File photo: Bilal Bahadur/KL

by Humaira Maqbool

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Why is vibrancy missing in Kashmir? Why streets produce a deserted look? Why are the village boys disappearing each day? Why, and what for, are the educated lots on roads, again?

I try to find the plausible answers to satisfy my agony.

The last 100 days of uprising left 91 people dead, thousands injured, and over 200 persons mostly teenagers blinded. There is a continuing psychological war within everyone in valley. Some bear it by mere silence, some fighting on the roads with stones with ‘courage’ and ‘brevity’, some with graffiti and some with poetry.

Many can suppress emotions and try to hide pain, but with a controlled thought and strong will, both can be ignored completely up to a certain level. It doesn’t make you invulnerable but makes you more durable and less fearful.

For the past 100 days, we are witnessing the brazen courage of youth, who don’t fear death, armed with stones in their hands, in groups of no more than a few hundred at times taking on the armed security men, and protesting for the right of self-determination. By trying to discredit all stone-pelters as “hired agents”, the armed forces, the Indian state and the powerful Indian media houses are in effect implying that Kashmiris are perfectly fine dying without protest at the hands of armed forces.

Since all the “mobs” are sponsored, they are trying to pass off us as an insensitive people, who experience no pain, have no heart, no feelings and no emotions. Valley youth have been stereotyped as violent, rebellious and discontented by a vernacular magazine in 2016.

The happiest moment comes in one’s life when a person achieves his dream. The valley youth are equipped with talent and are also excelling in every field. But, there are some who do not come up to expectations placed on them. The fact isn’t that they are not able, but they find it hard to come out of a situation when one’s own brother or a close neighbour (who greets him at the dawn and dusk daily), a classmate or his dearest friend is either being blinded, maimed or killed by lethal/non-lethal weapons.

After all I’ve endured it all, sometimes wholeheartedly, sometimes with a price and sometimes couldn’t tolerate and succumbed.

Even the brightest of children will not work to their potential because of the prevailing situation. The present scenario has adversely affected personality and destroyed one’s confidence and burnt every dream as was clear when Burkha Dutt asked a pellet-blinded teenager lying on the bed in one of the city hospital about his dream of life. His sighed answer was, “I had some, but nothing now.”

Youth here witness bloodshed and mayhem that splatter their mindset and add to their dilemma about their future. The same youth are regarded as the greatest asset of a nation; and this asset is sacrificing its everything for a just cause. The death toll, 91, is, of course, the most spectacular example of the ongoing sufferings. But there are other sufferings, which have not gained as much media or public attention, partly because these ‘facts’ are more difficult to verify.

More than 5000 people—mostly teenagers have been detained, booked under Public Safety Act of 1978. The prominent faces of the Kashmir imbroglio including the human right activist Khurram Parvaiz, political prisoners demanding freedom from India and many others have been detained under the act.

The nocturnal raids and arrest spree is on and the people protest against it every day and for the continuous intimidation faced by youth. The midnight raids have caused psychiatric effects among the youth.

A ninth-grader cousin of mine often screams in the night, “they are coming to take me”, whenever he hears a horn or a siren of a vehicle passing by his house.

The armed forces along with the local police even cause a huge damage to the public property. In the rebellion of 2008 and 2010, the armed forces would smash windowpanes but now they barge into houses and destroy whatever comes in their way; kitchenware, electronic items if they can handle, take it along with them, which they cannot, is broken into pieces.

Amidst the curfew, the coloured apple orchards caught the eye of the paramilitary forces and fell prey to them. In south Kashmir, the harvested rice crop was burnt to ashes resulting in economic loss. If one objects to the tyranny and cruelty, he is beaten to death. Even the women folk aren’t spared.

Two weeks before one of the news channels broadcasted an ailing girl from Kulgam district saying, “Almost ten men of the armed forces attacked me when I was sitting on the veranda of my house. I jumped from the veranda and they threw a large stone on my back.” Another girl on the same channel narrated how she along with her cousin locked themselves inside a bathroom when men in uniform created havoc in their house.

I protest against this inhumane act

Breaching the line of my chastity

Yet they are not ashamed, I am!

They don’t belong to us I admit

But they don’t know of honour and dignity

The childhood of the children seems to have lost somewhere within them. The frenzy smile is now replaced by the temptation for stone-pelting. Just few days back a mother narrated how her six-year-old son with sanctimonious expression often tries to seek permission from her to go out for pelting stones. The situation becomes intriguing and equally disturbing for a mother as well as for a listener like me.

One absolutely becomes helpless when it comes to answer questions about Azadi raised by your child aged just five or six years. The point is not about your answer. It is how you convince him. Most of the times one fails and it leaves a deep scar in the mind of a growing child.

In our colony, the children when occasionally are outside for playing, they form groups of five or six, one group raising slogans of Azadi and anti-India slogans and other one chasing them with the wooden sticks and artificial guns. They have developed their own conviction in their own way. It looks fascinating for a spectator passing by that the children are imitating them or perhaps the fifth generation of Kashmiris is trying to get the room in the ongoing conflict, but it may be worrisome for the Indian state.

The fifth generation infants of the conflict have memorized all the blared songs of freedom that are played on the loudspeakers of local masjids. One example being at my home; my three-year-old niece falls asleep only after listening or watching pro-azadi songs without having a clear understanding of it. When somebody draws a star of excellence on her notebook after she finishes writing the English alphabets she says “pura Pakistan banaona” and then tries to draw the crescent herself.

The thing is, people are fed up with the long chapter of tyranny and deception. They have seen their children like Insha blinded by the pellets and like Junaid, Amir and many other people falling to pellets and bullets.

Now, youth are of the view that “it is now or never”. Ten million people are stuck in the middle of Kashmir conflict and the anti-India sentiment runs deep after decades of violent turmoil. “There is no place in Kashmir where innocent blood has not spilled,” said Zareef Ahmad Zareef, a poet-historian. Today I will commit a mistake of adding more to the great poet’s words: “innocent blood has visited every corner of Kashmir at least twice.”

With every street deserted and every neighborhood producing the scene of prison, banning the weekly Friday prayers in all the district headquarters for consecutive fourteenth week, New Delhi is sowing more seeds of hatred against it in the valley.

The author is a postgraduate student at University of Kashmir. Views expressed in this article are author’s own.


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