As I drove towards the Jamia Masjid, the guards at the checkpoint in Hawal wouldn’t let people pass. It’s futile to talk sense into the concertina wire tenants. Somethings don’t change, as much as we try. I parked my car nearby.
With my torn shoes, I paced my walk as it was getting late to reach the grand mosque. The cold winter breeze, the smell of a jackboots and the sound of children playing with plastic ball cricket.
A biker had made his way through the serpentine alleys of Srinagar. I asked him for a lift, and he readily stopped. In Kashmir, due to the strike public transport has been halted. But somehow people manage, Kashmiris have been in a haal since the times they were occupied by the Mughals. This state or haal is a belief espoused by a statement ‘khudayas haawal’ whereby people believe that everything will be alright.
The kind man had to stop at another checkpoint. He told the soldier “defense accounts”. To my utter surprise he was employed in the accounts department of the Indian army. But he was cussing the soldiers badly. He said “Our time will come too”.
I had no right to judge him for what people would call him a hypocrite. But in the complexities and dichotomies in this occupation, everyone is somehow part of a status quo system. So the only people that are deemed as ‘collaborators’ are those who sign death/arrest sheets or those who cover up mass rapes. Those who come between justice basically.
The kind man dropped by the gates of Jamia. I thanked him.
Right outside the gate a small kid who wasn’t even taller than my knee was shooting stones with a precision of a scud onto the electricity pole.
I walked down the slope. The echoes of prayers recited by Yaseen Sahab in his heartrending voice. The earthiness of this grand old mosque that has withstood history and witnessed it for the last seven hundred years. Despite different eras of foreign rule caging it and turning it into horse stable, it has withstood the pain and weathered the suffering much like the people that pray inside it’s high walls. When you walk into this mosque, you’re part of its history.
Suddenly, a voice shook me from behind. The same kid along with a few inches taller kid had stopped an Indian labourer who was passing through the mosque. They heckled him. I walked towards them and asked them to let him go, “he’s a human and a Muslim too”. They stopped. But they asked if he were a Muslim.
The boys left him alone, the labourers from India have also been witnesses of tyranny since the uprising began. Unlike India, where every now and then, Kashmiris especially students are targeted in attacks. So they understand the context of this uncouth behaviour.
The boys surround me, ask me didn’t his country kill our brothers and blinded them with pellets. I told them, “We cannot be what they are, what will the difference be between us and them”.
As soon as I finished my sentences, Mirwaiz passed by, the kids ran after his car. Mirwaiz was released after twenty weeks of detentions and prison.
I entered the gates of the grand mosque. And said to myself these kids have grown up in an environment of hate. The hate that they see when the forces raid in the dark of the night. They ransack homes. Or when they witness their elder brothers or the kids in the neighbourhood who are killed or blinded. The frequent teargassing, the smoke they inhale and it becomes part of their blood stream.
I remember sometime back a kid would wet his bed in the night at the very knock of a door at night.
The sufferings of these children have gone unnoticed. Their innocence has been outraged even before they could’ve been just ordinary children. Their lives are also part of the human geography in Kashmir, they have defined this conflict.
But how many more generations will be stifled into the dark side of this conflict. I don’t have an answer to that. But the fact is that we cannot stop trying, we must not push the absence of their laughter and smiles into a permanence.
The conflict kills and the killings of the inner human being are numerous. Healing can only begin through justice and an end to this mindless war waged on the human beings in Kashmir.