kashmir peace

The JK bank calendar on my wall shows 12th in red today. Remember JK bank, once the economic backbone of the state, which has gone through the raids, interrogations and management changes recently. This was in fact the prelude to the political annihilation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir on 5th August

The red on the calendar means it is Eid today. Perhaps, the first Eid when we cannot greet Eid Mubarak to each other, neither in family nor on the road. First festival of my life when we are not assembling in a room to wait for special kahwa in the morning or we have not been allowed to buy a sacrificial lamb. And, I have no connection with my children so cannot tell them Eid Mubarak today. It is giving me very odd feelings.

Yet, I want to live every moment of my curfewed and caged life.  Let whole world enforce subjugation upon me, not to talk of India that has turned my state into an open jail since 5th August after it snatched my identity, constitution and the state.

It is dead silence everywhere. Inside my house and outside on road….

Not a whispering even, empty and dead roads…dogs are not even barking on the day they expect too many bones to bite. It looks as if all houses in the neighbourhood have become empty and hollow. This eerie muteness is piercing the heart of the sunny day. I can feel some oozing pain inside…….

On the right corner of my house, there is a recently built four storey house which until 4th august housed four tenant families, three from Jammu and one from Punjab. Three families from Jammu left on 4th august. I thought they were going for sight-seeing or visiting Amarnath cave. Instead, they have left Kashmir with bags and baggage for good.  Another family living on the top floor of the house were there until yesterday. Every morning the obese son of the family would play football in the lawn. I think this family has also left now because all the windows are shut and the curtains drawn. They might have also been informed to leave Kashmir, like the yatris and tourists who were alerted few days before, to return to mainland India due to possible militant threat.  There was no threat or any other potential reason except that the design seems to turn Kashmir into a mass grave. This attitude is too worrisome for every Kashmiri who apprehend human rights violations at a mass scale. This is becoming increasingly alarming for me and all around…

Local mosque is calling for Eid prayers. Some neighbours have dared to come out as big thuds of the iron gates in the neighbourhood becomes louder…

Security forces become more vigilant and stare at people like they are scanning them and their actions or their moods or gauging the sadness on their faces…

This makes them smile……

I hear crying of seven-year-old son of my close neighbour who opens my gate and runs towards me. He seems very angry and in distress. His father did not buy new clothes for Eid as custom goes in Kashmir. He wants to go on road and complain to security forces against his father to be punished for not buying new dress and toys for the Eid. His father is running after him, trying to cajole and comfort him.

I am making a futile attempt to make him understand the precarious situation outside. I hug him, raise him in the air and entice him with offers of biscuits but he keeps crying.  Tears are rolling down his pink cheeks. My sentiments become overwhelming. I raise him again high in the air to divert his attention or rather to try to put hold on my own tears…. I hug him tightly and cry…….
The lady in the neighbourhood is looking from the windowpane. She becomes emotional too and is drying her eyes with scarf….she wants to wish me Eid Mubarak but is struggling with the words….she feels lump in her throat…..she withdraws from the curtains and is perhaps in more tears than me……

I feel sorry not for her but for me….why have I become so weak and timid……this is shame…..

Neighbour’s son is chasing dancing butterflies on rose petals. His mother is whispering “I have not been able to visit my mother in hospital who is at the mercy of few doctors since 4th august. My brother is stuck in Delhi and has no connection since. I don’t know if my mother is alive or dead”. Her face is too grim and full of wrinkles…. she is taking deep breaths and tears fall like flood water…she is again complaining ” Many teenagers are being arrested during night raids. Security men barge into houses where women are alone and scared.  May God never punish anybody by placing them in subjugation. Never ever anybody should be punished like we are. And, never ever any mother gives birth to a son like Amit Shah and Modi”.

I wish she would continue cursing and give vent to her anger and resentment but her husband is calling her to come home. I offer them to have Kahwa with me which is our Eid legacy but her son again runs towards the gate and both parents run after him like Kashmiri deer runs once it sights snow leopard……

Fear and fright has obliterated not only us but our customs and festivals also…
What if we do not cook Eid feast today, or do no offer sacrifice of lamb, or do not buy new dresses for our kids or do not visit parks for laughter or do not pay Fatiha at graveyards or do not offer gifts to our daughters or daughters in law? No worries, we will pray our Eid namaz, come what may, and, we will pray everywhere in our state where we get an inch of land. This is our land and you keep on changing laws or constitution.

Many people are praying in mosque despite forces, curbs and barricades. They are praying for the safety of Kashmir, praying for the elimination of evil forces from the world and praying to the Almighty to free people in subjugation. Believe me, our prayers come from heart and Almighty listens to us….

Security forces keep count of them and allow them to leave mosque only in ones or twos….no three or four people together which could lead to protests. But they don’t know people are protesting by their silence and sadness.

Eid feast is laid on the dining table. Kashmiris love to eat saag (green vegetable) and rice. This is my poor nation’s daily food for all time and all seasons. Today, there is no Wazawan or special dishes to enjoy. Eid feast is same like we have on ordinary days. Greens swimming in the water bowl with red chillies are tantalising. I start devouring and cherishing it. Thanks, almighty, both saag and rice are products of Kashmir. We are self-sufficient in this. Had it not been for our own produce, Indian kings and Maharajas would have burnt crops as well to keep killing us slowly with hunger, being adamant to teach us lesson in 21st digital century.

My mood is little changed now. Saag has wonderful affect. It has elevated my mood. I feel energetic and my resolve to fight for my right, life and livelihood is becoming stronger.

Covering my head with scarf, I open the main gate and walk towards the Link road.  I will visit every house in my neighbourhood and see if they are all coping the subjugation. Let me make them smile for a bit even if we are in gloom. I will force them to celebrate happy Eid in big jail of Kashmir.

This is my first step outside my home after seven days of enforced curfew of government and I know this is leading me towards a long and arduous struggle.

Wait for another day and I will walk another road to break the siege……

The writer is ex-editor of BBC and author of “Lost in Terror” (published by Penguin).



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