Kashmir has always been in grip of one or another kind of crisis. The dark clouds of uncertainty loom over the echoing mountains from last several decades. The prolonged conflict has transformed the beautiful valley into a devastating dystopia, forcing the whole community to fight a life and death battle against the threat of extinction from the tyrant tides of war. Similarly, continuous violence has turned conventional morality upside down, engulfing pure and white, young and old, women and children alike. Here, children are cradled by conflict as such fear and trauma occupy their early emotional state. Their subsequent formative years are ruined by the recurrent nightmares of devastation. They are the remains of the dreadful days, a liability upon the history, the voiceless, voices of despair and degeneration.

Childhood is that period in life which everyone wants to re-visit or live eternally, because it is characterized by uncorrupted nature, purity and serenity. But children living in conflict riddled Kashmir do not enjoy instinctively idyllic and pleasant childhood days of vigor, energy and a free spirit, to roam and bloom in an unadulterated world of dreams and fairy tales. They are even forbidden to give ear to imaginary tales of fancy and fantasy, deemed to incite libido of resistance. The lures of love and sleep inducing lullabies doesn’t satiate them any more in the mists of gloom and glum that surround their small spaces like the shades of an eternal doom. They are suffocated by enduring suppression. An organized violence enforces them to surrender their whims and wishes, their charms and heavenly grace to solace unrecognized voices of bereavement, mourning and misfortune.

In Kashmir, life of children has been a mark of woe! A mark worry! Their fate is akin to and resembles caged birds unable to set themselves free or stretch their wings in order to touch the sky, for accomplishment of sky of dreams. They are literary limped creatures who can neither walk through the lane nor wade into lake; even they cannot waft along the waves as the western breeze smells, the smell of death, it carries the communal rot of conflict from the debris of dying dreams. The mighty towers of hegemony, the tsunami of religious hatred and the alarms of army tear their childhood apart to feel an adult pain; the agony Kashmir children felt from ages, through colonial rages and internal ravages.

Kashmir crisis has swallowed up their agile spaces like the sand absorbs the sea.  The phony fun of the city life, the battered beats of time, and the world dark and wide curse them for being their companions and mock them for not harboring the hope to nurture the eerie of childhood dream, of sunshine and flowers, of everlasting enjoyment, happiness and serenity. The long curfewed nights stagnates their future dreams; the lines of division drawn in the middle of the mid night, the accession signed amidst the howling cries created iron walls of anger and mind forged manacles of memory. The vernal breeze asks their sport but the fear of winter chill keep them aloof, the smiling tulips urge them bloom, but the buds and blossoms plead them to drink an autumn death as the approaching winter will wither them grey.

Childhood comes once, lives for once and is enjoyed by once. There is nothing like twice, thrice or next, there are no backward-forward movements that could transport us into childhood transparency, no elixir to revert us back in order to re-vitalize our days of youthful hilarity. There is nothing! No alchemy to transform human beings into primitive chora or oral stage. The deadlock is locked between semiotic and symbolic, between real and imaginary. There are only mirrors that reflect us along thousand others, only signifiers that trace us within thousand traces. So, the only thing left is to provide disadvantageous children a chance to seize the merry moments and enjoy the most.

But the question arises do we provide Kashmir children a chance to live a happy childhood? The answer would be an affirmative no! Infact, in Kashmir, children are cradled by conflict. The fierce waves of war have violated their years of innocence.  The forces of calm and combat have always encroached their childhood premises. They grow up in the glowing bars of gun battles. The stones and swords muster their courage against the imminent shadows of disease and death. They are unjustly fixed together in the patches of conflict like the pieces of an unsolved puzzle. They have only been left with the choices of dullness and burden, survival and suffering, loss and longing.

The bright August day brought darker nights of neglect. It was a long summer day when our past became a frozen fact, a dawn of disjuncture from the mythic place of desire. It was a queer, sultry summer, when scenes were scripted before the secret siege. The imaginary home reconstructed through childhood memories have been irretrievably lost. It was a time when we had everything before us, we had nothing before us. It was an era of war on peace when Kashmir was landed into a foreign land. Since then Kashmir children are locked in the recurrent lockdowns and packed in the patches of conflict. They are caught between Covid and conflict, calm and combat, death and despair. The conflict cradles them by the tunes of torment and cursed normalcy has captured their calm despair. They are the unspoken voices of crisis, the silent sufferers of our simmering summer, and the causality of our courageous combats. From now, do they deserve much kinder times? The god’s of war amiably don’t-think-so, until it gets pretty late!

Javeed Ahmad Raina is a teacher and can be mailed at javeedahmadraina44@gmail.com


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