I refuse to be complacent sir

Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi said that the idea of “Independent Kashmir was not based on reality.” He said this while interacting with students at the London School of Economics. This became a point of great debate across the sub-continent as one could see on social media.

Back home, while commemorating the 140th birthday of Allama Iqbal, Hurriyat patron Syed Ali Geelani said that Jammu and Kashmir was a natural part of Pakistan.

I read the two statements from these two important people connected to Kashmir dispute with a sense of great shock. I cannot go and persuade the Prime Minister of Pakistan with the sense of reality that he ignores but I can tell the Hurriyat Chief that he should not be doing this. I admire and respect the Hurriyat Chief but my sense of a humble refusal may be seen through the following justifications:

One, when you claim that Kashmir is a natural part of Pakistan because of its Muslim majority, many Muslim leaders of India also contest this question as a reason of Kashmir’s joining with India. Last year when MJ Akbar said that giving up Kashmir was surrendering Indian Muslims’ right, why was he questioned then?

Second, your statement is exploitative in nature because it further alienates the people of Ladakh and Jammu regions. It also puts an end to Kashmir’s struggle from becoming a people’s movement or a collective struggle of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, being the citizens of modern day democracies, we cannot afford to put an end to different schools of political thought. My freedom of thought cannot hamper someone else’s freedom.

Third, when the oppressor is in a divisive course of action in an oppressed society, we should not be following in his footsteps to lead our own ‘divide and rule’ of the society. By this, we become direct supporters of oppression. When we call Hurriyat an ‘amalgamation’, it must accommodate people of all religions, sects, castes and regions in its truest sense.

Fourth, no part of Kashmir is being ruled by its own choice. The political freedom of ‘Azad Kashmir’ is also yet to be seen. When Pakistan got hold of its territory of Occupied Kashmir, the first thing Mushtaq Gurmani, a Pakistani envoy, did was to divide and rule ‘Azad Kashmir’, followed by autocratic practices and feudal politics. Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas would often make complaints to Pakistani administration that the decisions taken by Pakistani envoys were taken without any consultation to the ‘Azad Kashmir’ government. Many ‘Azad Kashmir’ ministers and officials were treated by Pakistan as second-class citizens. (Source: The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir: Christopher Snedden) We cannot afford to escape from one occupation to the other and submit to this belittling treatment. If occupation on one side is a curse, the other cannot be thrust upon us as a blessing. Sardar Ibrahim, although having been a part of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ administration was a core supporter of plebiscite.

Five, when both India and Pakistan and their people are following a dangerous trend of war and terror we cannot become a part of any of these dangers. Both sides are oppressing minorities and running caste and sect politics which have been a basic aspect of typical South Asian politics. While on one side, children are being killed in trains (public trains, of course) for consumption of beef and wearing skullcaps, the other side is busy mob lynching promising young men who dissent. I cannot be a part of such republics; I can work in a way that inspires not only my own people, but also those who have ruined me for decades now. This belief alone can restore my identity and honour.

Six, when Pakistan launched its military operation in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), its Army killed millions of Bengalis and raped scores of women to suppress their call for freedom. This systematic violence, genocide, genocidal rape is a blot on Pakistan’s Army. Imagine ‘Azad Kashmir’ giving a call for freedom, how Pakistan deals with them is a matter of great debate, if I am not being judgmental.

The structure of power is always absolute. It is not humanized as our dreams of freedom are. Will the leadership recognize it and accept it as a part of the struggle?

Published here:
GK website:




In the Midst of a Lie called Journalism

The problem of a sponsored media has always been the central problem of occupation. The elitist journalists use false narratives to build a name for themselves burying a just cause under the debris of narcissism. The elitist journalists can never protect an occupied populace from the propaganda of the political class. In situations like this, our foremost duty is to tell to truth, not only to ourselves or our people, but also to those who blatantly lie. We must all be capable of spitting it on the faces of these arrogant and politically neutralized beings.

In her recent piece for The Washington Post, Indian journalist Barkha Dutt claimed that “the recent terror attack on Hindu pilgrims could change everything for Kashmir”. She also said that the attack had brought Kashmir’s “27-year-old insurgency” to critical crossroads. There are some stark realities in the statement which cannot be denied. The recent attack alone should not wake us up, but the post 9/11 realities and global shifts of politics cannot be overlooked too. In a world marred by wars and dangerous diplomacies, opportunistic policies of nation-states are never there to resolve longstanding disputes. Their businesses are running as long as the disputes remain unresolved. 

