantly remind us we are in some state of war. Our movements are checked through symbols of barbed wires. And Indian forces are everywhere, on roads, on rooftops, streets and lanes. They have simply done “area domination”. It seems illogical that for less than 300 militants now active in Kashmir valley, a huge force of many lacs are maintained here. Civilians have seen it’s as a tactic to control not militants but the fury of civilians against the Indian state. Indian policies have now taken a huge turn after BJP came to power; they are justifying the use of violence in Kashmir by state machinery. Even sports men have come to fore to justify killings in Kashmir.
Today, the Kashmiri civilian population is almost forced towards the wall. We were pelleted, blinded, killed and all sorts of injustice was inflicted on us, yet no voice came out from anywhere in the world that could have supported us. The Indian government is in deep misconceptions about our history: Kashmiri’s have never been muzzled by force. As of now, all kinds of oppressive tactics are used to keep out knees down. Perhaps, they have not internalised the message of Kalhana “Kashmir can never be conquered by force”. But, whatever, is there, today Kashmir seems to be my Gaza strip.
—The author teaches is teaching in the Department of economics at Kashmir University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org