Sometimes death becomes an act of sedition. And dead become immortal. The departure of pro-freedom individuals from Kashmir’s landscape is only physical. They continue to live. Open, empty graves await the return of their dead remains. At least two of them. One appears fresh, only withered by time. Another, the recent one, is ready to consume time, longing to be filled one day.
In a country where murder is officially and nationally celebrated, where dissidents are forcibly fed, where dead bodies are a threat to national security, geographies like Kashmir stand out as metaphors for dissent and people like Afzal Guru become popular symbols of struggle against injustice.
Ironically, in Kashmir, living and dying are both symbols of resistance. Nothing is more rewarding and satisfying than dying fighting injustice. Standing strong against a fascist, hyper-nationalist, neo-colonialist State and its security architecture, even in death, some individuals became prophets of hope for the oppressed. Hanged as they were to ‘satisfy the collective conscience’ of the supposedly largest democracy of the world, Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru scripted a manual of resistance for Kashmir in their act of sacrifice.
Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru are two chapters of Kashmir’s contemporary history. Memory, however, refuses to parcel them. They are relevant every time, even now as I write and breathe. In the collective memory of the people of Kashmir, these men will be revered for eternity.
The morning of February 9, 2013, remains engraved in every Kashmiri heart. This day a military empire exhibited its might. In the dead of the night, when the dogs barked awkwardly, men in uniform with automatic weapons were out on the streets to curfew and cage the first light of the morning. Roads were sealed, no movement was allowed. For a moment, it appeared that all military strength of a country, aided by its judiciary and the “collective conscience” of its people were out to arrest life, seize movement and allow no mourning.
On the other hand, the ‘agonized’ conscience of Indian Republic was constantly being satisfied by its jingoistic media. ‘The Nation’ was constantly lauded for the victory while as an individual, the one who ‘attacked’ Indian Parliament, the one who waged ‘war’ against India, was meted out with ‘justice’. Very rarely in history has an entire country (barring a few Individuals) celebrated the murder of an individual belonging to its occupied territory. In an act of sheer cowardice, an innocent was hanged in stealth. His son, wife and an old mother denied a right of the last meeting. That is horrible. Genocide would appear less devastating even in future.
The manner in which media sided with the Indian State against Afzal Guru is not unparalleled. On the issues concerning so-called ‘national security’, media becomes the arm of State through which perceptions and opinions are manufactured. That is why in Delhi, the capital city now ruled by an Aam Aadmi, protesting students were beaten up, their faces blackened by ink and dirt. We will kill you and then we will not allow you to cry. What will you do? We will kill you like this. The Delhi police did not use water canons that day. They used their jackboots, batons and the fists to remind these students that their lives don’t matter. There was no rage. There can not be any rage.
In Kashmir, 9 is 11. Black is a favorite color and white very common. Death is no more a tragedy. It is an event. It is normalcy. Being young is a burden, being old too. Life is a cycle of violence. It is uncertain. Being hopeful is a crime. Being hopeless is a sin.
Happiness in Kashmir is a bastard emotion. It is a moronic expression that is apparently alien. It is a sheet of paper stapled to our face. To be happy here means to listen to music (if you don’t listen, you still are said to be happy). Every family has wedded itself to the idea of fear and loss. These are inevitably and irrevocably yours.
Never shall we forget that morning. Never shall we forget the circus called Indian television which played us hide and seek the entire morning of February 9. Decision soon… decision soon… HANGED! HANGED!
Never shall we forget anything.
Lying down silent is not an option. We all can take turns and fight. There is very little space, too less air and a long walk to freedom.