8 JULY As I was working in my office (it has been only an hour or so) someone came with the news that the body of the missing guy has been found and disturbances have begun. The residence of the guy wasn’t far away from my office. It surely meant trouble.
The status message in my facebook account read ‘They are killing us like flies. Swat. Swat.’ A young cousin studying medicine abroad responded. I was surprised by the disconnection I found in her conversation. Probably out of sight is out of mind. But at the same time I remembered a recent chat with another cousin, younger than me, currently working in Dubai. He was asking me about everything here. When I said that things are pretty bad here, his response was yeah when I see the papers my blood boils. I want to throw a stone too. For those who don’t know at present the people of Kashmir are using all the non violent means to protest. At best they throw stones and are showered with bullets in reward.
As I ploughed through my work my phone rang. My brother at the other end was frantic. I was ordered to reach home. He had seen blood on the streets, police jeeps were burned and the public transport was nowhere to be seen. People were on streets protesting against the abduction and killing of the 19 year old Asrar a college student who worked part time. People alleged police involvement and were disgusted with their inaction in tracing the guy. A few days later two journalists were booked for reporting the public allegation that police is involved. And remember India is a democracy a land of free speech.
The body of the guy, decomposed with a slit throat was recovered from a big graveyard , a secluded area, in the old city.
My brother quite a liberal guy has of late turned quite fussy. He is always worried about my security and is fussier that even my mother. Of course he loves me a lot. And having lost someone close in the family has made him obsessive about me. I understand but at times it really gets irritating.
I told him I will try to leave and see if I can find something to reach home. Or I will see if some colleague of mine can drop me home. I left office alone telling the guys that I will come back if I don’t find any means to reach home. Someone will have to drop me home or at some of my relatives place then.
I got out of office and tried to see if I can reach home. I didn’t dare to leave the street outside my office as I knew the guy would soon be brought for burial in the nearby graveyard. As I was standing I could smell the tension in the air. My mom who was struck somewhere else called, the network was terrible. I asked her to take care of herself.
After spending half an hour on the street I returned to office telling my colleagues someone has to help me out. Just then the father of a colleague came to pick her up. She offered to drop me at my granny’s place which came on the way. I accepted telling her she can drop me somewhere at her place from where I will try to reach home. I wnate dto be home. After covering a small distance we were stopped by guys who were about to begin a protest. Somehow we managed to reach my colleagues place wherefrom I was lucky enough to find a bus to drop me a few kilometers away from home. Meaning I could walk from there.
All the people were tense and it was as if every thing the roads, the buses, the houses were immersed in tension. As I got down from the bus and started to walk I felt drained. Surprisingly I couldn’t feel the sweltering heat.
I was thinking of the mother of the dead guy. The people of the area had been protesting for last so many days demanding about his whereabouts. Just a day before students had taken out a rally in this regard. As it appears the boy was dead by then.
It tore my heart to think how his mother would have been waiting for him. Even after living in Kashmir she wouldn’t have thought in her wildest dreams that she would receive his dead body.
What really made it graver was we all knew the culprits will never be caught, no one will be punished. In Kashmir there have been various instances of security forces excesses where even after knowing the culprits, they were never tried and roamed free. They still do.
Even after decades of trouble the situation here in Kashmir is still tossing new surprises. Just some days back a teenager went missing. His family said the army called the 16 year old Basharat to their camp and they even accompanied him to the gate. He didn’t return. Eventually he was found in an unconscious state, his hands tied backwards, on roadside closer to his home. His family gives credit for his survival to the massive agitation after his alleged abduction by the army. Asrar wasn’t so lucky neither have been thousands of men in Kashmir.
I dreaded going home because there was another problem. Our neighbours son was getting married and the canopy was erected in our garden. A wedding here involves multiple elaborate functions. The current affair is a three day process (there are many more events but they are for the close family).
As I reached home they were singing. I just wanted to shut myself up but there was no rescue. I had to go atleast in the evening to their place. There was no choice as not going would have meant a social hara-kiri and it would have definitely given my mom a lot to worry about. So I went to dinner at their place. People there were sharing stories bout what happened during the day. Everyone was telling what he/she had to face that day. The celebrations went on. I guess that is life.
9 JULY The next day we had a strike. News of protests in different areas kept coming in. amongst all the chaos and confusion the wedding took place. The bride was brought home. I thought about Asrar’s mother had she made any plans about his marriage and wedding. How many times would she have thought ‘I will do this. I will do that’ regarding him. The pictured of Asrar that came in papers showed him to be quite a handsome guy.
