Those harrowing days

Tanveer Rashid Magrey

People being paraded for identity check during crackdown in early nineties.
People being paraded for identity check during crackdown in early nineties.

During those harrowing days when militancy was at its zenith in valley, illiteracy was tantamount to suicide. People who were quite illiterate faced the wrath and irk of ubiquitous army men very often due to the debacle of understanding their language. The repercussions of this Achilles’ heel were insidious. The hordes of Kashmiris who did not know Urdu faced torment during the inception of arms in valley.

Aslam, 45, a lanky and skinny man with clean-shaved face (dotted with trimmed moustaches) was one among those myriad illiterate people who received frequent beatings due to his inability to comprehend Urdu.

On that sombre morning during nineties when loud-speakers of local mosques echoed, he followed the footsteps of scores outside his home. The call was enough to instil a palpable panic among villagers. Someone was ranting about the imposed crackdown over the village, and apprised villagers to assemble at village’s sole playground as instructed by army. Everyone sensed the silence of approaching storm.

Visibly perspiring and shivering, all were panting while heading towards the spot. Aslam’s condition was not altogether different. His heart was palpating swiftly once they consigned to playground through the main gate. His gait exhibited his incurable conundrums. And then the people were segregated, and later lined up for checking of Identity cards and grim grilling.

Amid jibe on some villagers by ubiquitous men in uniform, Aslam was praying for his unscathed escape. When some would shrug off by security check, he grew optimistic. But when he found someone beaten to pulp, he became pessimistic and felt insecure.

After waiting desperately for his turn, at last, his turn came. Every villager had credence that Aslam would be beaten black and blue due to his illiteracy. But in the deep of his heart, he was ready to set the Thames on fire! Before reaching on his turn, he had jogged his memory by recalling his bygone interview encounters and reminded some mnemonic tips of his successful interviews. He was eavesdropped the interview and tried to get the gist of it.

All the prudence and predictions of villagers proved false when he was finally quizzed. He sensed the gist of the questions posed on him by army man, remarkably and quipped one word answer. He did not err. The villagers who had cocked their eyes towards him would only marvel. He ended up his encounter on successful note due his utilized wits.

These illiterate people like innocent Aslam, who did not speak chaste Urdu, are not found today because of motley reasons. We make rapid strides in education that there is none who is still benighted and also that cup of tart, assaults and harassment has gone filled with yore, so none endure it anymore!

(Pursuing convergent journalism at the central university of Kashmir, Tanveer Rashid Magrey hails from Ferozpora, Tangmarg.)

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