It was a gloomy night filled with mournful silence, giving me amorphous feelings about the present grim situation of Kashmir. Another boy killed, followed by the violent protests, government barred internet services, and snapped electricity that kept us all in the dark. The darkness loomed and thickened, the black cover of the night had groped us both, as we entered into the room; she sat comfortably ensconced in a cream color armchair facing towards the Dal Lake, and I was in the balcony, the cold breeze was wafting, carrying the aroma of martyrs’-blood, which gave me a feeling of vicissitudes of fate of the young who get bulleted every day. She suddenly moved from the sofa, came towards me and sat beside me, but one could tell that she was isolated in her own mind as it had been hours since either of us had uttered a word. She was gazing vacantly towards the black barren hill of Maqdoom Sahib, it is viewed quite clearly from this balcony and the lights were reflecting the fort at Maqdoom Sahib. We were on the third floor of this mansion, and silence loomed on this dark night. As I contemplated the shimmering lights of Dal Lake, the house boats were illuminating, and the Shakaris were rowing into Dal Lake they were quite visible from this balcony and the lights of the varied houseboats were gleaming in a very far distance. “It is a dull place for us to stay”
, One could tell that her heart was heavy in her chest her feelings yearning for an escape, which were buried since we heard about the incident of a boy killed by the army in Kashmir. She went silent again, and I kept silent too, I don’t know if I was inducing her to talk by my silence, she was muttering something quietly as I was able to hear soft hisses and movements from her lips and I felt her anger from this gory incident of today’s Kashmir. I had no idea of how to respond, and how could I find the proper words or be able to express and console her. I have lived my life under such gory incidences as I was born in the 90s when insurgency was at its peak, and these, uncomfortable away from home feelings were routine for me. I struggled and could not fathom, how to comfort her and tell her the other story of Kashmir and let he know the truth in which the media outside Kashmir does not always portray. They speak of this exotic place, flaunting peace and development in Kashmir. At that moment it was painful for me to look at her as she sat there struggling hopelessly trying to express herself. So in that moment, I turned to the gleaming lights of Dal Lake again, while a pitiful vision of her kept surfacing in my mind. In reality how pitiful is the situation of our Kashmir, when a guest comes to visit, we have nothing to share with them, except a story of those gory incidents. I was about to tell her that such stories live in every alley in Kashmir, where boys are killed ruthlessly, where the blood is spilled, and the soil is soaked with blood from thousands since the year 1989. That this Kashmir earth has reached to the level that it is unable to absorb more blood; that it is overflowed and is surging through the rivers in Kashmir. That it has become a part of our daily life, we must remember to walk softly on the soil of these graveyards, tread bare foot as a mark of respect, do not stomp as they are sleeping calmly. As you close your eyes you will feel the bottoms of your feet get wetted with the blood of innocents, and your eyes will become moist. The majority of these are innocent’s, they were killed against no faults of their own, as they were just demanding their legitimate right to life and dignity.
How could I tell her those facts of the faces as they connote with the moon are having clout on them, these faces are grim not flamboyant. A very sad moment when a elder brother narrates his story of killing of his younger brother. He would tell you how he caresses his brother’s hair and blesses him every day and share the pain of his family for the care from his mother that she gave to him daily before he set off for school. How she would bless him and knot the threads at shrines for his long life. How could I tell her that India is not a safe dwelling place for a Kashmiri? They get killed ‘that’ side of the tunnel and ‘this’ side of tunnel, and they [Indian] fudge the crimes by linking them with certain conspiracy theories, to subside the anger of the people in Kashmir.
How could I be able to convey to her that, In this “valley of wolfs”, they kill a boy(s), without even knowing his crime, We suddenly might hear shots of a bullet, and our heartbeat increases. We have become sensitive and if one sees a body pool in blood, how does one stop tears from falling from his/her eyes? When a policemen pounds at your door, breaks window panes; damages the safety of our houses; sets fire or burns our holy places and places of prayer or captures our youth unevenly. How are we to respond and have respect? Then when the news is released, often the sources remain unconfirmed, using the word ‘alleged, with a great flare in the newspapers. How can the people of Kashmir feel a great respect for this democracy and how do we comprehend the freedom that comes with a democracy with the right to protest peacefully without weapons or bullets. As our youth who were or are protesting are doing such demonstrations unarmed. This injustice in a system that does not treat others with respect and dignity, but instead is dealt with force, and with bullets. How could I muster the courage to tell her that the source of killing is almost always known but all the same, they use of the term ‘allegedly’ in its place here in Kashmir? How could I tell her, that If there would no contact with the social media, we would have been killed or buried alive in far greater numbers? Facebook and other social media avenues have helped us to voice our concerns. Facebook has helped to channel the cause of ‘Kashmir, it has brought the people around the world and from diverse fields together at one platform where they discuss various issues and concerns to hopefully lead Kashmir to freedom with a greater hope for a release from the military occupation.
How can I tell her that these gory scenes/incidents in Kashmir are more than a war waged by a nation against the minority state; a war is a conflict between states, not individuals. However, during a war, the proper question is not, did ‘this’ individual initiate force against ‘that’ individual? But, did ‘this’ nation initiate force against ‘that’ nation? If the answer is, yes, then the nation attacked should respond by the retaliation against the aggressor nation; it must be guided by a single principle: self-defense. In Kashmir, self-defense is most controversial term used by the Indian force. When the desecration of Quran or killing of unarmed civilian is allowed on regular basis and under the shield of AFSPA; when mothers are molested, raped, and cases are hushed up by the Indian authority and letting the purveyor of crimes roam freely, without trials so that justice prevail; While the Chief Minster gives convoluted statements by dividing Kashmiris into “US and THEM” ““coward and brave” and at the same time claim the future of Kashmir is best viewed with India, such a ruler of state is nothing more than a blood lamia, how would I be able to tell her that a government’s responsibility is to protect the rights of its citizens, and when people in Kashmir take to the streets for demanding these rights, they are showered and welcomed with bullets and by force dispersed and deprived of their basic rights.
Where is the justice where is the respect for human rights. Is the Indian military so detached that it has lost control over its units dispatched. Each soldier has a responsibility as they are representing a democracy, the country of India. If they do not abide to the rules then they should be accountable and punished for their actions. Can they train there soldiers to have restraint and not shoot and instead demonstrate to us a just system.
I am a hopeless naive, who is not dared to tell the truth but to prefer to remain silent, I looked at her, she was gazing at the moon with despair in her face, if one killing of a youth can turn her grim, how could a Kashmiri be happy than, and how could positive peace be here in this valley. I saw her lips trembling, with her slightly closed eyes as she leaned her head on the back of the chair.
We had no supper, nor did we have an appetite to eat anything, I was just accompanying her, and she understood what she had to, at this moment I turned to look at the moon, it was departing, descending slowly behind the barren hill gleaming its last trace as if it was saying good bye. It was Muzzein ululating from a distant mosque, giving call for prayer. She was motionless completely and seemed to be frozen or dead then. The moon was behind the hill, and darkness thickened, she remained silent staring at the sky, we both were unfolded by the deadly darkness. It was breaking of dawn; I heard chirping sound of birds and blaring sound of loudspeakers. It was time to go for ablution and offer prayer, I left her there on the balcony and went to offer Namaz, when I came back, I saw her sleeping calmly like a child who after a cry has fallen asleep. I did not disturb her, and next day she left for home. Since then, she has become interested with the Kashmir conflict and is regularly following the news and incidences of Kashmir.
Author Altaf Bashir is a student of International Relations [ Peace and Conflict studies] at Islamic University of Science and Technology – Awantipora