And I asked Myself “Who is strong and Who is weak?”

Azaan Javaid

The day was just like another. It has been almost three months since the current turmoil started here. We were following the standard operating procedures-to disperse the crowd. Showering them with tear gas, throwing the stones back and hitting anyone whom we caught hold of. It was just urban warfare and I was in the middle of it. I was reminded of the documentaries I had seen about Palestine and the intifada there and right now when I see all around myself I wanted to make out a difference between the two fights one that of Palestine and the other of Kashmir but I failed. I wanted to prove that this was a lesser fight but seeing the women and children fighting couldn’t let me. A war had just waged inside  me and that was between my nationalism and conscious, clearly my nationalism had taken a few blows. But the final blow was about to come. It was when we were chasing the so called mob away; I drifted away from my unit and I saw a boy dragging himself to safety. I ran towards him to foil his plan and just when I pulled him under the car which he must have thought could saved him from the merciless beating which had been meted out to his elders and to everyone who was caught or couldn’t run. As I raised my baton to hit him my eyes were directed to his. The dark brown eyes made me weak. At once my own son appeared in my imagination and my hands started to tremble. To hide my weakness I pulled him harder and took him towards my unit. As I was taking him I could see two sides of this boy, one side which showed complete fear and the other challenged my braveness as to how can a troop really pull a little boy like that. I told the boy while I was taking him, “can’t you be peaceful and stay at home, why can’t you Kashmiri boys be of your own age?” He replied “will it stop you from killing us”? I said of course why  will we kill you if you don’t involve in such heinous crimes after all u are a kid. To this he said” I was playing in my balcony when my ball fell and went under the car and that’s when you caught me. You didn’t ask me what was I doing and now your friends will deal with me and do you think I will be unharmed after you leave me into their hands”. I at once realized my mistake but more than that I realized that my unit had noticed me getting a boy and they came toward us with all the anger they had stored inside since the morning. I stopped with the boy and tried to yell that wait I have done a mistake but it was too late for it. The boy gave me one last look and I felt or maybe I wanted to feel that look meant you have been forgiven. As they took the boy, with all their might I asked my self who is strong and who is weak?

Later that evening I heard new protests had rocked the town because a certain boy was beaten to death. They said that the boy was beaten severely but what really killed him were the ruthless blows on his tiny head. Also I heard a baton was plunged into his mouth breaking his front teeth. I came running towards the unit which was getting ready to be deployed for counter action. I asked what had happened to the boy whom I handed to them earlier. I had no reply, but the answer was loud and clear. I felt a knife being plunged into my dark heart and started to yell at everyone whom I could see. But my screams meant nothing. I couldn’t see slightest shade of guilt. I feel on my knees and tore away the clothes I had on me. I threw away the vest which was supposed to save me even though in this war the only people who died where on the other side and still we had to  beware of the so called violent mobs. My colleagues came to my rescue and stated hold yourself, you are a soldier. I replied “I was”. I asked everyone that aren’t you humans? I declared “if you have a little amount of humanity left let’s raise our voices. How many more can we kill? This is not what we had joined the force for? I was overwhelmed by the dead silence. I added “I am walking out from here right this moment anyone who is just will do the same”. I walked out with out any interruption but I didn’t see anyone to follow. And I asked my self who is strong and who is weak?

I walked through the streets which were in a few minutes going to be the battle ground between stone pelters or sangbaaz (that’s what the locals call them) and the security forces.  As I walked a fear gripped me, I was the enemy. The young boys who were gathering for the pelting episode had noticed me from far. They were suspicious of me first but eventually they felt something for the shirtless trooper. At once the leader of their unit slowly raised his hand to settle the others and walked towards me. He must have been 10.Kya hua aap ko? I was astonished to hear such decency as I was reminded that how we treat when one of them gets caught. I said “I need shelter for some time”. Two of them took me to the elders in the community and by the time I was walking away from them the first stone had been launched. And I asked my self who is strong and who is weak?