However, the arguments she raises further in her piece are unfounded and have been written in a manner of looking down on the people of Kashmir intellectually. She pretends to be the messiah of people (I don’t know whose) while writing narratives that build up the current Hindutva myth. These lies destroy every credibility she may have with the people. This is not a curious Barkha Dutt case. Many Indian journalists and “Kashmir experts” have a habit of glorifying their political setup and aggressive policies in Kashmir because they cannot survive without appeasing their masters. Perhaps, they will get jobless if peace returns, who knows!

She asks, “In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, why is there not one non-violent icon in the valley?” She has forgotten the dialogue offered by Yasin Malik to the government of India. What happened to JKLF in 1994 must serve as a reminder to all the peace loving people. They were backstabbed and ignored by the Government of India and its consequences are well in front of us. In 1996, the Jammu and Kashmir government set up the State Autonomy Committee and recommended the restoration of autonomy in 1999, the NDA government rejected the resolution passed by the J&K assembly. Dr Farooq Abdullah was not trusted. Even the People’s Democratic Party was formed just days after the Kargil War had ended. Although it had been an old dream of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, it was formed to bring peace between India and Pakistan at that point of time. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is called a moderate in Delhi, in fact. Advocate Jalil Andrabi was killed by Army for his zeal to bring peace in Kashmir. We have the father of Tufail Mattoo, who has has shown exemplary valour and his fight against the state apparatus is an inspiration to all of us. Therefore, there is no dearth of non-violent icons in Kashmir, but the truth is that they are not recognized.

She mentions Irom Sharmila and tells people of Kashmir to get inspired from her. No doubt Irom Sharmila is an inspiration for the whole human race, but exactly like the Indian state, she did not recognize Parveena Ahanger, the Iron Lady of Kashmir. After the disappearance of her son during 90s, she championed the cause of all those subjected to enforced disappearance. She was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace in the year 2005 but she never got any recognition from the state. Do you expect dialogues to happen in the atmosphere of arrogance? People deserve justice, equality and freedom while activists are busy proving their worth.

‘Militants’ of Kashmir have no role in India and there is no point of their want to start communal riots in India. Communal riots in India are as old as the partition of India. This rhetoric of linking Kashmir to Muslims of India is an irrational one. MJ Akbar also said last year that giving up Kashmir was surrendering Muslims’ rights which is baseless from the face of it. Linking ‘Muslim’ to Kashmir does not help because Kashmir issue is not the issue of religion and the question of Indian Muslims is distinct from that of Kashmiris. It is due to their will that Indian Muslims form an absolute part of India and the fact is quite undeniable.

Our hearts bleed when a protestor or a policeman is killed in the streets of Kashmir but the selective sermonising over human losses does a lot of disservice to the values we respect and observe as humans. The soldier, the policeman, the civilian, the militant, all belong to the category of humans and they all deserve to live. While pursuing our agenda, we attack the consequences, not the root cause. While a group of families of Kashmiri young men killed in protests in 2010 and 2016 were planning to gather at Lal Chowk to condemn the attack on Yatris, Farooq Ahmad, Wamiq’s (a young boy killed in 2010) father was quoted as saying, “I can feel the pain of the families of every killed yatri. I have been living with this pain for the past many years.” He also said, “There was no condemnation from the people of India.”(Muzamil Mattoo, Kashmir Reader, July 14, 2017)

It is, therefore, humbly argued that the learned journalist needs to present the view of the people, their struggle, instead of a state focused perspective. By presenting a state perspective, you betray your own people. The liberals in India badly need to organize #NotInMyName protests for the violence committed in Kashmir. They must ask for forgiveness from the people of Kashmir.

Excerpts in Greater Kashmir newspaper:

Also here: http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/144760/sponsored-media-paid-journalism


Kashmir, Human Rights and Global Attention

In an interview with Pankaj Mishra in 2010, Basharat Peer spoke of the attention Americans needed to put towards Kashmir. He also spoke of his visit to America in 2006 where he had gone with great expectations that people might talk Kashmir in detail and express their opinion. To his surprise people would not care and some would not even know about it. Similarly, Kashmir’s first hip-hop artist, Roushan Illahi, popularly known by his stage name MC Kash, went to tour Europe in 2016 as a student of peace to raise general awareness around the world about Kashmir. I met him before his visit and he was so ambitious and purposeful about his effort of telling the outside world about the world’s most militarized zone. Contrary to his expectations, he would be shocked by the responses as some people would even ask him, “What is Kashmir?”