Too many young boys have been killed in Kashmir in the last two decades. I recollect too many pictures of dead bodies in newspapers as well as accounts heard wherein women of the house apply henna and shower almonds on the dead one ( both wedding rituals). I still remember clearly a picture of a girl along with some women on a balcony showering flowers on the dead body being carried away for burial below. Just the way women do for a bridegroom. It is all so draining. We all have lived through this and are going strong. But sometimes it scares me to think will it never end.
The second month of VOF started exactly like the first. I am at home wondering if Jennifer would have posted the learning material and what assignment will we have this month. Things will be difficult for me this month as well. Here I am at home and the work is piling in office. When life resumes I will be quite busy.
10 JULY The following day we had a strike too. It was in protest of an alleged attempted rape and murder of a girl by a man of Territorial Army. The man broke into the room of the girl who was a college student. When the girl started screaming she was gagged by the accused. Her niece sleeping in the same room raised an alarm and the family members broke in the door and nabbed the man. The girl was unconscious by then and the man was rescued by his accomplices who were waiting outside. The girl was declared brought dead in the hospital. The drooped phone and the identity card of man helped to nab him. He was arrested.
The army dissociated itself from the incident. They admitted he was their man but the action wasn’t theirs. Fair enough but can they tell how and why did he dare to enter into the house of a villager at 3 A M in the night by breaking a window and enter into her daughter room. He could only because he knew he was a trooper so above law. The army in Kashmir is protected by the inhuman law AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) a law which gives soldiers draconian powers and immunity against being tried in courts. Which means even if a solider violates human rights he roams free ready for more such deeds.
11 JULY I am back at work. I see there is too much to do.
Last night the report of the one man judicial commission on the rape and murder of two women Neelofar and Asiya was out. It is there is the papers today. When the retired judge was chosen for the cession fingers were raised about his credibility. Time has proven them right. there are no conclusions in the report though plenty of assumptions.
‘Confusion Confounded’ reads the headline of a newsreport on the report followed by the following words ‘ he described the autopsy and forensic reports of Shopian rape and murder inconclusive, but Jan( the judge ) himself came out not only with an inconclusive report, but with one that accuses everybody, including the victims.
The report suspects the police and other security agencies and at the same time also suspects Neelofar’s husband and on flimsy grounds. His assets for one. I ask which brother would give such a death to his little sister, a death that shook whole of the valley as well as the mighty Indian state.
It raises questions on Neelofar’s brother based on his behaviour. This is funniest of all. Pitching a tent, gathering his friends, relatives and villagers, smashing window panes of civil and government vehicles, raising anti-India and pro- freedom slogans qualifies him to be a suspect as per the report.
It does not even spare Neelofar who it accuses of dubious character citing the purposes of her visits to the orchard are not known. The judge has no evidence. All Assumption. All this coming from a retired judge who has probably passed judgment on hundreds of cases.
Every one in the office was laughing about the report. Noone was expecting better. But what made it funny was the accusation of the husband and the brothers of the victims. Typical Bollywood (Indian Cinema) Movie everybody said in chorus. Bollywood movies are typically too dramatic and exaggerated. The hero of the movie usually gets himself into such impossible and outlandish situations. But there at least the good overcomes evil in the end. We here have no such hope.
You know why the judge has raised questions about the character of Neelofar and her husband. Because they belonged to different castes and had eloped to marry. I tell you there was a time when marrying out of choice was considered a crime here. But now it is an accepted practice. Most of the marriages I come across now a days are out of choice. In a few years it will become a norm. We have moved a long way ahead. Also our religion gives a woman the right to choose the one she wants to marry.
It is really shocking how low we can stoop. I wish the judge do some soul searching. Neelofar and Asiya might be laughing up above at us mortals. I wish they visit the judge in a dream. Can someone do such a shoddy job after seeing the gut wrenching picture of the young Asiya’s bloody face. I have seen only this much the judge has seen and heard much more. I wonder how can he sleep.
Tomorrow is Sunday and Monday is a holiday. It is the day of martyrs of 1931. I guess too many more qualify to be added to the list but I guess that is not possible till the Kashmir dispute is settled.
13 JULY I finished writing this and hope to post it tomorrow. I have too much to do.