The boys took me to a nearby hospital where all the elders were surprised to see me. Some were suspicious; some were full of hatred while some had a sense of accomplishment. I told them the whole story and one of the elder told me “Beta koi nahi.”(It’s ok son). Even though I was expecting a different reply maybe one which would say don’t worry we will fight. But little did I know that the people had gathered in the hospital were actually to bid a farewell to an injured teen as the doctors had lost all the hope as well as the resources to save him. I proceeded towards the ward and I saw a gathering which evens the kings would have craved for. I stood in a corner and in the other corner lay the youth in his death bed. His father was holding his broken hand softly, as now the youth stared at his old father, his father asked; “why did you have to do this to us? I have told your mother I will bring you back. You know I am not that strong that I will take you home on my shoulders. I am a weak old man son, and your mother will die when she sees you. Why you had to do this? answer me so I can tell your mother”? The boy mumbled, “I did it for us”. He took his last breath after that. They say he was fasting and refused to take water as it would break his fast, I said to myself that the sip of water would not have broken his fast; it would have broken his soul. He departed unbroken even though most of his bones were. And I asked myself that who is strong and who is weak?

As I settled my self in one of the neighbor hood homes the young daughter entered the room bringing with her the traditional kahwa(not because they wanted to be traditional but only because kahwa is made only using water which meant no milk or may be no food was available).She was terrified looking at me as my features completely distinguished  me as a non kashmiri. Her mother stated “some of the forces came and tried to rip her clothes since then she is bit petrified when she sees”, that’s when she stopped talking. Another family I visited I saw a 5 year old girl staring at a picture of her dead father. Her tears had made the photograph wet and to me it seemed the man in the photograph was crying harder than his daughter was. But what could I do? An elderly man came out and said “we will keep you safe here; they will be looking for you now you can leave for your home tomorrow as we have made arrangements”. I couldn’t stop myself so I asked; who is this little girl and what happened to her father? His eyes moistened as he stared at the girl and replied “after 22 years of this don’t we both know what happened he paused, she is my grand daughter from the only son I had”.I asked my self who is strong and who is weak?

Next morning I had to return to base as I had no option left. There I was going to face charges which I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing. A huge farewell was arranged by itself as hundreds of local’s joined to bid me a goodbye while others just wanted to see the face of the person from the other side. The one who dared to show them sympathy and maybe took their side. The same elderly person came to me and asked is it necessary to go to your camp? “God knows what they will do of you”,I replied in an affirmative as the standard operating procedures had to be followed. My heart was heavy as the crowd raised slogans and hailed me as hero, I felt one of them. Just when I was about to enter the vehicle arranged for my by the townsmen, the slogans stopped. Somehow I felt betrayed or maybe lost my touch of heroism. But the slogans were halted because an elderly lady was making her way through the crowd towards me. I waited her to reach me. As I saw her coming to me I noticed her limp and the energy less walk as if all the weight of the world had been on her shoulders. She slowly came and stood in front of me. Her eyes searching for her lost son or maybe a loved one. The guerilla war as well as the civil one had taken its toll on almost every family of Kashmir. No doubt she had lost something. Her Wrinkles showed signs of aggression and oppression rather then showing experience. This lady might have seen the ugliest of times. But at the same time some how I could see hope in her eyes. She brought her hands around my face kissed my forehead and with all the softness in her voice whispered “Potrah khudai kari sooroi theek”, (son God will fix everything). And that was the moment I let it out. My heart couldn’t bear it anymore. I cried and I cried like a baby. I yelled and stared at the sky, I stared at the ground but my cries refused to stop. I cried like never before, the old lady was quick enough to hug me which did bring some relief to my soul which was in despair. And that’s when slogans were raised again. The never dying slogans of Kashmir now had a different meaning all together, at least for me. I sat in the car and the driver greeted me with a Namaskar, as I asked I found out he was a Pandit. I looked behind toward the crowd, the slogans sounded fewer now. The crowd was dispersing except the old lady. She stood their till the car was no more in her view nor could I see her now. And I asked myself who is strong and who is weak?

As I entered the camp I saw anxious faces. I saw a superior announcing that he has intercepted that a crowd has gathered in the near by locality. Little they knew that the crowd had gathered for me. I saw some angry, as some resorted to call me a traitor. However some showed sympathy Maybe I did something which they wanted too but could never do. I was about to enter the compound which was going to be the place where the legal proceedings will take place deciding my fate. Just when I stepped inside of the room, all the superiors stood up. Some of them were ready to crucify me as other’s had to be stopped to actually use force on me. While some laughed at what they called my foolishness.  And at that moment all my doubts were cleared, my questions were answered and I knew that who was strong and who was weak!!

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About theparallelpost
The language of words is more heavenly than the language of tongues and lips. The Parallel Post is a forum to offer a space for people who dare to speak through their words. The intention is to create an environment to share in words what we perceive in our minds...

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