It is not quite right that we meet like this…a girl like you so far away in cold Jammu and Kashmir and me down in the warm, tropical state of Kerala. It is not right because I would have loved to see the “chirping bird” that you were with nimble fingers and agile feet like a “deer”. I consider myself unfortunate to have known about another bold woman who lived and was killed because she represented some values that are no longer needed in this modern, fast, cruel world. She is Gouri Lankesh who lived in Bangalore and spoke loud for truth, freedom, justice and equality. It was only after hearing about her murder that I thought of writing to her.
You must be wondering with your quick and intelligent brain, uncluttered by knowledge from textbooks and structured classrooms what was the reason for the inhuman way in which your life was snuffed out…I shudder to answer this question. Because the reason makes me feel scared about one half of humanity that is using narrow,aggressive, intolerant, violent and deliberate reasons to kill and remove certain sections of human beings. History has proven over and over again the brutality of closure and annihilation through fear.
Yes, dear one..some people larger in number and power crazy too wants the community you belonged to be frightened out of the region you have been living for centuries. They are not willing to share the space of the grazing pastures, the forests and water with you all. I am sure that a small child like you who would have been called “illiterate” by many knew in your heart that all of the above things that Nature provides free are to be shared. But people with education, degrees, political and religious positions are the ones who do not value what makes human life worthwhile. How else could a 60 year old man who has lived a full life spend so much time planning your murder? How could a team of young men have thought out which medicine to buy to drug you so that you will not resist and kick them in the organs they used to derive their kind of pleasure and vengeance?
It is shocking to see the sudden rise of human sympathy and rage over your killing..am wondering about the pollution that so many flex banners with your innocent face will cause to the Earth and water. I was shocked that many middle class women sitting in the security of their drawing rooms lament about how an 8 year old could have wandered the forests alone and how they have protected their daughters from evil eye! It is equally repulsive to see many grinning in glee as they pose for a picture during a protest gathering to condemn your murder..
I can see your gentle smile that evening when you went to bring the ponies home..the fading light in the pastures, the trees and forests catching the darkness, the gentle breeze that stroked your hair…you would have liked to share with children who live protected and fettered in their homes the freedom and beauty of being out in the open protected by the wild and free nature that surrounds your life since you were born. As I read more about the special life of the Bakarwal Gujjars to whom you belonged to, I am amazed at how in tune with changing seasons and nature’s pulses your life would have been. In the 8 years that you lived you would have learned to share your space and time with the goats, sheep, buffaloes and horses that sustain the community you belong. I wonder, dear child if you had had the tasty, simple and frugal meal of corn and millets that your mother had made before running off to get the horses? Did you like trekking up the hills with your family and animals as snow melted and then move back when snow falls from Jammu to Kashmir and then back to Jammu? Did you feel the anxiety of your elders who were forced to adopt a settled life as development policies and changes in weather and climate made irreversible impacts on a nomadic life?
I wonder if you saw the men who waited to track you..did you smile at them, not knowing about their insecurity and fear about girls like you growing up to bear more healthy children? Did you run, slipping and falling with your tiny feet like a deer caught in the fern fronds in the forest’s undergrowth? Did you hear the alarm call of the barking deer or the twilight roosting calls of the red jungle fowl and black partridge that inhabit the forests? Did their hands and hairy arms hurt your tender cheeks that covered your small mouth about to cry out for help? Did you see the gentle and frightened steps of the diety who like a fugitive coward ran away from the temple where you were kept captive for days?
I have so many questions that have been hurting me and many other friends since we heard about what happened to you.
Dear Afisa,it broke my heart to know that your name means “the one who is pure, virtuous, spotless, upright, an organizer”…in selecting your young delicate body to mete out their perverted feelings and their plan to subjugate, scare and push out your community based on religion and way of life..they chose to also annihilate all the virtues that make human life possible in the world…
Yet your innocent and trusting face shown many times all over speak volumes about what a strong, bold, hard working woman you would have grown into “ a darling of the village and the centre of our universe” (as your mother lamented on the day your body was found)…..
As I prepare myself to meet a group of young girls whose homes have become insecure spaces with their own fathers and uncles taking on the role of torturing and abusing them, I want to tell them about your life, your friendship with the horses, show them a picture of a young woman walking with her baby and the horses…..like how you would have grown up into…
With a gentle kiss on your forehead
April 15, 2018
Anitha S is a writer from Kerala