Not Easy to Grow Up in Kashmir

Growing up to be an adult from a childhood is similar to getting a promotion to a higher post where in you enjoy more liberty and free space. But again, with this, you have responsibilities adding to your normal. The social and the moral maturity is a reflection, which should inevitably be there in a grown up. Of his better etiquettes and rational thought, he might not be praised but he surely would be criticized for the wrongs, he does. Be them his usual behavioral flaws or the natural imperfection in him. That is an orthodox human approach of stepping into adulthood.                                                                                                                                               

But, factually speaking, this logic is far more illogical for a child who is born in Kashmir. What is normal for others has more or less been abnormal for a Kashmiri child. Growing up of a Kashmiri child is not an easy journey. He does grow up to be an adult but only to be restricted and limited. It is not that the living stance of his choice is hurdled by his or her guardians at home but by the ones who proclaim to be protectors of law, the people in power. 

For example it has become an obligation for a Kashmiri grown up to carry an identity card to prove his own identity to a non-Kashmiri in his own homeland. His attire, his looks or his opinion can land him/her in trouble.  

Leo Tolstoy, one of the legendary writers starts, his master piece Anna Karenina with these words probably, “ All the happy families are alike, but the unhappier ones are unhappy in their own ways”, this definition holds true for every single family of Kashmir, probably it got defined that day, for my family too.

It was April 9, 2018 a Monday that the colleges in Kashmir had opened after a week of educational shutdown announced by the government following killing of a dozen militants in the South Kashmir. The government Degree College for Boys, Anantnag, where I study, too witnessed a peaceful academic day, though the fear of protest loomed throughout and the allegorical wanton forces’ vehicles with cooped turrets where stationed well outside the gate of the college on the main road, yet a provocative or the trouble inviting parking, it was. The college was almost empty with the students departing at around 4 PM. I, with my fellow journalism students of this college, were leaving the college with cameras in our hands, checking out the pictures of each other that we had clicked through the week of the protests and funerals across south Kashmir. Suddenly, one of my classmates, who works as a freelance photojournalist with some local news agencies, crossed one lane of the road and got on a road divider and was about to click the pictures of the security vehicles that were stationed outside the college gate until he was badly rebuked by a masked forces’ personnel who carried an AK-47 rifle in his hands, wearing black biking gloves. He had he stepped down from the one of the secutiy vehicles with stone dings all over the brown body frame of it. Before he could reach for him and snatch away his camera, his eye caught us, aiming our cameras at him as he stood frivolous in front of my classmate, near the road divider. Seeing him perturbed, my classmate stepped down the divider and swiftly joined us back. The masked guy stood still on the divider watching us leave. Though, some of us had to board the bus outside college only, but we decided to get in the bus at bus stand only, for we feared if we waited for the bus here, these forces’ people might harm us.

We together started to walk towards the general bus stand, which was some one and a half kilometers away from our college. We chose to go through a foot bridge instead the main road so as to get there quickly. As we reached the bus stand, each of us diverted to where buses to our home routes were parked. It already was 5 PM, late than usual. I decided to go by a cab, a sumo, which usually used to pick up the passengers from the KP road, outside the entry of the bus stand. It is a place where many militant attacks had taken place and over a time of two years more than four policemen had been shot dead here.  So, usually there is a security cover in place there. I moved out of the bus stand and walked towards the KP road  to wait for the cab to arrive.

To my utter surprise, I saw the same forces’ vehicle with stone dings all over its brown body frame, parked at the entry of the bus stand, probably had been shifted today to the college gate for the time being to prevent any student protests. Now, it was there, with same men standing near the rear door of this vehicle. I crossed the road  to wait for the cab to arrive. The same man wearing the black biking gloves with an AK-47 in hand came out from the rear door and started to talk to other security men. I got a bit nervous but his eye had not yet caught my sight. There stood two girls behind me on the footpath, among whom, I eventually knew one, for we had met at a conference in Jammu during the winters. I stepped up on the footpath and started to talk to Abida (not her real name) to avoid the fear of the masked guy. Soon as I was talking to her, I turned my eye towards the forces’ vehicle, I could see five to six masked security men crossing the road and walking towards us, including the one who had rebuked my classmate outside college. As they reached near us, with all their faces covered with some black cloth, the guy with black gloves on, passed a comment at Abida and all of them walked past us. I was unable to grab, what he said to her neither could she hear him clearly, for his mouth was covered with the  black cloth. Abida, felt a bit uncomfortable. I asked her, what he said before, she could reply, the tall masked guy turned back, held my shoulder and turned me to his face. I could smell the pungent cigarette smoke through that cloth. 

‘Khandaar chu hasa (Are you her husband?), was what he shouted in anger. Bada hero banta hai, haan? Sab ko bachanay ka theka liya hai saalay. Hai kon si cheez tu”, he added, while he was agitating me with his hand on my right shoulder. I stood still, filled, not anger but with fear.

After summing up some courage, I replied that I was talking to her not you, so please excuse us. “Saalay, mujhe jaanta hai kon hoon may. Teray wazan ki tankha leta hoon, harami. Hai kon tuu iska?, he reciprocated angrily, while coming close to my face with the edges of spare magazines pricking against my ribs. Helpless, I was cowering in fear and much more was Abida.

The crowd of tuition going students gathered near us and the masked guy still shouting the same words, “ bol na saalay, kon hai tuu iska. I looked at Abida, I could see her crying, as the whole crowd was staring at her as he was repeatedly pointing at her. “Behan hai ye meri”, I replied.

A grinning laugh and some of his masked mates emerged from behind the crowd, “Yahin hai kya wo they asked and he nodded. “ID Card nikaal apna?” one of the guys said. I pulled out the id card from my wallet and tried to it show it to the guy who had asked for it with my own hand, for I feared, if I gave it to him, he might keep it, as they usually do. As he was looking at it, the other one, with gloves on snatched it from me and it fell from his hand too on the tiled footpath. I kneeled down to pick it up and he put his black ankle length grubby shoes on the card. I was fuming with anger but still helpless. I stood up and he pushed off his shoe from the card and asked me to bend again and pick it up. As I kneeled down agin, he put his foot again on it and all of them laughed. I stood up. He again asked to me to bend and pick it up which I did. I picked up my ID card and he took it again. “Tere baap ka naam kya hai?” he asked, while looking at my card. I started to reply what it was. He stopped me by saying “ chup hoja saalay, teri mashooka say pooch raha hoon.” She felt embarrassed and cried more. He grinned again. I asked for my ID card, he resisted and kept on provoking me to say anything against him so that could get a justification for what he intended to do. For about fifteen minutes, he neither let Abida nor me, to leave. Until he dashed my ID card into the air towards the road after I sought an apology, crying for nothing that I had done. “ Teray bohat jaisoon ka phir kahin naamo nishaan bhi nahi milta saalay. Baetees kay baetees tod doonga agar yahan kabhi aas paas bhi dikha kabhi,” he retorded before I balanced myself from falling on the road.



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