Kashmir is again facing a cold war like situation, as I have time and again been likening it to one of the most repressive periods in American history. We are losing lives like cattle and nobody seems to care about it. So many people have already lost their lives in this bloody war that it is hard to count the number and we cannot afford to lose lives anymore. With the ideological shifts that are being observed across the militant struggle and its failure to achieve any desired result, many are keen on highlighting the human perspective of the war that has grown too old now. Guns are guns and it does matter where they come from. Romanticizing the militant struggle will not produce a Che Guevara for us in times like this and all of us should be afraid of the situations it can lead us to.

I went to Delhi this year as a student of human rights. The awareness that I wished to raise had a different level. For example, if I tell someone that I belong to Kashmir, my expectations won’t be hurt. Even if I get a negative response, the assurance is that I will get something to really discuss and deliberate upon.

The saddest part of this discourse is that Kashmir has never been portrayed as a human rights issue. In the eyes of most people it is an India-Pakistan territorial issue. With the negative media attention, that has been working tirelessly to tarnish the image of Kashmiris across India and negate its human side, most people view it through the prism of ‘national interest’.

The politicization of human rights in Kashmir is the saddest reality to observe and think upon. In 2005, a pro-government militia known as ‘Salwa Judum’ was formed to tackle the insurgency in Chhattisgarh. In addition to allegations of murder (500 cases) and arson (103 cases), 99 allegations of rape were submitted to the Supreme Court, with no single FIR (Firstpost: May 30, 2013). Prominent human rights organisation, People’s Union for Civil Liberties raised allegations against Salwa Judum. In 2011 its formation was ruled out by the honourable Supreme Court owing to its illegal and unconstitutional nature. A similar organization called the Ikhwan was formed in Kashmir in 1995. They unleashed a reign of terror across Kashmir killing people in huge numbers. The brigade was supported by the government of the time and diminished slowly until the return of ‘normalcy’. However, its formation and functioning was never criticized in Delhi and the cases of such abuses were investigated in a less number of cases. Denial by different governments to try the cases of human rights abuses led to a renewed kind of struggle in the valley.

When Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013, it was not a punishment to Ghalib (Afzal’s son) alone but a collective punishment to all the Kashmiri children. As Mirza Waheed put it correctly in his famous piece for The Guardian that the “noose (could) extend beyond the gallows”. While people in Kashmir were mourning, leading to more and more deaths, the mood in Delhi was severely harsh.

The first victim of the pellet horror in 2010 was a teenager named Irshad Ahmad. How pellets were indiscriminately pumped into the body of 11-year-old Nasir will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Similarly, how Faizan Bashir, a 12-year-old boy was produced before a Srinagar court to be prosecuted as an adult still remains a major challenge to all those who practise human rights law. Is there anyone to justify it? What holds the families of all these victims together is the faith in criminal justice system. For example, Tufail Mattoo’s (a young boy killed by police in 2010) father has shown exemplary valour and his fight against the state apparatus is an inspiration to all of us.  While we all champion the cause of child rights, let’s remember those in Kashmir who have lost their vision and become unseen targets of the violence.

In the fall of 2015, I met Parveena Ahanger, popularly known in Kashmir as the ‘Iron Lady’. After the disappearance of her son during 90s, she rose as a sensation championing the cause of all those subjected to enforced disappearance. On a note of promise and hope, she held my hand and told me so selflessly, “Bring justice for us, my son. Make sure what happened to us does not happen to the next generation.” While we debate violence against women, let’s remind the state of Kunan-Poshpora and Asiya-Neelofar double rape and murder and the denial of justice thereof. The collective conscience that was on display in the case of Nirbhaya was not seen in the ones that of course shook the collective conscience of Kashmir. A moderate Indian response to a question like this would be: But rapes are common in India, why only raise hue and cry about Kashmir? Little do they realize that by denial of justice to the victims, rapes are legitimized and the language that is being spoken to them is that of power and a military might, which cannot be fought. The message is to terrorise and make rape political in Kashmir.

