My name is Zubair Ahmad Khanday. I am now a resident of the immortal world. In the mortal world, my address happened to be Kulpora, Kulgam, in the now fermented South Kashmir. I was the first among many other Kashmiris to be killed in the immediate uprising that erupted in the aftermath of Burhan’s killing. Only two hours separated my death and Burhan’s death, but these two hours tell the story of a lifetime. I have joined Burhan and so many others in the immortal world. At Burhan’s insistence and due to our own untold stories, we have decided to narrate our ordeal albeit after death as the life in the place we live on earth is too short and painful for anyone to tell a story. We, the dead, will now definitely speak as we have done before because while we were alive, we found that our lives are illusive and treacherous; they aren’t meant for many things including narrating our stories, dreams, aspirations and desires.
Anyways, I can tell you that once I was an aspiring teenager belonging to a family of peasants which was happy in its own ways but now after my death, I am sure it is sad like other Kashmiri sad families. I was studying in Class 12th besides being a passionate volleyball player when my oppressors snatched my life apparently for no fault of my own, but may be, the way they define faults, guilt or punishment, I could have one. I had dreams, desires and aspirations like anyone else, but I don’t know if I still carry them in this world where I now reside. My dream was to become a volleyball player. Volleyball was both my passion and habit. I wanted to go ahead in my life pursuing my dreams. I wanted to make my family and my people proud. Something always lurked in my heart and mind. Maybe I was living a life in a ring of routine complacency. But then, 08th of July, 2016, first changed me and then obliterated me forever. I still cannot believe that it could happen so fast, but as is the case, it has happened so fast indeed. I had heard of Burhan Wani before. I had watched his videos on Facebook. Like other teenagers, I was moved by his story in how he was victimised and brutalized that ultimately metamorphosed him into the sought of revolutionary phenomenon that he had become. Others of my generation could easily see their mirror images in him. To be honest, I tried to find my mirror image in him but often I found that his path is dreary and moreover, I have my own world to follow and live.
I was busy playing volleyball with my friends that evening when the news of Burhan’s death reached. Suddenly, I could see an abrupt alteration in everything around me. I saw and heard commotion and convulsion of slogans, wailing, weeping and throbbing. I could see that the otherwise balmy midsummer evening breeze was changing its colours. It was turning hostile and started to provide cruel hot currents. A trepidation began inside my mind, heart and soul. I was overwhelmed by a certain uneasy disposition. I began to remember Burhan’s youthful and innocent face which put a sort of soft veneer on the revolutionary that resided inside him. It seemed an idea had been snatched, a darling of an entire generation had been silenced. While standing frozen in the midst of the volleyball court, I tried one last time to imagine myself in his persona; I tried to look for my mirror image in him and vice-versa. Suddenly, his story began to reverberate in my ears which narrated a bright teenager being brutalized by the repressive state to adopt the path that he ultimately adopted. I began to ask myself: But why? Who gives them the right to snatch our dreams, our lives, our land, our present, our past, our future, and our everything?? I began to fear about my own dreams, about my own future and about myself. I found that there is a me in Burhan; after all, with all the fervour and conviction, he was the one who posed all these questions and stood up for them. Hence, it was my duty to pay a final homage and respect to him for all that he stood for and for all that, for which he had been killed.
Shortly, I joined a small but peaceful procession on my way to Tral for his funeral and a last look of my newly found hero. The procession carried no weapons of mass destruction. It had no intention of burning or lynching anyone. There were people like me whose only aim was to pay homage and offer funeral. Many of us were heartbroken and weary to attack anything and anyone. But as we travelled some 4 Kms on our way to Tral, we were intercepted near Qaimoh, the birthplace of revered saint, Sheikul Aalam, by scores of SOG and CRPF personnel. Without any provocation, they aimed their guns at us and started firing live bullets on us head on. We could not fathom what was happening; there was dreadful commotion. I could see an SOG man aiming his gun at me and in a sudden rush, bullets pierced my body. I lay writhing in extreme pain. Blood started oozing out all over my body. I could feel myself drowning in a sea of pain in which my dreams also immersed one by one. Burhan had been vindicated. Before I could sense my last breaths, I remembered my ailing mother. I wished she were there on that blood-filled street to kiss me one single time. I also longed for Burhan and my volleyball. But before death finally embraced me, my ripped heart longed for free breaths in the commotion of tyranny.
Now it has been over seven months since I was shot dead and was transfigured into this world far away from the cruel world you all live. Little did I know that soon 100 others of my ill-fated compatriots mostly aspiring teenagers like me would join me on this journey here. While we were alive, everyone kept telling us that the afterworld is a space of peace, quietude and eternal calm. And yes, we have found it to be one. But, the trepidation of our restless souls has not gone away. It is something that is still torturing us, giving us enormous pain even though we are in the Paradise that was duly bequeathed to us. Believe me, the joys of this paradise have been of no use. We are trying to come to terms with the agony that our mortal paradise has been going through. It is something that is hurting us awfully. It was something that we imbibed in the mortal world. Even now, we can see our motherland in awful commotion. We can see dreams being shattered, visions being blinded wantonly, lives being snatched, and the desires for free breaths and lives being constantly suffocated. But as we can see from here, we can only express our angst at we being not able to do anything except harnessing wishes for a moment of final emancipation and liberation which we all must hold onto so dearly.
Basharat Shameem Lecturer in English Literature, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir. Orginally from South Kashmir