Of last rites and lost rights


Arshid Malik

I landed in Kashmir a few days ago and the first news that I met with was the murder of a youth in north Kashmir in custody of the State Police’s Special Operations Group. I was returning to Kashmir after quite a hiatus and was given to understand that the situation was stable and that tourists were flocking the Valley.

The fateful news of the “unlawful and presumably premeditated killing” of Nazim Rashid, a young man at the hands of the SOG shook off all my given dispositions. “We are not safe and I got to run away”, was the first sentence that rang inside my head when I saw the picture of the murdered youth, in one of the vernacular news dailies of Kashmir.

By all standards how safe am I, a common citizen of Kashmir. I have not committed any wrongs and I have never plotted to kill anyone. I have never thought of hurting someone and have never thought of getting away with it. I am a common Kashmiri and I do not harbour ill inside my heart and mind.

I am of a clear conscience and love to live my life truthfully. I care about my family and all those I have ever known. I look after my ailing neighbours and share their moments of grief. I tend to help out those who are trapped inside the dungeons of ill-fate in whichever way possible and I always reflect upon the conditions of those who are struck by abject poverty and misfortune.

I am loyal to human ethical standards and always try to hold a very humanitarian perspective. But give all this and more, I am forced to ask, “How safe am I”? “Am I as safe as Nazim Rashid”? Someday, I might be picked up for questioning regarding some matter I am not even remotely connected to and would never return home – in the least that seems to be the state of affairs. Yes, you may call me an alarmist and you will continue to do that till you find my picture in a local news daily with the caption overhead reading, “Killed in Custody”. I have lived my day and what concerns me is the future of those who are yet to live theirs.  

How safe are our children? It is the children that we all must be and actually are more concerned about. By all standards we try to offer the best to our children, good education, a succulent environment, a good life. We strive hard to bring the best to our children. We work hard day in and day out to make sense of everything that befalls us as parents. We pin our hopes on our children that one day when we will have grown old, waned and weakened and our children will be by our side. We cross all boundaries for our children.

We carve new goals for ourselves as parents leaving behind all that we had intended to do for ourselves – that is parenthood, as a matter of fact. When our children go out to play, we worry ourselves out hoping that they should not fall and hurt themselves; we are in constant pray that our children should not get pricked by thorns when they reach for the flowers or juicy berries; we are on constant vigil and listening out to every shriek of theirs attempting to distinguish it from ones filled with fear and fright. We do all that and one day some “people with specially delegated powers” get hold of them and beat them black and blue with prickly batons and steely gun butts. Is that why we are bringing up our children, to be met with marauder at the hands of powerful men in uniform?

Like Nazim’s father, are we supposed to grieve over the violated bodies of our sons and perhaps daughters sometime in the future? If that happens to be the case then we should prepare. Yes, we should prepare for the LAST RITES since we have presumably LOST ALL OUR RIGHTS as citizens of this so-called democracy.
Should all fathers of Kashmir prepare to see their sons draped in a white cloth length desiccated by crimsons all over one fine day and weep over whatever happened? Should we stop dreaming and start eulogizing? Should we prepare for a certain bloody tomorrow? Should we stop naming our children for eventually they would be referred to as MURDERED?

Is there anyone out there who can guarantee me that another Nazim won’t be repeated tomorrow? Is there anyone who can predict that our children will playfully leave their homes and come smiling back for no matter how old they are children are always children for their parents. And is there anyone who would console and tell me and the intrinsically wailing father of Nazim that the criminals, the murderers, the torch bearers of mishandled power would be “hung by the neck till dead” so that we fathers could be avenged? Can anyone write in black bold letters that “Our Children are Safe”?

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