Politicization of human rights is the saddest thing that has ever happened to Kashmir. To start a peace process in Kashmir, observance of human rights and justice cannot wait. In a world marred by wars and dangerous diplomacies, opportunistic policies of nation-states are never there to resolve longstanding disputes. Their businesses are running as long as the disputes remain unresolved. We cannot expect anything from the outside world. People can have sympathy for us but ultimately you have to battle the state apparatus. The message therefore goes straight to the people of mainland India that they are the main party who can start a renewed peace process in Kashmir. Politics can wait, resolve of the greater issues can wait, and even Azadi can wait; but human rights, their observance and redressal cannot wait.






Rising Kashmir link:

When Killings become Political

The Cold War is gone and long-forgotten. The infamous period of 90’s in Kashmir is gone too and the consequences are well before us. Let’s contextualize the two events in history that shaped and dismantled some of the modern world powers and democracies.

The Cold War produced ‘one of the most repressive periods in American history’ (Stone 2004:312). Crimes Against the State: From Treason to Terrorism by Michael Head is a much needed book. The book has a separate chapter entitled The United States: Free Speech in ‘War’ and ‘Peace’ that explores the violent struggle by the United States during the Cold War for its global dominance against communists. It was a period of red-baiting, black-listing and McCarthyism (Stone 2004). In times of political stress such as the Cold War, what is prominently observed is the adverse role of highest institutions of the state such as judiciary, media, police and even semi-independent and independent institutions such as the bar associations or the unions of different professions. Pertinently, ‘the government’s indictment was a virulent form of prior censorship of speech and press’. Decisions in favour of the government had been a result of judges succumbing to ‘pressures, fears and passions’. Even the experienced judges had bowed to the ‘prevailing hysteria’. A sad picture of judiciary is therefore present during what is known to us as the Cold War. There is no appraisal of the ‘liberal’ media. The legal profession is termed as not having proved principled as it is noted that the American Bar Association called for the expulsion of all Communist Party members and many lawyers. In nutshell, the institutions, particularly political systems, have chosen selective complexes having been surrounded by selective entrapments and history is witness to it. Thus, killings and their denouncements too became political.

Nothing is missing when it comes to the torments we are facing. One can consider the subject of Kashmir after the shameful election rigging of 1987. Democratic principles were put into danger by the state itself and Kashmir became a story of distress. Killings, massacres, disappearances, unorganized and organized loot and plundering became the everyday news and there was no custodian of the civil liberties. This, of course, continues. I do not, however, need to elaborate things because the consequences are well before us.

Some days ago, an advocate, Advocate Imtiyaz Ahmad, was shot dead in Pinjoora village of Shopian district. People in Kashmir observed a long siesta when it came to condemning his death. No denouncements followed up. The deceased had been a former public prosecutor. The rhetorical line picked up by people that Public Prosecutor fully represents government and its dictatorial engagements is wrong. Of course he represents state, but his role begins once investigations are completed by the police. He is no figure of contempt. In the art of lawyering, he is just one of the actors. What was disheartening to see was the criminal silence of all the political parties in Kashmir. The High Court Bar Association did not also frame a full-fledged programme to remind the political parties of their misdeeds in Kashmir. How would you explain your criminal silence to his wife and his little child? His little child must have a question for all of us: Why was my father killed? In one of his recent Facebook posts, Imtiyaz Ahmad had vehemently condemned the killings and state of affairs in Kashmir. Little did he know that he would himself fall into the deadly trap. And interestingly, what follows up in cases like this is the ‘unidentified gunman theory’.

The story does not stop here. On September 14, 2015, three youth were found dead in mysterious conditions in Pattan (Altaf Baba, Greater Kashmir). Police was left clueless as to the cause of death of these young men who had left homes to join militancy. There was a delay in giving strike call by the separatist camp due to some doubts as to the ‘ownership’ of these boys. Families had lost their count, all was well and they became posthumous subjects of the ‘unidentified gunman theory’

The question is: For how long will we continue to see the bloodbath and the selective outrages? And what are we going to do about it? Let’s not be so complacent that things run out of hand and there’s no one left to protest for us.

(Published in Greater Kashmir newspaper:



Selective Condemnations

How does one recapitulate or recollect his childhood memories? Beautiful stories, nice picnics, wonderful dreams, extra care and respect, positive emotional development, and so on? Wow, how fanciful!

My childhood memories are a chronological order of horrors and torments. They live in my eyes like a terrible obsession. In my secret world, characterized by these terrible obsessions, my heart is on a constant battle. That is why I write and will continue doing so.

