In Kashmir gun battles now break virtually with crack of every dawn and almost every second day is a shut down. November 23 was yet another day of hartal in South Kashmir, my birth berg. The roads were deserted and crossroads were littered all around with symbols of resistance, the stones.
This time, it was against the killing of 18 year old Basit Mir, a local militant who had picked up arms after his best-friend Yawar Nisar Wagay, 20 was killed in an encounter with security forces in August this year in Bijbehara. Like his friend, Basit met a similar fate in same Bijbehara town three months later.
This shutdown seemed more effective because the slain militant belonged to Anantnag town proper and was quite a name among the towns young and restless. After all he had picked up gun to avenge his friends killing. As a reporter, the tale of these two friends fascinated me. It would make a good story, I thought.
After gathering required details from the family, finally I started to walk towards the curfewed road. The dusk had already set in earlier than usual because of winters. While I was few steps away from the road, I could see a small metal cylinder flying from nowhere. It dashed down on the macadamised road and settled there. It seemed that it was some container much like a tin can. After few seconds of pause it exploded with a bang and enormous fire emitting from it. While I began running away I saw a boy who looked like a little kid to me, walking towards the cylinder. Hey you kid! Dont run, It is nothing but a sound shell the boy who had covered his face with a green cloth shouted at me while I was running for my life. As I ran away, he still was walking towards that probably to pick up another smoldering cylinder and throw it back towards the armed forces.
I was puzzled to see daring youngling jumping at the shell with no fear of getting killed in the process. Looking back I thought these young boys were playing hide and seek with the death itself. This, I guess is the last block to stop a person from committing an act, by subjecting him to the fear of death. But when this fear is overcome, nothing can stop him. More to it, our kids have gathered this courage but the biggest danger is the next generation will be born with hearts, highly emotional yet fearless.
Soon, the blasts ended and there was a lull. The kids who settled in the narrow alleys to take some rest soon got alerted by the roars of the armoured vehicles with helmeted men in the turrets of these contraptions. This time, they were not firing the sound shells but the tear gas canisters and the bullets into the air. With all the doors closed of these grenade and land mine proof vehicles, the kids ran behind them pelting them with stones over their metal frames and throwing back the tear gas canisters at them.
The air in the whole locality had turned foggy. When I saw these vehicles at a distance of almost a kilometre, I began walking towards the district hospital where I had parked my car. Fearing another episode of stone pelting, I decided to go by an alley rather than through the main road. As I walked a few meters through these serpentine lanes, there was a burning smell. It seemed as if some household had prepared some dish and left it to cook and meanwhile forgot to turn off the burner.
The smell got stronger with every step I took. I could feel something stuck at my throat and my chest seemed hollow, lungless. I thumped my chest as my eyes turned red. I could hardly breathe. It was not from the cooking utensil but it was in the air. It was intensely irritating odor, like a poison for the one who is not used to it.
To my astonishment, I saw a band of boys led by a small kid emerging from this dense fog. The leading one was the same, his face covered with green cloth. They were a dozen in number. As they reached near me, the leader stopped and said, Wath kar saaf, te neyr vani (We have cleared the way, you may go now). He began washing his hands stained with yellow dye like that from walnut bark under a nearby tap. Dooen goll chi karen saaf, pagah maren nate schoole, (We have to clean these walnut stains else we will be caught by teachers tomorrow), he told his friends with a laugh before disappearing in the fog.
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