Just a month ago, lawmakers in Kashmir secretly got the new legislative building exorcised after chief minister Omar Abdullah nearly lost his chair on the second day of the session. Last year only, former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had to resign on the first day of the first ever session in the new building.

Exorcism, the legislators thought, would ward off the “ghosts of the haunted building” and give the new chief minister, who has survived a series of administrative blunders in his eight months of rule, some respite. Rather than improving the governance, the legislators preferred exorcism.

Chief Minister Omar first ran into trouble in May when two young women were raped and murdered by men in uniform in Shopian town. An official cover up of the incident sparked widespread unrest in the region. Armed forces were suspected of the double crime, but the administration, including the chief minister, first tried to pass off the killings as a simple case of drowning (in ankle deep waters). Eventually he had to give in to widespread unrest and declare an investigation. Months later however, the case is still unresolved, and an Indian forensic lab has said the samples sent for DNA testing have been fudged.

The Shopian rape and murder was sure to haunt the chief minister in the legislative session this summer. On the very first day, Leader of the Opposition, Mehbooba Mufti, snapped the microphone of the Speaker (chair) of the House, and flung it to one side.

The next day was even more chaotic. The opposition leader, Muzaffar Baig, accused the chief minister of being linked to the infamous sexual-exploitation racket that had rocked the region in 2006. Top security officials, bureaucrats and politicians of the state had been linked to the racket.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who claimed a clean record, felt offended and offered his conditional resignation in protest. Abdullah survived when his resignation was declined by the state governor.

The exorcism brings memories of PAPA 2 to life. PAPA 2, an infamous torture centre of the region, was converted into an official guest house cum residence some years back. Since 1990 hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri youth, both innocent and involved in armed rebellion, have been brought to PAPA 2 by Indian armed agencies, and tortured brutally, many even to death.

When PAPA 2 was converted into the guest house, afraid of the ghosts of innocents, its first incumbent a top state officer, got it exorcised by priests.

These people think that they can exorcise some buildings to ward off the impact of events that may haunt this land for decades.

But my land has seen death and destruction as a rule. It is a land of thousands of orphans and widows. It’s a land of Kunan-poshpoara, where troopers raped women inside their houses all night after herding their men outside for identification.

It is the land of Dardpora village which is home to some 300 widows. It is a land where 8000 people are still disappeared, whose parents and relatives sit every month in a public park asking for their whereabouts.

It is a land where unmarked graves were discovered in 2008 and countless more lie buried unclaimed somewhere in unknown graveyards or forests. It is a land of people living in mental trauma. It is a land that has witnessed massacres.

A land where a small boy mistook his mother for a murderer when she came out drenched in blood from a room where his father and brothers lay dead. The boy was too young to understand that his mother was in shock after security forces killed three of their family that night.

A land where one can get arrested tortured and killed by the armed forces and the perpetrators can’t even be questioned.

It is a land where people are killed for protesting peacefully. A land where little boys with stones in their hands are showered with bullets and smoke canisters aimed deliberately at their heads.

A land where civilians are picked up and killed in staged gun battles, to be passed off as militants so that policemen can be rewarded for killing an insurgent.

A land of custodial killings. A land of divided families.

It is all these things that haunt its rulers and they respond by exorcising their mansions. I just wonder if my land can ever be exorcised of these injustices, killings and all other demeaning humiliations.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

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Comments

Nusrat,

Thank you for this post. I believe that you and others like you that call out what has happed in your land are the people that will make your land evicted of the demons that have overtaken it (in the past and present).

Standing strong and not passively letting injustice occur is what will shift the land from the tyranny of hate, rape and violence. Keep doing what you are doing- calling out what is happening. Also supporting your brothers and sisters in this struggle.

Finally, have hope- for whithout hope, all is lost.

Thank you for this piece, very well written- very needed. I look forwad to reading more.

Love, Sharese

Nusrat,

This piece is so powerful, your words are compelling and alive with passion. You write about the injustices,violence, rape, and so many other horrible things. While the leaders are worrying about exorcising buildings of their past and getting involved in scandals, unspeakable horrors and tradegies are not even acknowledged. Unspeakable! Unjust! I am so saddened by this, but will not give up in pursuit of justice and peace. I greatly appreciate your words. We must not stop speaking about these things. Please keep telling us these accounts, on behalf of those who cannot do it for themselves. I also want to encourage you in your writing. You write with such power. You words and thoughts are charged and sizzling with passion. I think the way you finished your piece, adding small paragraph after paragraph, created a rising effect. I think your writing style in this piece has connected the powerful message you have in an incredibly moving way. Keep it up. You are a courageous woman. I am in awe.

In pursuit of peace and justice, Jody

Dearest Jody

You know someone suggested I club the paras. The opinion was seconded by Jennifer. so i clubbed a bit in the beginning . But a friend of mine said dont make the paras too long becoz au r going to post it online and the reader gets fatigued. Another friend borke it into very small paras and I saw how powerful it got and remembering what my friend had already said kept it.

All my friends at Pulswire, my editorial midwives and my people back home have really helped me in shaping this piece. I really gave my friends back home a tough time by making them read and re read in order to give suggestions.

as far as my land is concerned I really dont know where things are heading. we can only hope for the best. You know one of the members of the commiittee heading the People for Justice in Shopian Rape case was found dead in a field. Probably murdered they dint even declare the results of autopsy . The investigations in the rape case have reached a dead end. God only knows if the killers will be ever punished. I mean here in this world beacuse in the other they will have to pay for their sins.

Nusrat

Nusrat, What great improvements you have made...a piece that started out as very powerful has been made even more powerful. You listened to the feedback and it is obvious to me that you incorporated that feedback to great benefit. I love the way you shortened the paragraphs and built on the "It is a land where..." theme. Because you separated the examples into short and dramatic statements they became very powerful in themselves and built to a tremendously powerful ending. Keep your passion and keep fighting with your powerful words.

Debra