By Adil Bhat
As the son of a former militant rests in peace after the cold-blooded murder by the Indian forces, the struggle for freedom is reignited.
A pall of gloom has engulfed the Valley. There is fear among the villagers who have started living a close communitarian life, where men, women, and children not only move in groups for protests, but also conduct their daily chores in community groups. The men sleep together in the mosques. Women have lost sleep, sitting at their homes, contemplating the next moves by the most feared Indian army. Children sleep in their mother’s laps, but their sleep, too, is disturbed by their weeping mothers. This war that the Indian government has been waging on a civilian population has serious psychological repercussions. Mudasir Gul, a friend who is studying in New Delhi, remarked, “For the last 58 days, I have not picked up my books. I only read newspapers and watch debates for more than fifteen hours. I was preparing for exams, but with this situation back home, I just cannot concentrate. My fingers are scrolling the computer screen, with eyes wide open. I fear losing someone back home. I call home at least ten times a day, and have come to believe that this is some kind of psychological damage that the war has done to me and many other Kashmiri students, living in India or elsewhere.”
Mudassir’s account comes in the backdrop of Basit Ahanger’s killing. The 17-year-old young boy, Basit, was killed by the Indian army personnel on the evening of September 2, 2016. Since his murder, the Valley has erupted in protests. Hailing from Vessu village in Qazigund area of Anantnag, Basit, a first-year undergrad student, succumbed to his pellet injuries on Saturday evening. He had received pellet injuries on both his legs and head. Adding to the pellet injuries, the forces mercilessly threw him 30-feet downhill. The fall caused maximum damage in the head, leading to his death.
The son of an ex-militant, Ahanger, a tall guy, who always kept a dense trimmed beard, has brought people from the surrounding villages to mourn his death. A distraught Shameema Banoo from Ahanger’s neighbourhood narrated, while crying, “I saw the boy in the morning when I had gone to the fields. He was across the field, standing on a bridge with a friend. They were laughing. After waving at each other, I returned home, not knowing that that would be my last encounter with that young boy.”
Always found with a scarf wrapped around his neck, Ahanger’s friends admired him for his chic style. Sartaj, an aggrieved friend, narrated his harrowing experience, “I, along with my other friends, rushed to the point where an injured Ahanger was lying. It was a traumatic sight. Basit, our friend, was breathing his last breath when we reached. I carried him in my arms. He was bleeding profusely from the left side of his head. He had hit the rock after he was thrown from a height. We rushed to the local hospital, praying for his life. But, we lost him.”
Another friend Tufail Bhat, who was Basit’s childhood companion, wept over phone while talking to this scribe. After a minute’s pause, he said, “Basit was not a stone pelter. He was a fun loving guy, who had a passion to live. A boy full of life and energy has been mercilessly murdered. I remember how he always told all of us to value this precious, yet short life. He lived with the desire to make everyone happy. I still can’t believe that my friend has left me forever.” As the phone got disconnected, I could only hear Tufail’s sobs.
“Standing outside his house is more distressing,” said Owais Ittoo, another friend in mourning. He further added, “Basit’s house was surrounded by the forces that did not let people go inside to give our condolences to his family. His dead body lies inside, while we waited outside in anxiety. We wanted to see him for one last time before he went to the dust.” The voice breaks, and Owais begins talking with a heavy voice, “He was the funniest among all of us. And he always had some weird stories to tell, which we did not believe in the first go. Every time we had to coax him to swear, and he would, in the fractions of a second, say, ‘Ruob sund kasam’ (I swear on God).On hearing this, we would roll in laughter. These are a few memories of my friend, who wanted to pursue higher education from Delhi.”
A journalism student from Vessu, Hadif Nisar, reminiscing his time with Basit said, “I knew Basit since childhood. We learned Quran together at his home. He was a guy with a god-gifted sense of humour, a good cricketer, and the one who could easily tease anyone with his powerful dialogue. His last cricketing innings would always be in my memory, when he won us a lost match with his powerful hitting. Basit left us for a cause and I wish strength to his family, friends, and myself as well.”
Basit’s father, Ghulam Muhammad Ahanger, had picked up arms at the height of militancy in the 1990s. He remained active for one year. Later, he was captured by the Indian army at Wanpu Anantnag. He was released, after staying in the custody of the army for months. Following this, he started his own business and brought up his children, while living a normal life.
“Till the time Basit’s body lay in his house waiting for the burial in the morning, the entire village was in mourning,” said an elderly man, Manzoor Ahmad, standing outside Basit’s house before his scheduled funeral, adding, “There has not been any let up in violence since the death of Burhan in early July. We are losing our children in this embittered war. The unquenching thirst for power will engulf the Valley in flames. They [India] have deprived us of our freedom and now they are killing our future.”
“With another light turned off, the fire of a just struggle is rekindled,” said Manzoor.
Adil Bhat is Assistant Editor at New York-based Magazine, Café Dissensus. He has contributed articles in Greater Kashmir, Himal South Asian, Kashmir Reader, Kashmir Life, and Café Dissensus.
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