The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

How do we mourn our martyrs of Kashmir?

By Omair Bhat

I feel too weak to write about our martyrs. Even thinking about how they would have been shot at on the roads in my town in Kashmir breaks me. Words are no comfort to the dead. They are no comfort to the bereaved either. But maybe, just maybe, if I write about them they will know that they were not alone in this fight against tyranny. They will know that they are remembered. They will know that they will not be forgotten. Not now, not ever.

And even if they are not with us now, even if they are dead, they are alive in our collective memories.

OB1

I see pictures on social media. They pour in every now and then. Five dead in four days. What had those kids and the old lady done?

This is what headlines read in newspapers in Kashmir. The little descriptions about the killings are haunting.

Everybody is in mourning.

OB2

There is blood in the streets. It is mayhem. In the pictures, the enemy soldiers intimidate grieving women with rifles.

Step back.

We will open fire.

In one picture, one woman is daring the solider to shoot her. She has thrust her head into the muzzle of his rifle. The soldier is standing clueless. Her defiance is threatening his presence. He does not know what to do.

His rifle is on her forehead. She speaks it on his face: Go back. Leave Kashmir.

How will he silence her resistance?

How will he defeat her courage with a gun?

She speaks it on his face, he looks bewildered:

Hum kya chahte? (What do we want?)

(And, at this point other women join in.)

Azaadi (Freedom)
Hai jaan se payaari (More beloved than life)
Azaadi (Freedom)
Woh mehki mehki (That wondrous desire)
Azaadi (Freedom)
Hai haq hamara (That’s our right)
Azaadi (Freedom)
Hum le ke rahenge (We will snatch away)
Azaadi (Freedom)

Her fist is in air. Her voice is the rumble of rain clouds. Her voice is the bolt of lightning as she sings:

As salaam as salaam – aye shaheed as salaam (Hail! Hail! Hail the martyrs!)

The lightning has struck the soldier. It has split him into two halves. He knows he will never be able to take away her love for martyrs, their love and her love for freedom, from her heart. Then, in a fit of frustration, he resorts to violence.

OB4

In other pictures, men are carrying martyrs to the graveyard in a procession. On the way they are singing songs of freedom to them. They are bidding them farewell.

They are carrying their coffins in turns, past sentries, past barracks, past everything, rowing them into dawn. Over the mist of the night.

At the funeral, the father of one martyr breaks down, laments, precisely how the Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish has lamented in the Palestinian context:

“How did we trade roles, my son, how did you precede me.
I first, I the first one!”

OB3

Elsewhere in Kashmir, there is curfew. The roads are forlorn. Desolation barks at me from a distance. I feel for my heart. It pronounces that blessed word. But it also lets out a cry. I ring my mother and ask her: “How is everyone at home?”

She just says, “It is all bad here. It is panic.”

“Why?”

Her voice reflects agony. She says:

“Did you hear how they killed a promising cricketer in Handwor?
There is curfew. Protests are going on. I hear sirens only.
Young boys are dying. As young as you.”

OB5

I know. I want to tell her, I saw how his mother had clutched on to his photograph. It is haunting.

I cannot believe he is dead. But the call disconnects. I only hear the beep.

Then for awhile I stare at another picture in which a young woman is wailing at her dead mother’s coffin.

An old memory returns to me. I remember my mother. I remember her telling me how she survived the Kupwara Massacre in 1994.

I turn to ice. What can I write about the grief of this girl who has lost her mother to the oppression of India?

She will not want to know what I have written. She will just ask me, where has her mother gone? I will have no answer to her simple question.

Now we only write, and not stand up to what they stood for, even when they were dying.

No, we won’t forget them. We won’t let them down.

Photo-credit: Zulkarnain Banday

Bio:
Omair Bhat is an aspiring poet from Kashmir.

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘JNU and Its Tradition(s) of Dissent’, edited by Malavika Binny, JNU, Delhi, India.

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3 Responses to “How do we mourn our martyrs of Kashmir?”

  1. akshatashukla

    It’s so nicely written. There could not have been a better tribute. *Respect*. I hope Kashmir finds peace soon.

    Reply
  2. harshitshukla184

    every coin has 2 sides. So does this story. As much I am hurt that people in Kashmir suffer ; there can be peace and harmony only when there is coordination from both sides. Kashmiris have to forget the past , hold no grudges against anyone , only then we can find out a solution.
    Remember what happened to Kashmiri pandits. Injustice and bloodshed imposed on them was done by the natives themselves. Are the culprits ready to accept their mistakes and accommodate them back. This is a much debated issue.
    A realistic approach implemented by Sikhs is something every Indian must learn. Sikhs are the one who suffered the most. They were humiliated and assulted in Pakistan forced to leave their Country and take refuge in India. They came with nothing and started from nothing to be todays most successful and efficient community not just in India but in the entire world.
    It is difficult to find a Sikh begging on the streets or living in dungeons.
    They work hard every day. They remember their ancestors , honour their struggle but washed away hatred and mishaps for a better future which they achieved.
    Sometimes , things just happen . It is we who decide whether to cling onto it or move past it for cordial harmony and prosperous future.
    P.S. – Education and population management is tool to many problems.

    Reply
  3. Irfan Mir

    An allusion to Agha Shahid Ali’s poem even in his prose piece once again reiterates the fact that Omair is a poet by heart.

    Reply

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