Few days ago, a video of Kashmiri boys attacking CRPF men in Budgam went viral. In no time, ‘prime time’ shows were set to condemn the assault forgetting the eight murders that had just taken place. It took no time for the jingoistic media to turn adverse and vindictive. Gautam Gambhir, India’s national team cricketer actually declared war on the people of Kashmir. He used the word “jihadis” for Kashmiri boys. Although, there was no express context of the term, but it’s implied that he used the term generally. How shameful and terrible can it get for a man who has no business in Kashmir!

When hundred Kashmiris were killed last year, there was no word of empathy from jingoists like Gambhir. Thousands of young men and women were blinded and disabled. We also crossed a century of curfewed days and it was normal. Therefore, Gautam Gambhir must hang his head in shame and apologize for the venom he has spewed.

The question whether beating of the CRPF men is justified or not is a matter of great debate. Of course, human dignity cannot be challenged at any cost whatsoever. But let’s tell the truth about India’s presence in Kashmir. If I start from my own person, I can extensively deliver firsthand accounts of the violence that I have been an eyewitness to.

During an assembly election in our village a long, long time ago, I was used by the army as a human shield, which is a globally acknowledged war crime. My father and my uncle had fled the village overnight to evade the continuous harassment and my elder brother had also escaped to some other place. I was the only male member at home. I was nine or ten. The army took me to the suspicious and sensitive places and I was left free after an hour long search. In her Independence Day speech last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti herself acknowledged the use of human shields in Kashmir.

Similarly, my father was used to continuous harassment by Ikhwanis, a brigade supported by the government of the time and the Army as well. How do you react when an illiterate, gun-weilding man forcibly asks your father to take off his new pair of shoes so that your father returns home barefooted? I have seen it in front of my eyes.

The stories are the chronicles of our existence. On the first of February every year, my village commemorates the deaths of its civilians who were killed defenceless in front of the whole village during a crackdown in 1992. I have also heard that an elderly man among them was tortured to death after a log was rolled over his body. The saddest part is that this news never made to the mainstream media of India, or even Jammu and Kashmir. I remember how we all kept waiting like kindergarten children for Radio Pakistan news to learn about these sad developments. This makes me a child of war, and a victim of terrorism.

These are some of the many truths that form a part of our existence. Will India’s mainstream media gather courage to tell the truth about Kashmir to its people? If they acknowledge the crimes done in Kashmir and tell the truth to its people, I don’t see anyone not condemning the assault inflicted on CRPF men. Otherwise, Kashmiris will just treat it as a patient reaction to what’s been done in the past.

P.S: “Ajeet hain, abheet hain” written on a hill overlooking Srinagar may be sacred to the mainland India. It’s not the same to Kashmir!

Published in GK:

Tamasha-e-Yogi All Over – Developments and Lessons

In the month of March this year, a surprising development took place across the political center of India. Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest was chosen as the  Chief Minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. Not many people knew about Yogi Adityanath. After the news was received across social media sites, many old videos of Yogi began to surface. In one of the videos, a speaker is seen asking Hindus to rape dead Muslim women. This is extremely horrifying. In another video, which has lakhs of views on YouTube (which Yogi would not have expected, of course, except for appearing as an unpleasant surprise), he warns Muslims of ‘Love Jihad’- the word used for interreligious marriages. He warns,”If you take one, we will take hundred; If you kill one, we will kill hundred.” A large crowd claps and answers loudly and merrily to his calls.
Yogi is fast. He is furious and vindictive. He wants to silence people. He knows all the “languages you would like to be answered with”. This rage rarely makes him a statesman.

Yogi and Indian Muslims:

