By Yasir Altaf Zargar
The clamour of slogans started rising around the vicinity of a local mosque with a recorded hymn, praising the beauty of “Jihad”. The voice was, as if, cracking the walls; people were rehearsing and yelling the slogans loudly. People in our village stood outside the masjid, praising loudly the virtues of martyrdom.
Among us, there were many young boys listening to the harangue from the chief cleric of our village, who had witnessed the days of 1990, when the armed struggle in south Kashmir was at a peak.
There were a number of intellectuals in the crowd, who had been in jail for a long time on fake charges, which were never proved till date. They were recalling the past memories, which have come alive with the uprising in 2016. They were narrating how the Indian army had committed atrocities on them and how they were tortured many times inside jails. They called those memories painful and haunting but they reiterated the fact that the 1990s armed struggle gave Indian troopers sleepless nights.
There was a former militant in the crowd, who was released a few years ago. He was booked under POTA, allegedly for attacking an army convoy. He stood up and started narrating how and where he had been tortured brutally. The torture marks were clearly visible on his body, which cost him his fluency of speech. Tears streamed down his face, when he narrated how he was tortured sexually in a local detention centre. “May Allah save all of us from such brutality,” he said in a low voice. Everyone around felt numb when he showed his back, which had torture marks etched on it. These marks were fifteen years old and still they looked fresh. “This is what I got. Call it a gift from the Indian force,” he said, as if he was cracking a joke. He continued, “It’s hard to believe that Kashmir will get freedom one day but my heart says we will achieve it soon by any means, at any cost, whether at the cost of my own life.” This was his last message to us. We stood there engrossed. He pumped some sort of aggression into our veins and we were high on adrenaline.
No one in the crowd was aware that it would be his last sermon. He would leave the world soon. At that stage, it was hard to believe that the troopers would fire indiscriminately on us. For a moment, time stood still. Bullets, teargas shells, pellets were showered on us. It was hard to move to a safe place nearby. Everything around me looked messy. The air was laden with teargas, pellets, and some sort of smoke. We felt like we were in war-like situation. The forces were continuously trying to maim people. They were not only torturing us physically but mentally, too. “M**d*r c**d (mother fuckers) come here, fight with us. You want freedom, you d**k-h**ds? Come, get freedom here.” These were the only words which reverberated in the air. It seemed that the police and other security forces had already planned to conduct a massacre.
Some of my friends dragged me to a safe place nearby. My eyes were blurry. I thought I had lost my eye sight. The forces, that cordoned our area, went berserk. They vandalised the venue, tents, chairs, and other things. They attacked the whole village, broke windows-panes, mirrors, and dragged other boys from their houses. They asked how we dared to organize a pro-freedom rally, when the area was under curfew. They set fire to tents, burned wooden chairs, which were brought in for the pro-freedom leaders, who addressed us.
The brave womenfolk of our village came out of their houses. They started thumping their chest and wailed loudly. This is common across Kashmir. Women have always been courageous when it came to demanding freedom. They challenged the police officer to touch them. The officer, who was in charge of the brutal forces, noticed their anguish, anticipating dangers to their men and young boys. A woman yelled loudly, “Walwie marwie – come, kill us”. The officer retorted, “You bitch, what do you want?” He jeered and said, “Freedom?” The crowd at the back retorted in anguish.
This infringement of law had taken place with the connivance of the police officials. The attitude of the officers convinced us that the higher authority had allowed them to go for a ‘shoot at sight’ encounter inside the village. This was meant to incapacitate people from organising any such event.
I quickly ran from the spot and went back home. I switched on one of the Indian media channels. The situation they projected was totally incredible. I was baffled to see what they were telecasting. The Indian media seemed to be completely incapable of fathoming our grief. They played on a loop words such as “Terrorists”, “Separatists”, “Pro-Pakistani supporters”, “Pro -Isis supporters”, “Pro-Taliban supporters”, so on and on.
In the melee, more than 20 were injured; one among them was seriously injured, as he was hit with a teargas shell on his head. He was referred to Srinagar for advanced treatment.
An hour passed. Olive green paramilitary vehicles, with teargas guns auto-adjusted on the roof rack and solemn-faced soldiers on the top of vehicles with pellet guns in their hands, cordoned the area. This time a white police vehicle entered the village and announced that the area had been put under curfew. Such arbitrary imposition of curfew was familiar to people. The Indian forces announced curfew regularly since Burhan, a local Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander, was killed. This time they came with a convoy of army (Rashtriya Rifles) for cover up. The army troopers, with olive green uniform, machine guns on their shoulders, some carrying teargas and pellet cartridges, laid a siege to the village. They hurled abuses and beat many people, who came on their way.
A group of villagers came out and started sloganeering. Within seconds, the whole village came out and joined the procession. People were raising anti-India and anti-government slogans.
