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It was one of those early autumn days in the Valley, when the early sunshine appears to have a squabble of sorts with a bit of haze, lending a blurry touch to an otherwise cerulean vision. But as the day progresses, the sunshine becomes more palpable, overcoming the temporary snag created by the haze. However, in this small township of ours, Shopian, lying in the lap of the mighty Pir Panjals, the air was still hazy and nobody knew that the earth would soon be imbibed with red.
This was the time of our annual examinations. That particular day, I was supposed to appear in the examination of History paper, the subject which fascinated me more than any other, in the three years of my study in the college. Having prepared well for it, I had waited anxiously for this day; little knowing that history would have stored something else for me. Quite opposite to me, on this trait of liking the subject of History, was my dearest friend, Bilal, who had a slightly laid-back approach when it came to the studies. We often used to argue adamantly with each other on this.

He would often taunt me by saying, ‘Shabir, the choice of your subject is totally wrong. History is a bundle of lies, nothing else!’

‘History is our past; past is our identity, and without it, we are reduced to nothing,’ I would always counter him.

As a matter of fact, we seldom agreed with each other on different issues, despite the strong bonds of our friendship, except on one issue, on which every Kashmiri agreed, more so, of our generation—Freedom from India. “India” stood for oppression, imperialism and injustice, and like all other Kashmiris, there was complete unanimity between the two of us on this.

On that fateful day, I waited anxiously for Bilal to arrive. We used to ride together on his motor bike up to our college which is located just outside the town. Very few vehicles were moving on the main road, as a Hartaal was being observed in the Valley against a musical concert of a world famous musician being organized in Srinagar by our state administration and the Indian establishment in order to portray a “calm” picture of Kashmir. All the political bigwigs with some of them flown from New Delhi, along with the bureaucrats and security officials were there to attend it. However, the locals were not allowed in. In fact, much of the city was put under curfew.

Bilal finally arrived on his brand new motor bike. He greeted me warmly before we set on, what would shortly turn out to be, our last journey together. As we reached near the gate of the CRPF camp, located roughly one kilometer away from my home, nearly half a dozen CRPF personnel standing on the road signaled us to stop. As people’s memory would have it, CRPF is the same paramilitary force which carried out unprecedented brutalities during the Intifadas of 2008 and 2010 in Kashmir.

One of the soldiers shouted angrily, ‘Rukjao!’

As we stopped, one of the soldiers approached towards us and asked us to show our identity cards. After getting down from the bike, we showed him our Admit cards.

While checking the cards, the soldier asked us, ‘Bas padayi hi karte rehte ho ya pathar bhi marte ho?’

The soldier’s face betrayed anger and hate. He further remarked, ‘Tum Shopian walo ne hamein bahut sataya hai; kisi din tumhein zaroor dekhlenge!’

We had a wry smile. After all, we were listening to something which was quite familiar to us ever since the protests of 2009. The protests had taken place against the rape and murder of two women carried out by the uniformed men.

After checking our Admit cards, the soldier signaled us to move. I asked Bilal to let me steer the bike. Initially a bit hesitant, he agreed, and we again set on our route. But as we rode a few yards ahead, there was a deafening sound of boom! I lost control of the bike. We fell down from the bike as it dragged us along into a little drain just close to the road. It took me a little while to figure out that the soldiers from the back were shooting at us. As we lied in the drain, both of us got close to each other. The soldiers kept shooting until they felt that we were both dead.

I saw that many bullets had pierced Bilal’s body. I lay there crying, under his body while he was writhing in extreme pain. The blood was oozing out all around from his body like a gushing stream. I cried! I screamed!

I tried to get up. But I could not! It felt as if my legs had suddenly been severed by a machete. I saw two big holes in my right thigh as well as in the left, with blood oozing out of them. I screamed for help but it was like a murmur which could not reach anywhere in this dreadful commotion.

Bilal’s face was still resting on my shoulder, his hands were still wrapped around my waist and my back holding me tight close to his body. His body began to turn cold.

He murmured, ‘Mouji, Triesh!’

I could feel his pain but I also sensed my helplessness. He tried to say something more, but, then, another terrifying sound cut off his sentence, and I heard him screaming in agony! He opened his mouth to say something, but he couldn’t and I heard his breathing cut out in a very weird and scary shriek. He breathed his last shrieking! I started crying!

I forgot my own pain. My tears rolled down and got mixed with my blood. It was difficult to distinguish between the two!

After a while, I again tried to get up. I looked at the right side, as if this was not enough, I saw CRPF men shooting at another three boys. Probably, they were the only witnesses to what had been done to us. All the three boys fell against the ground immediately, after the bullets pierced their bodies.

I had deep bruises all over my body, but having been witness to what I saw, I could only un-see and un-feel my own bruises. I closed my eyes, thinking, not to open them ever again.

As I recounted the horrors of the event in the hospital, many days later, after I regained my consciousness, I tried to unknow myself. It was all unprovoked! It was all beyond senses of comprehension! It was grotesque! It was horror! It was gory!

But certainly not an uncommon sight! Four innocent Kashmiris were shot dead before my eyes, for the unpardonable sin, avowed in the ‘Holy’ book of our oppressors, of being ‘Kashmiris’! Two of us were carrying such weapons as ‘pens’ and ‘cardboards’ needed to write an exam!

I think of this gory event as a symbolic embodiment of the larger conflict between the Indian state and hapless Kashmiris where the former, arrogant, heavily armed and unprovoked, implodes its wrath on the innocent, unarmed Kashmiris. One of those days in the long blood-spattered history of Kashmir where the serene antics of nature are brutally mimicried by a spilling of the blood of innocence. The greenish exterior of the land of Kashmir often commingles with that of the blood red of its sons. I have lost most of my senses now, but, I wonder at how the people are still lured by the green ‘beauty’ of our soil forgetting about the specters, to which it has been a perpetual witness.

BASHARAT SHAMEEM, youth Activist, writer, South Kashmir

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    A truely poignant incident with gory and haunting memories