The times are grave for all the Indian Muslims. What do I mean by this? I mean that an extreme right wing is in power. I also mean that democracy is being crippled and threatened. This is documented by Yogi Adityanath himself saying that when India becomes a Hindu Rashtra, Muslims will become second class citizens and that right to vote will be taken away from them. This, according to him, will hamper the communalization of politics in India.
This, however, should not be treated as a novel thing. Congress party has done no better. A slow persecution of minorities has continued for a long time now. Ghettoization of Indian Muslims is a fact. And generally, what has happened in Pakistan is no inspiration to all of us. But at least they are direct in declaring their country as an Islamic State, as Dr. Dibyesh Anand remarked once. They are not riding on the hollow notions of secularism. Pakistan, of course, has to face equal criticism, which is debatable in a separate article. To shorten my point, the great Saadat Hasan Manto comes to help,”Human beings in both countries are slaves, slaves of bigotry, slaves of religious passions…”
Certainly, disappointment is not the answer. Sadness should not take away anyone’s purpose and aspirations. All of us need to believe that we are as much human as anyone. We all carry a voice and our voice matters equally. The participation of Indian Muslims in the administrative system of India is important. Shyness cannot help. In 2012, a meager 3℅ qualified the prestigious IAS. In 2013 again, 3℅ made it to the civil services. In 2016 as well, the percentage remained around 3 percent. (Source: The Milli Gazette- May, June, 2016)
The share of Muslims in Indian politics is prominent. But sadly, the participation is dismal. The political action is not collective, but separate.
Indian Muslims need to identify their true leaders. They have miserably failed to produce someone like a B.R.Ambedkar. Unless life becomes better for the minorities, there can be no peace in India.

Yogi and Kashmir:

Some days ago, famous Pakistani writer Mohammad Hanif said that Modi was God’s gift to Pakistan. I revise his words in the context of Kashmir and say that Yogi is God’s gift to Kashmiri leaders.
There’s no one denying the effect the right wing government in centre can have in Kashmir. Our case, the case of Kashmir has kept the ‘Common Kashmiri'(to use the much hyped phrase) busy, hopeless and suspended for decades now. Prospects of a resolve to the issue are more remote than ever. An ugly right wing is at the helm of affairs in centre. I will not draw history because I would be losing my point. I believe that there are certain things at this juncture for all of us to observe. We all understand that Pakistan has a Muslim identity. India is not for from officially declaring itself as a Hindu Rashtra. How can we, as Kashmiris, be able to restore our identity. Kashmiri identity, I mean to say. Or will our leaders(both Mainstream and Hurriyat) prolong their differences resulting in the erasure of our identity?
The developments are alarming for Kashmiri leaders. At this stage, we should not display “politics of submission”. On the part of Mainstream, there is complete submission to India’s central policies and on part of the Hurriyat, there’s complete submission to Pakistan’s directions. The policies are more obscure and less analytical. When National Conference contends that their motive is to reclaim the position of 1953, how clear they are in their objects is self-evident and self-explanatory. How PDP’s “Self-rule” has become a ridiculous joke is also known to all of us. The Hurriyat has never come up with a significant document that could at least enlighten its own subjects of the models we could live under.
When all of us cry cultural aggression, what does that mean?
It means that we strive to restore our own identity. It means that we stay away from bigotry and religious passions. It means that we seek justice for Wamiq Faooq and Tufail Matoo. It means that we demand dignity, equality and justice for all. It means that we all carry out a march and seek justice for the mothers, wives and children of the disappeared. It also means that we condemn Nadimarg, Gawkadal and Chattisinghpora massacres in the same breath. It also means that we come out of our homes and fearlessly advocate the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

PS: Do we qualify to unite as a people? How much we are able to throw away the disagreements between us will define who we are. It’s easy to be selective, but it’s hard to be just and reasonable. Let’s endure hardships and be just and reasonable.

Excerpts published in GK newspaper :


The Ghost

​An eerie silence had dulled the spirit of the evening. Noor was engaged in his efforts trying to figure out the possibilities of the case he had been fighting for almost three years. He was a lawyer and was valued in his society for the dedication he had put towards his profession. Elderly people looked upon him as a polite and virtuous personality for his conduct and work, and young boys in the society took him as their inspiration for the justice he had been doing towards his line of work. After tiring out, he lit a cigarette and made up his mind to leave for home. He packed his black leather bag with all the important papers and went to switch off the record player but hesitated for the want of listening to the unfinished couplet that was still playing out:

“Kaa’ve val gach shaam tschayan naeri maa

Braand-e-kaeni aush waan lekhi afsaan myoun.”

(O crow! Come and dwell into the evening shadow, she might show herself

My beloved will write my story with the blood of her eyes.)

The record player was the gift of his life. He recalled how he had met his lover for the first time after passing his matriculation exams. She had been very shy and had hesitated in presenting the lovely gift. It had been newly wrapped and she had forgotten to remove the label of the famous gift seller of Srinagar ‘Nishat Gifts’ she had bought it from. They had embraced each other for the first time and had also grasped each other’s hands till evening. It was raining and they had been lucky to catch sight of the unique rainbow overlooking the mountains surrounding Dal Lake.

