Burden of Memories

Uzma Falak

My memory keeps getting in the way of your history!
                                            – Aga Shahid Ali
A little over fifteen years ago, while holding my mother’s arm, I looked through a window of my house in Srinagar. The sight though blurred now bears indelible impressions on my memory: Men shouldering dead in shrouds, women wailing and the air resonating with slogans “Hum Kya Chahtay? Azaadi” [What do we want? freedom].. Besides this all I can remember is asking my mother “When will we get Azaadi”? A long silence followed my question.
After all those years, I stand at the same window, bearing witness to same yearning and anger, and ask the same question to myself “When will we be free”?
No matter how hard our elders tried to shield us from the trail of destruction outside, their efforts failed. Terms like Azaadi, Curfew, Crackdown, Martyr, Tehreek were not in our syllabi, yet most recited. Azaadi was in air- at the bakers’, in dining rooms, in streets, in buses, on every tongue and every heart.
My childhood passed under the shades of guns, dreams were interrupted by the harsh sound of gunshots and grenades. Everyone around me could be anyone, but, not Indian. As a child, I failed to comprehend the sentiment, however, gradually in those small but strong signs; I started to find my identity as a Kashmiri.

 The heavy presence of troopers, the army pickets at every nook and corner, the barbed wires and barricades – seemed a part of the ‘normal’ until I stepped out of Kashmir and found a different world. It was then I realized something at home was not ‘normal’.

At educational institutions, books conceal our history, even the maps are distorted. But planners of such tactics forget that children here live in conflict and life is the greatest teacher.

In the United Nations, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was registered as a dispute after litigation made by the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Successive discussions and debates in the UN suggested a plebiscite, which was accepted by Nehru and promised to the people of Kashmir during his speech on All India Radio and also while addressing a mammoth gathering at the City Centre in Srinagar. New Delhi instead of holding to the promise of plebiscite indulged in systematic abrogation of special status to the state guaranteed under treaty of accession.
Till 1987, independent observers say not a single election could be termed ‘free and fair’. Such democracy could only breed rebel. In 1989 an armed uprising aided by Pakistan erupted. New Delhi’s response could least be said was repressive. The number of those killed is disputed, but widely accepted figure is 70000 people.
Since childhood, I have only seen the inhuman face of the Indian presence. Victims of tortures, rapes, forced disappearances, unmarked graves, widows, orphans — their common address is Kashmir.

Kashmir is not only about the picturesque Dal Lake and Mughal gardens. It is also the highest militarized zone in world, here minors are being booked under draconian laws like Public Safety Act (PSA is a law under which you can be put behind bars without trail for at least two years) and there are no juvenile homes.
Draconian laws, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives the Indian troops free hand to search, arrest, and shoot people and also guarantees them immunity from prosecution. With the death toll having crossed 100, the current year is marked as the Year of Innocent Killings.

The killing spree began with Inayat Khan, a 16-year-old boy, who was shot by troopers on his way to his tuition on January 8. A few days later on January 31, police fired a teargas shell from a close range leaving 13-year-old Wamiq Farooq dead on spot. Five days after killing Wamiq, On Febuary 5, Zahid Farooq, a 16-year-old boy, from Braien on the outskirts of the Srinagar City was killed in cold blood by the Border Security Force.

Worse was yet to come on April 29, the Indian Army killed three innocent Kashmiris in an alleged Fake encounter near the Line of Control (LoC) in the Machil sector. On 5th June 2010, 17-year-old, Tufail Ahmed Mattoo, from Sadakadal Srinagar was playing in the Ghani Memorial stadium when he was shot dead. He received a firearm injury in his head leaving his brain into pieces on the grass. And since then, 106 Kashmiri mostly youth have been killed. The youngest among the killed Sameer Rah, was 9-years-old.

In the verses of Fiaz Ahmed Faiz, “The executioner’s hands are clean, his nails transparent. The sleeves of each assassin are spotless. No sign of blood: No trace of red…” India’s answer to stones has been brute force.

‘There are countless pending cases and everyone knows the fate they meet. We don’t have any hopes. We can’t push it to the court for long. We are common, poor people and can’t afford the costs. Allah is the witness and that is the only consolation.’ These words of a brother whose sister was among killed speak volumes about the faith aam admi has in the Judicial System.

The government booked dead Wamiq Farooq under the charges of hurting a policeman instead of bringing his murderers to book. 10 months after killing Zahid Farooq, the court is still wrangling whether the accused BSF men should be tried in a local court or undergo a court martial.

Kashmiri’s have been alienated from decades. With every case that is forgotten, the memory sharpens. With every act of injustice a new stone thrower is born. The government has all together failed in reaching out to its people. Terms like healing touch, negotiation table and dialogue have been used and abused by repeatedly.
India’s diagnosis has always centered on money and employment, intentionally shoving the real issue under the rugs of oblivion. Labeling the unrest as ISI and LeT backed is seen as desecration of sentiment that further aggravates the youth.

While peaceful protests on streets are quelled, they have reached cyberspace. Videos and pictures, depicting the gory realities of New Delhi’s troops have become global.

40-day-old baby girl, Iram died just because she couldn’t make it to hospital in time as CRPF did not allow during curfew. Iram’s 5-year-old sister when asked innocently said “woh margayi, military walon ne jaanay nahe diya.”  She will find her identity as a Kashmiri in these signs, the way I did when I was a child. And when she grows up she too will sing the songs of Azaadi.

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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...

6 Responses to Burden of Memories

  1. humma says:

    gud piece……

  2. Adnan M Qureshi says:

    really…nice work..its the story of most of the youth of Kashmir…..AYE JAZBAI AAZADI ZINDABAAD….LONG LIVE THE THE SENTIMENT OF FREEDOM

  3. Gauhar Siraj says:

    Wonderful writeup. Very sensitive and vivid.

    Uzma’s revelations and the very presence of this article ought to jolt the Indians. Unfortunately knowing them we can expect little to change. In the old days Indians used to have shame but they have lost that too now.

  4. I feel it d sam way.v r an opressed nation indeed but there s no word like “compromise”in our dictionary.and i can see we are fighting the enemy on every possible front.

  5. aalafazili says:

    Social anthropologists believe that memory transfer from generation to generation is one of the most powerful tools in the transition of movements, especially resistance ones. The beauty of this transfer lies in the fact that it does not require any media except the family and community. The only responsibility youngsters hold is that whether they want to open their eyes and heart to it or not, because the surroundings always remind them of the history which their elders have been subjected to. The writer of “Burden of Memories” has given a very strong narrative to her memories and have extracted them from her past in a very simple manner.

  6. Mohsin says:

    Masha Allah a nice writing.

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