Ganderbal: An Allegory

The enemies of freedom don’t argue; they shoot. The lovers of freedom don’t shoot, or at least not indiscriminately; they love. This is the only chief ingredient that keeps ‘people of resistance’ living to hope & see what they desire for. But demanding this freedom hasn’t been any tranquil. Kashmiris have sacrificed one world to see another world that has no occupier in it because freedom and occupation can never go together.

2016 was heartrending yet mighty for Kashmiris. Rural Kashmir was more actively resistant than urban Kashmir. Thankfully Ganderbal was the only district of Kashmir which didn’t witness a loss of life. But the grievous injuries were caused which officially (CMO reported) were more than 130. Property worth lakhs were smashed. Some 17 boys were put under Public Safety Act (PSA). Some 56 FIR’s were lodged. More than 500 hundred youth were arrested. There were numerous pellet injuries which included a girl also from Tulmulla, Ganderbal. Also some 8 ambulances were damaged.

District Ganderbal is a huge district demographically. This is the district for Amarnath Yatra also in Baltal which saw a huge controversy in 2008 over the land row issue.

Starting from the place I belong to called Chattergul, it is some 12 kilometers away from the main town of Ganderbal. This village is covered by the lofty mountains and elevating pastures. The literacy rate of this village is above average. Barnes states “the more you learn, the less you fear. ‘Learn’ not in the sense of academic study, but in the practical understanding of life.” The learning here is completely academic with little practical understanding. But there were factors which made people study academically only while ignoring the practical side. The immediate practical understanding of life is the understanding of prevailing occupation in place. The disreputable Border Security Forces (BSF) of Indian state forcibly built a camp here in early 1990s period by seizing the land of my father’s maternal aunt. Later in 2000s BSF was replaced by Rashtriya Rifles (RR), just to improvise the ‘occupation’. My father’s maternal aunt had lost her husband in his illness, had no child and eventually passed away.

People had no power to resist this move as this was a daily occurrence in Kashmir valley. She couldn’t either see her land or Kashmir being freed. Her cultivable land like lakhs of canals in whole of Kashmir is still under military occupation. After it was built here, army went like wildfire by brutally killing a dozens of persons. Some of the people were murdered merely on suspicion of being militants, some were murdered to create more fear among the people and certainly a way of humiliating people, that “look we have power to control you and kill you.” Some houses were set on fire and leaving people homeless. Damaging property is a regular phenomenon because that’s the part of psychological operation. An occupier never wants to miss a chance to break the will of occupied. 2016 in my village was a moral victory in that sense where ‘will’ was kept with grace. People this time didn’t fear army as much as has been happening in past. This is because that Kashmiris have seen unmanageable list of deaths that the ‘fear of death’ is overcome now. And more importantly how can you kill someone who has conquered the fear of death. 2016 here was a war of signs & symbols.

2016 taught me that with occupation in place, people simultaneously have learnt newer methods of resistance. Here boys wrote Azaadi slogans on the shop fronts, shutters, mosques, roads, stones, electricity poles and on J&K Bank’s front that’s in village. It was named as Burhan bank. This was infuriating for the Indian army. The following morning I heard some boys laughing loud outside my home. I went out to see what had happened. I asked them why you people don’t make me laugh also. They said army had come in the night while people were asleep to erase these slogans. They had used diesel to rub out but instead of having these slogans erased, diesel gave them a glistening look. Army felt humiliated and didn’t visit village for an entire week.

Next to my village is ‘Chinner’. Some of the boys from this village were believed to have been involved in stone pelting but couldn’t be proved. But police here keeps finding ways of distressing people. Nocturnal raids are another tactic that police uses to terrify people. But less the police realizes that greater the oppression, more fervent the resistance. Special Task Force (STF) had come in night

Next to Chinner is Wussan area that saw violence. It falls on the highway which leads people to Sonamarg. One person from this area got pellet injuries. One woman got so angry that she attacked ITBP man with a shovel.One constable from Wakura Ganderbal who apparently was founded actively taking part in protests & pelting stones was suspended by the superintendent of police and was put in jail.

The absurdity of violence can further be understood by the following incident. Arhama, a village some 7 kilometers away from my village saw state violence which was completely provocative. It has never witnessed such vehement protests in the history of its existence probably because the area is heavily deployed with army. These months’ songs of freedom were being constantly played on loudspeakers of the mosques. An army major was ostensibly going to visit this area. The army personnel came from the camp which is in Anderwan, an adjacent area to Arhama, reached the mosque and ordered some boys to shut the slogans down. The boys rebuffed to put it off and said these slogans won’t kill your officer. This enraged the army’s ego and they started beating these boys with the barrels of their guns. The army men then barged into the mosque and broke the microphone & mobile phone through which it was being played. People got furious. Military occupation was already in place, which people hate, but this was felt as an attack on religion and people here are very connected to religion. In no other time announcements from other mosques were made. People were requested to come out of their homes to fight an alien force. They took to streets for protests and raised slogans much louder than loudspeakers could have. They headed towards army camp, with stones in hands. For some five to ten minutes they protested outside the army camp. Someone from the procession tossed stones at army camp. Army retaliated with opening a fire. People scattered and ran through the paddy fields.

The situation deteriorated further when more army was called in. They barged into the houses and beat women, shattered windows, broke furniture. The station house officer (SHO) when informed with his party rushed to the scene. He tried to stop army but something unusual happened that he was also beaten up by army. His arm was broken. It just goes on to depict by itself that when a so-hyped ‘three star’ police officer is not safe, security of Kashmiri civilians under Kashmir police is a myth then. Later, people came to know that the army major had ordered his men to teach the villagers “a lesson”.

Wayil, an area next to Wussan has a police post where the officer in charge was notoriously called as Dengu. People say that even the army major of that area told villagers of Wayil that this sub-inspector (SI) is a scumbag. Army major told them that this SI pesters people so much that youth pelt stones at us. In Nuner, a policeman arrested his own brother who had come out to protest against the excesses done by police.

Saloora, three kilometers away from main town of Ganderbal has a marvelous history of resisting against alien force. Extremity of occupational violence has gone too far that people prefer death over humiliation. This is what happened here. People were regularly protesting and when forces didn’t allow people to go for Friday prayers. A boy from this area with tried to snatch AK-47 from a policeman. Losing a gun was equivalent to losing his job. So, he kept struggling to save his gun but the boy seemed powerful. Upon seeing that boy could have succeeded in snatching it, other policeman fired two bullets at him; one on his shoulder and one on his leg. .