The armoured vehicle with 4 CRPF masked troopers, who were hanging on the back of vehicle, entered the village and went berserk. They started vandalising things. They lobbed teargas canisters into the air, which suffocated the whole atmosphere. It was hard to breathe. They warned people but it was drowned out in the cacophony and chaos.
Somehow I went outside to hear what they were announcing. The armoured vehicle was surrounded by more than a hundred CRPF troopers. It looked as if they were here to eliminate someone. They seized a group of boys and started beating them indiscriminately. They dragged some other boys.
After a while, there was another announcement made by the cleric of the masjid. It said, “Army walou raet saen kah nawjawan aasie paazie sarnie nearun” (The army troopers have captured some of our boys and we all should come out for a protest). When people reached the cul-de-sac, the CRPF troopers with police connivance started firing at the procession. This injured many. People started running away to safety.
This was the time when I went back to the mosque and saw one person lying in a pool of blood. A group of local boys quickly carried him in a private vehicle. I noticed it was the same person who was delivering a sermon an hour or two ago. He was almost dead. A friend yelled at my back, “Eamou ha morr yea zaenith” (They killed him deliberately). It was probably a cold-blooded murder as the bullet seemed to have hit his chest.
Sloganeering continued. A procession was taken out from the village to the main ground, where other people from the adjoining areas waited for us. More than one lakh people gathered at the nearest cricket ground. They were protesting against the oppression perpetrated by the Indian army. People were crying, some were sloganeering, while some others were leading the march. An ambulance reached us, carrying some of our neighbours. They got off and said, “He died”. People started screaming when they carried the body of the man, who was alive and delivered a sermon an hour ago. He had hinted eerily that it would be his last speech.
A group of people, who I think were from the Hurriyat, started their sermon. The first thing they yelled, “AA ZAALIMO AA JABIRO, KASHMIR HAMARA CHOD DOE” (OH TYRANTS AND TORMENTORS, LEAVE OUR KASHMIR). Another screamed loudly, “HUM KYA CHAHTEY?” People, who had already gathered for a protest, retorted loudly, “AAZADI”. People continued raising slogans in which they recalled Burhan. Some in the group shouted, “BURHAN TERAY KHOON SA INQILAB AAYEGA” (BURHAN YOUR BLOOD WILL BRING REVELUTION). Such incidents have started becoming banal in Kashmir. This is how they bid adieu to local mujahideens. Whenever an uprising starts, people usually praise the local mujahideens in their sermons and speeches.
Late in the evening, the police officials came for nocturnal raids. They raided some of the houses and arrested some local boys because they had managed to make a “local chalo” successful. The forces faced the wrath of local protestors who pelted stones on them. Some of the elderly, dignified people, too, joined the stone-pelters. Some came out with axes, some with iron rods. “They have made our life hell; this is now intolerable,” said a young civil servant in a harsh tone. “How do peaceful protests become seditious for them,” he yelled loudly. The police officials ran from the spot and went back to the police station.
The next morning, when the newspaper reached home, a headline in bold, capital letters, printed in red (usually this is how they prefer to announce another killing) screamed, “Another dead, death toll reached 69 in just 45 days.”
People have forgotten to count the days. They just count the number of dead, which mounts with each passing day, across Kashmir. Today the news was about the local neighbour who was killed in cold blood. The front page flashed his picture, on a black background, accompanied by a story of infringement of law by the army jawans, who killed a man in cold-blood.
The Indian forces come and brutalise civilians. They charge young boys under POTA and put them behind bars. It happens regularly in parts of Kashmir, especially in those places, which have an army camp in their vicinity. People cannot roam freely at night, as the local army troopers beat them mercilessly. Sometimes they arrest locals and put them behind bars. It is believed that some years back more than12 boys disappeared and they never returned. Some eyewitnesses say that the local army came in olive green trucks and took the boys away on the pretext that they had connections with the rebels, who had infiltrated a month ago. The local people call it, “KHAKI TERRORISM”.
It happens only in Kashmir where a father shoulders his son’s coffin. It only happens in Kashmir, where the old live while the young offering resistance against illegal occupation are killed.
Since 2008, this is the third civilian uprising. More than 1000 young boys were killed in broad day-light and no one was booked for these killings. In fact, some of those cops were honoured and promoted to higher ranks. More than 50,000 boys were injured. Since the uprising took place, lethal weapons have been consistently used on people. Nocturnal raids have forced young boys to move to unknown places. More than 2 lakh boys face sedition charges. Some of them are booked on fake charges.
People believe that the government is planning to construct a Guantanamo Bay like jail in Kashmir, so as to prevent resistance from people. But people of Kashmir have always been courageous. They have always been brave. For “Aazadi”, they have sacrificed everything.
Yasir Altaf Zargar is a Srinagar-based web security analyst. He has been acknowledged and rewarded for contributing to the web security of Google, Yahoo, Hackerone, Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle. He tweets as @zargaryasir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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