I saw you there in that picture. You were being carried home. There were two dead bodies wrapped in two different blankets. I couldn’t make out which one was yours. “Let this be Asiya” I randomly selected one and followed the story.
But since the day a newspaper came out with your earlier pictures and details, something started binding me to you. Every time I feel like I am you or you were me. It may be because your story is the most debated topic these days but the reason I believe is that some years back I was exactly like what you were at the time of your death. I too wanted to be a doctor at the age of 17.
This belief made me to go through my old notes and rough notebooks, just to recollect what my concerns were at your age that possibly might have been yours at the time of your death. While scanning my past, I found what we used to call “slam book”. May be it is known by the same name even now. I don’t know. Its first page has been filled by me and rest by my school friends.
Let me share what I have written on it…
Your aim….to be a doctor
Your favorite song….film Roja..Dil hai chota sa choti si aasha..chand taarun ko chune ki aasha..
You love…beauty and my Kashmir
Your message….East or west, girls are best
There were many other columns I had filled but I can recall only these few. Perhaps because they contradict my present views. After all I cannot be a doctor at this time. My age doesn’t allow me to wish for it now. I no more dream about impossible things and if I am asked about my favourite song, maybe I select one from different genre. Beauty too is not my concern and though I still love “my Kashmir” but for different reasons. Earlier I would love it for happiness; today it is for its helplessness. And the declaration “east or west, girls are best”, makes me smile. Smile Sadly.
Asiya! Did you have any Slam book? May be you too might have written something similar on it. Or maybe you didn’t have any. But the dreams would have been there, if not documented. I just want to go to your home, turn the pages of your rough note books. May be I find a dream there, a concern, a future plan, some unanswered questions, few unorganized thoughts, or some blank pages waiting for their turn. Or maybe I find your favourite song; a similar message as mine or how much you loved your Kashmir. May be you too loved your Kashmir for the reason which I had when I was of your age.
I swear I am not concerned about the bigger issues. Like you have achieved martyrdom or how the guilty should be punished (if they are punished at all). Martyrdom though is a huge thing. If a boy is asked to sacrifice his life for it, maybe he will not give it a second thought. After all life is the most precious thing a man can sacrifice. But I know for a girl, her dignity is much more precious than her life. I believe that any girl if asked to achieve martyrdom at the cost of her honour will simply refuse. Even if you received this honour, even if you smile from heavens, but I know you will never wish any of your sister should achieve it at such a high price. The price you had to pay for it. The price of losing the only priceless thing you ever possessed.
I again say I am bothered about small issues, like dreams which you might have been hiding from everybody but were closest to you. Like being the most beautiful bride. Seeing your bridegroom or imagining your dear ones singing around you. Or something you have decided to share with your partner only. I know every girl is like that. But you were the one who was sole witness of her tragic end; the one who was not a bride, who saw no bridegroom, and who had no loved one singing around her.
Asiya, we witness deaths throughout our life. I too have witnessed many but I just remember one not because the death was tragic but because the person was not willing to die. He was an old man almost 75 years of age. Few days before his death, I visited him at hospital. And I still remember him saying to me, “I know I am going to die in few days. My age is quite ripe for that. But still I pray to Allah to grant me few more years, not because I want to complete some unfinished task, not because I have some reason to live but simply because I don’t want to die yet,” the person wanted me to keep it a secret. I kept and he died in few days.
Every time I think of death, that last conversation of the dying man replays before me. How difficult it might be to accept your end. I mean the moment when you realize that your death is certain. That old man had lived quite happy life. Kashmir those days was happy too. He had married all his children and they all were settled. Practically he had played his role but there was still that fear of being dead, in spite of having his children and grand children around him.
What about you Asiya! How could a girl like you have so much courage? Seeing your dignity being torn into pieces, seeing your shrieks going unheard in that deadly dark of night and then facing your abrupt end, that too when no your loved one was around you. How can you be so brave?
Unlike that old man you might have so many unfinished tasks. You hadn’t lived your life and your childhood was conflict torn too. I am not disturbed because you lost your life, what bothers me is the way it ended. The old man said that he has no reason to live, but you had every reason. You died at an age when you might have been thinking that the whole world belongs to you.
I read that you were an intelligent girl. So you might have known that dishonouring women is used as a weapon in war. You were beautiful too. May be you too have received those obscene remarks which almost every kashmiri girl is used to receive. What happened to you could have happened to any of us, why yours is painful because you were too young to know what dishonouring means. You lost something you hardly might have known you possess. That is what terrifies me every time.
Just a month back, hardly anybody knew you. But now you are the most discussed one, of course many of them take your side. But I know this is the last thing you would have wished to be known for.
And what about your body, do you have any information? Actually they are planning to exhume it. They want evidences of rape. You know they will scan your every body part to find those marks. Tell me has time decomposed them or they are still there? Don’t let them decompose yet. Let world see what happened to you. Let them see how can be an oppressed humiliated even after his death.
See what I am asking you. I should be ashamed of myself. I am. But what can I do. The way truth is being concealed makes me feel restless. Your cries disturb me in my dreams. I can hear your shrieks seeking shelter and running for safety.
I swear by your lost honour Asiya. I will not take part in protests nor will I pray for the punishment of guilty. I will not cry either. Because nothing as such exists in this universe that can compensate your loss. Not even paradise.
------this open letter was published in srinagar based magazine Kashmirlife