Kashmir: Diary of my incarceration-Part 4


13th August 2019…( Day after Eid): No sooner had the Sun turned into the red balloon over the horizon there is a knock at my main gate. The lane is dark; my neighbours prefer dark lanes so that they can watch the outside shadows through their windowpanes.

I turn the lights off, withdraw curtain of my windowpane to see who has come at this hour. The voices are familiar and faces known. My helper, who looks scared, is walking fast towards the gate. My cousin sister, her daughter and son in law enters like Maharaja’s entourage appears from the dark scene, carrying big willow baskets with qurbani meat (meat of the sacrificial lamb).

Unbelievable, when everything seems swallowed by the darkness of fear and fright of security forces is eating our nerves, how come they come to my house at this odd hour? They drove through ten kilometres of road with restrictions, queries and barricades.

I am thinking, my brother in law who is a staunch supporter of jamaati Islami, has been also arrested like many activists of the religious party. Perhaps, they have come to share the news and find way to get his release.  Oh! I am dreading this. Government forces have arrested thousands without giving any reason for their arrests. Hundreds have been shifted to jails outside Kashmir. As young as eleven or twelve year old boys have been placed under arrest. Traders, members of civil society, lawyers and political activists are all put behind bars but nobody has any clue about their arrest or their whereabouts. Communication blockade was done to blackout all information. And, parents are wailing and waiting at their doorsteps.

My cousin sister hugs me, she becomes sentimental and tears are falling down like a stream.  She is looking deep into my eyes as if making sure that I am still breathing….

She is advising me, “Please leave this place. You are a journalist and powerful than the ordinary people. This place will not let you speak or write and they will arrest you. Go out and write about us and our misery like you did in early 90’s. They have arrested many to turn into cattle. We have been pushed back to Dogra rule. No phones or internet, we live in a dark age. Just leave this big open prison”. Her advice makes me scared. How many times do I have to leave and go in wilderness? I am struggling within.

They are all watching my expressions, my anxiety and my reluctance to leave my home.  She realizes the inner storm of my heart which is just to erupt like volcano. I am trying to control my emotions but tears always fail me.

“Why are you guys playing with your life by roaming around at this odd time? I am trying to hide my tears.

“We feel more scared inside rather than outside. We feel rage and anger. We want to breathe this rage and protest.  Who wants to live this undignified life? We are humiliated on every step. India is killing us slowly. It is playing with fire. Placing gun on our head is cowardice. Taking decisions thousands of miles away from Kashmir seems fantasy to it but let it take its army out of Kashmir and let it see how much Kashmiri hate India. We are not scared of death or forces. Imposing curfew and house arresting 8 million people is its failed strategy. India has to leave Kashmir, come what may”. She becomes furious….

I have always found her courageous and resilient. She did not cry even at the death of her son who was killed by army during interrogation in one of the army camps in Kulgam.  Her words make my resolve stronger to stand again.  While rubbing his sleepy eyes, her son in law says. “We passed by army bunkers and barricades. We encountered hundreds of soldiers on the road. They were staring at us and our meat basket. I told them that we are distributing meat among our relatives according to our religion. We are following our religion like you follow your own. I told them if you want to cook meat, we can offer you some from the basket. Their officer was bit annoyed and snubbed me, why are you violating curfew orders? Do you want to go to prison?  I replied, the prisons you just made in guest houses or outside the state, they are now over-crowded. Agra, Jodhpur and court balwaal are all running out of place. You have turned our state into a big jail any way, why do you want me to put in an another jail? He laughed and came close to me, whispering in my ear, I do not like this either. I am doing my job and earning for this big belly. I live in Jharkhand but am in this hell due to my family. Go, my brother go, I give you freedom to move. If you are stopped by any other picket on the road, tell them you are going to the hospital. They might not stop then. The soldier didn’t accept meat. We left in hurry before he changes his mind.  After facing more than ten barricades and further questioning, we ultimately reached here to see you”.

My sister has cooked a big pot of Tehar (yellow rice) and is taking it to the SMHS hospital for attendants of patients who are stuck in hospital for the last eight days without food, money or clue. It is almost midnight now. I request her to let me also come to hospital.

“Yes, come; see yourself how bad it is there”. She responds. “We will drop you back on our way to home”.

I grab few biscuit packets to see if anybody needs it in the hospital.  There was no cooked food left in the kitchen.

Road to hospital is darker than the charcoal. Bunkers are silent with dim light bulbs on. Perhaps, security forces are tired and sleeping.

There is a mayhem at the gate of the big hospital of Srinagar. People are running here and there in desperation. Many volunteers are helping attendants and patients with food, medicine and services. Mostly, villagers are looked after by volunteers. Real glimpse of Kashmiriyat…..

Volunteers in green aprons are running with food, syringes and medicine. I see dream in the ocean of their eyes, dream which gives reason to live, fight and die.

Inside emergency ward, pain and cries are deafening.  Patients ask for help, attendants show helplessness and volunteers give them hope. Doctors come running. Nurses are worn out.

At the corner of the hospital is an old man who runs charity organization. He is enquiring from his volunteers if everybody in hospital is served food.  My sister takes the pot of Tehar and gives it to him. Youth volunteer takes pot in his custody.

Doctors are coming out of emergency room. I run towards them. I question about patients care, supply of medicine and number of doctors and nurses. They look positive but one of the senior doctors is saying, lifesaving drugs cannot sustain beyond few days and medical staff is very thin. “It will be difficult to run hospital with few doctors and stock of medicine supplies. We cannot play super heroes if the situation remains like this. Number of patients is increasing every day, pellet victims are coming in droves, and heart patients increase is alarming”.

Doctors are looking pale, lifeless and red eyed. They haven’t been able to sleep. They got stuck in hospital without rest since 4th august and have no clue about their own families or fraternity members.

Near the pharmacy counter, there is a long cue of people waiting not for medicine but for their turn to call their loved ones on mobile phone which belongs to a senior doctor and has left it here to give people a chance to talk to their children living outside the valley.

Many women are crying. Some get connected but most not. Few among them are leaving disappointed. I too wish to talk to my kids but dread to go there. Let these desolate women have a chance to speak to their kids but…. An elderly woman is trying to call her son who is on haj pilgrimage to Mecca…. she cannot get connected. She starts screaming…..

I come back to emergency ward and sit there. I plan to spend night with the patients who are alone and let me find out how they came here and how are they coping this nightmare Indian government has forced upon us. There are so many painful and heartbreaking stories which need a lot of courage to relate……..

Wait for another day…….

The writer is associated with Independent Urdu and author of “Lost in Terror”



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