Noor did not remember much of the life that had passed in all its usual deed. He failed to recall something that had been haunting him for several years now.

Hard work and humility- together had made him look much older than he was. He did not get time to trim his beard and mostly forgot to maintain himself. He took less care of the person that had grown in him.

Kashmir had already received the first snowfall of the season and market was already shut. A strange silence had masked the roads and there was no one visible in the dark. As he stepped his right foot outside the gate, his sight straightaway fell on the second storey of the district hospital and by his right side an abandoned cart laid. The vendor had a connection with his memory. He raked his brain to recollect that part of his memory that had made him what he was.                                                      Confusion and fantasy always run together. They are like pain and fear. They never let us rest. They make us imagine and travel across worlds we have never seen. They frustrate us at the same time. The street wore a deserted look. Everything around was white. When a car would pass by the road, the snowflakes looked dazzling in their vivacity.

 He sat down and lit another cigarette. He spread his index finger and thumb over his mouth and began to think of the night that had taken away his mother from him. He had spent that night leaning against the whitewashed window of the hospital. He had waited the whole night, praying for the recovery of his mother. She had lost her emotional responsiveness after the sudden disappearance of her husband. And at the arrival of winter that year, she had developed arthritis. When in a state of waiting, Noor had witnessed so many happenings around the street. He had seen a queue of boys, waiting for their turn to come and grab their share of the French fries the street vendor was famous for. He had also relived the time he used to sit in the queue. Such was the demand for his delicious French fries that one had to wait for fifteen minutes to get his turn.The boys of Srinagar called him ‘Lala’ with love. Not many knew the whereabouts of Lala. Some believed that he was a Nepali. The art in his hands had bowled over the Srinagar boys. When the crowd had diminished, he had seen Lala, sitting alone, across the cart. Then all of a sudden, a group of people had come to him and one of them banged him on his head. Noor had not seen anyone except a notorious man working as a major in the Indian military. 

The major was a familiar face who had been active around the streets of Srinagar for many years. People looked upon him scornfully for his bad conduct with the citizens. After watching the humiliation of Lala at the hands of military, he had tried to go down and rescue him but Dr Jan, his mother’s consultant, had grabbed him from behind, giving a miserable look. Dr Jan had not said anything to him. He had put his index finger between his teeth, chewing it intermittently for a minute or two and muttered helplessly, “Sorry Noor beta, sorry my son.”

A doomsday had befallen Noor and he had rushed in the night only to his brother’s college where he was pursuing engineering.

As he stood up after recollecting whole of his memories, he lit another cigarette. His face wore a tired smile and he began heading towards his home. The solution was at hand now. Lala, a Nepali to some, a French fries maker to some, a Bihari to some and simply Lala to some had not gone astray. He had been killed by Avtar Singh, the notorious major of the Indian military.

The following morning, before leaving for court, Noor began to look for papers and extracted the demise date from his mother’s death certificate. It added to the substance of his proof. The complexity was over. The case Noor had been fighting in the court of law for years now had already gotten an implied decision. People had come from far off places to watch the proceedings.

Each one had listened intently to the words of the judge:                                    “The nightmare for all of us is over today. Lala, the cart vendor did not disappear. He was killed by Major Avtar for gaining cash rewards and promotions. Killing of Lala has opened chapter today to the numerous disappearances that have taken place during the conflict in here. The killings of foreigners and locals and later their dubbing as militants is a slow genocide happening in Kashmir. Human Rights Watch should take a keen interest in this grave concern for humanity. I hereby give the Indian military a time of one week which is a privilege provided to the soldiers working in conflicted areas. I also congratulate Mr Noor Baba for his dedication and hardwork over the years. He’s set an example for all of us today. Wemust draw inspiration from such brave people.”

And the court room reverberated with chants, “Noor Sahab- Zindabad, Long live- Noor Saheb.” Noor returned home early that day. 

The evening back home was lively. A fresh breeze hit the windows occasionally and they were all busy in preparations for the supper.

When everyone finished their meals and went to their beds, a knock on the front door awakened his daughter from sleep. She rushed to her father’s room and informed him. He took her in his arms, patted her on the back and placed her into the bed again. When he opened the main door of his house, his eyes straightaway fell on a brownish yellow vehicle, implying that it was a military jeep. He took his right foot out and two men seemed to be guarding him from the borderings.

