Kashmir Burns Again
By Sameer Bhat
27 June, 2010
Daem phuit chi gamitsh myaen nazar
yoot matsar kyah
mei rov labith lol shahar
yoot matsar kyah
~ Zarif A Zarif, Kashmiri poet
(My gaze is silenced
What frenzy is this?
I lost my city of love,
What frenzy is this? )
We are in the middle of this cruel completeness. The motif is flickering at such a fast pace that it is near impossible to realise what has befallen us. Still coming to terms with the death of three kids in police firing in Srinagar in the last few weeks, bullets flew thick and fast in Sopore, North Kashmir. In less than ten minutes, two boys were sent to their graves on Friday. Prematurely. Suddenly. Coldly. Kashmir has stopped keeping a count of its injured. That is a mere footnote in our pursuit of justice.
As I write, Sopore has been completely curfewed over. There are cops/CRPF -- with their unmistakenly brown outfits -- out on the roads in full strength, lording over street dogs. Humans get little attention these days. The kids killed in the protest march yesterday have been laid to rest. They had bullets to their chests doctors here say. In Kashmir you can't show your fists. Expression is dangerous. Resentment is prohibited. Aspirations have been curfewed over.
A stilled furor exists in this quaint little town. People harbour a deep mistrust against the state, no one I spoke to believes the CRPF – which came out with several versions of the Sopore story; anger at the Omar led government’s insensitivity is high, especially the way things are mishandled. The whole time Mr CM hops over his fief, like a czar pontificating the futility of stone throwing, while his subjects continue to die, under his watch.
I don’t know how to put it straight but people feel held under. To break up an instant protest, the Khaki wallas don’t hesitate to use excessive violence, which is not only disproportionate but plain inhuman. Armed with blanket powers under the prevailing draconian laws, the security forces enjoy immunity for their actions. The dreaded instrument of repression is evident in the kind of blatant human rights abuses they get away with. Omar, apart from calling meetings and probes, can’t seem to do much. Meantime the body count grows.
There are restrictions on movement here. There are bayonets held up to scare kids. There are tear-gas canisters. There are furious bullets piercing 14 year olds. There are attempts to silence protest. There are beatings. When has the stick suppressed the giggle of children? It appears as some kind of a mad trapeze. Authorities attempt to disperse people, chasing unruly crowds but fail to disperse the aspiration that hangs still in the smoked air.
Are you a journalist, an old woman whispered to me in Sopore. Write this: They can curfew our lanes but not our valour.
(Sameer Bhat is a Kashmiri blogger and a journalist, and covers Energy markets for a major British broadsheet.)