Noor’s doubts were cleared just as they were about to reach the army station. The armored car was damaged on the sides after facing several public attacks in the past. It was not fair to travel in a broken vehicle for carrying out an encounter. Major Avtar had pointed out to his driver before they set out this evening. The driver had paid no attention after knocking back few pegs of rum. Major Avtar did not know of anything called patience. He asked his driver to stop on the bridge that connected Raj Bagh with the city centre. The driver had heated argument with the major after he had reminded him of the plan they had made in the camp. “Stick to the plans, sir,” he murmured.

Major did not want to waste any time. He dragged Noor out of the car and started to thrash him with the butt of his rifle. He wanted to kill him. As dawn drew close, Major wanted to finish the job as early as he could. He asked Noor of anything he could do for him. What a pitiless pity!

Noor’s struggle throughout his life had made him a complete man. He stood firm and did not falter.He grumbled in a broken, tired and yet energetic voice, “I do not need your mercy. God gives and takes away life.”

He took a pen and his small diary from the right sided pocket of his kameez and wrote his final words to his wife. He handed it over to Major and requested him to deliver it to his wife. The following morning, Noor’s wife rushed to her brother’s house and informed them about Noor’s abduction. They went to the police station, registered a missing report and went here and there, wandering and wondering.                               The sky looked deep red in the evening when she returned home. When she stepped inside the yard, she saw a number of people gathered there amid shouts and wails. She was unable to understand this rapid change of milieu and nobody could gather courage to disclose the calamity that had swept over her. She opened the entrance to the backyard only to find Noor lying dead in a pool of blood. She collapsed and fell on the floor.

Major was reminded of Noor’s request in the afternoon. When he opened the letter, he could read:.                            “Jaana, Beloved, you should not stoop low in life after my departure. Remember always that hope sustains people. When I was a young boy, my father disappeared in the raids, my mother fell to arthritis. I had to work in a rubber factory in India for several years. I worked so that my brother could study. Hard work gave me a chance in life and I started to study again. With endurance and hope, God endowed me with so many good things. Life is a struggle, remember. To succeed in a process of revolution, we have to give every kind of sacrifice. I am not the only one. Do good things to people. Yours and yours, Noor.”

When Major turned over the page, he found that Noor had also quoted Rumi, “Away…beyond all concepts of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”.                             After reading the letter, Major grew restless and began to reason. He thought of Noor, his wife and daughter. He began to think of his own wife, his own daughter. He suddenly found wisdom in the words of his enemy. The restlessness grew more after he thought of delivering the letter to Noor’s wife. He had an inkling that something dangerous would happen and he began to think of the consequences.Whenever he wanted to dump the diary, his body gave strange appearances. He began to realize the fear that had already stormed inside his body. It all started getting terrible and a jinn(ghost) took possession of him.This demanded no delineation to the other members of the camp. They all witnessed it daily with their own eyes: Major crumpling abruptly, his eyes rising and falling, his head moving back and forth in a continuous manner, his body attaining the shape of a snake, his nails stretching, his teeth getting golden, his arms elongating, the blood coming out of his eyes before falling off hisbody on ground. Major badly wanted to leave. He did not want to do this job anymore. He wanted to get away with the ghost and meet his family. He booked tickets for a direct flight to California and started to live away from people.                                          The California house had a nice, large yard, and an established garden with a swimming pool. But that all looked empty. Sometimes, a giant lady would appear before him and slap him for hours on both sides of the face. At times, he would sleep on his bed in the night and find himself lying in the bathroom next morning. Sometimes, a brunette with large nails would throw him down from the flat. His children would swell and attain the shape of Noor’s daughter before him. He could not survive it and killed all of them- one after the other. One night, his wife came to him in the shape of Noor, screaming aloud, humming the quote of Rumi, scribbled on the back page of the Noor’s diary.      He wailed and wailed and was regretful of what he had done in his life. He was left with two bullets in the end and shot one at his wife and the other at his own head.                                         

 Divine justice!

“…take no life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.”~Al-Quran(6:151)>”

Note:The story is dedicated to Advocate Jalil Andrabi, who was murdered by Major Avtar Singh,a major working in the Indian military.

Published here : |Kashmir Life

(Aarif Muzafar Rather is a non-conformist, man of letters, pursuing bachelors in law from Central University of Kashmir.)