Exclusive: Why Does Raju Want To Be A Militant?

0Shares

Raju at his work place- Photo Kartik Wahie

Nidhi Suresh

Srinagar: As the month of Ramzan drew to an end and Kashmiris poured out onto the streets, the voice of Raju’s mother rang in my head I want nothing to do with this Azadi. I want my son back

Burhan Wani, the poster boy of Azadi had joined militancy at the age of 14. Faizan Muzaffar Bhat was 16 when he was killed along with militant commander Sabzar Ahmed Bhat a month ago. Going by newspaper reports, currently, three minors have been identified as being active with different militant organizations. Already 17- year old Adil Sheikh and 16-year-old Sartaj Ahmed Lone, both from Anantnag have died in separate encounters during fasting month of Ramazan.

What makes these young boys take to such extremes? Is it that they have been robbed of a normal childhood by the conflict they have inherited? Is it the hopelessness, frustrations, dilemmas, uncertainties, losses and pain surrounding them that have made them stone hearted even for their own selves? Or is it all of this rolled up and laid out as one long disturbed childhood?

What makes these young boys take to such extremes? Is it that they have been robbed of a normal childhood by the conflict they have inherited? Is it the hopelessness, frustrations, dilemmas, uncertainties, losses and pain surrounding them that have made them stone hearted even for their own selves? Or is it all of this rolled up and laid out as one long disturbed childhood?

Perhaps story of a family that travelled almost 2000 kms to Srinagar looking for work may provide an answer.

This is a story of Raju Nepali, who has just turned 16. It could also be a story about his mother who craves to go back to Nepal or his father who left the conversation mid-way or the two Kashmiri boys who stood guard while we spoke to Raju and his parents.

I had tracked down Raju, the stone pelter, after I read an article about him last year. What caught my attention was that Raju was a Nepali citizen and a Hindu. I wanted to talk to him to see if anything had changed. Nisar Mir, Rajus employer, owns a mechanic workshop in Batmaloo, a congested city quarter. I called him up, introduced myself and after promising him no harm, I asked him if I could visit Raju. Nisar said  ‘Aap aiye, hum Hindustan se nahi darte’ (Do come, we are not scared of India)

I first met Raju at his workshop. A bunch of curious men followed us into Nisar’s workshop as they called out for Raju. Raju, a short, sturdy boy, with a golden colored mohawk, finally appeared from behind some rubble. Nisar told him to sit down and I asked him the obvious question, Why do you pelt stones?

I don’t. I was just going to buy milk when they caught me, he said without batting an eyelid.

I looked at Nisar, and told him that we’d already read the previous article about Raju which said he loved stone pelting. Nisar said something to Raju in Kashmiri, after which Raju turned towards me, smiled and said Yes I pelt stones.

Raju’s parents migrated to Kashmir 30 years ago. Raju’s father works as a Ghorka (security guard) in Batmaloo. It’s been two years since Raju began taking part in protests which often lead to stone pelting. During the 2016 uprising, he was almost always on the street. I love stone pelting. It makes me feel very good about myself. I believe in Azadi as well. Raju’s stammer slows down his speech; he never went to school and considers it a waste of time. When I ask him about what he feels about being Nepali, he says I have nothing to do with Nepal. I was born here, raised here and so I can also die for this place.

Raju says he’s not scared of death but he is scared of police stations. When the police first caught me, I lied. I told them to let me go because I was poor and a non-Kashmiri. But they showed me photos and videos where I was standing with Yasir and pelting stones. Yasir Sheik was Raju’s friend, who was shot by the police on 15th August, 2016. The bullet that was initially aimed at Raju ended up killing Yasir. When the police took Raju to the station he was ruthlessly beaten. They asked me to place my palms on the floor and smashed them with bricks. They also fractured my leg. Raju was booked under sections 147,148,149,152,427 and 336 of Ranbir Penal Code, the criminal code applicable only in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He also spent 10 days in a juvenile detention centre in Harwan in the outskirts of Srinagar. I promised them that I will not pelt stones. But I still go whenever there is something happening in Batmaloo, he said.

Nisar Mir paid a huge sum to bail Raju out. When he was caught I didn’t even know him. His parents came to me and begged me to help him. Even though he was not a Muslim, I did it out of insaniyaat (humanity). His parents were crying a lot and I couldn’t bear to see that. Nisar says that he doesn’t even realize when Raju goes for stone pelting. He doesn’t stop him either.

I want to be a militant and join Hizbul Mujahideen. When Burhan died, I felt a lot of pain. I want to be like him. I really want to shoot with an AK-47. Raju wants to convert to Islam because he feels that only then, the militant group will accept him. After this Eid, I’m going to convert to Islam and follow all Islamic practices. Then they can’t refuse me.

When I asked Raju what he wants to be when he grows up, he looked me in the eye and said I want to be a militant and join Hizbul Mujahideen. When Burhan died, I felt a lot of pain. I want to be like him. I really want to shoot with an AK-47. Raju wants to convert to Islam because he feels that only then, the militant group will accept him. After this Eid, I’m going to convert to Islam and follow all Islamic practices. Then they can’t refuse me.

Have you thought of a name for yourself? I ask.

Yes. Chotta Burhan he said.

Everybody around me starts clapping and cheering. Raju looks around him and I see his eyes light up.

The next day Raju takes us to his home.

On a cement wall of a broken down building in Batmaloo, Raju stands beside his art work. A charcoal outline of a heart within which he wrote Yo yo, Burhan. He said he did it last winter.

Raju lives with his parents in a room on the first floor of a crumbling building in Batmaloo . Pic by Kartik Wahie

Raju lives with his parents in a room on the first floor of a crumbling building in Batmaloo. After walking across a thin ledge of cement we enter the house. The house, is only a single room with a make shift kitchen, two big mattresses and one emergency bulb.

Raju’s father, Ram Bahadur sat cutting vegetable while his mother ushered us inside. Raju sat near the door. Two Kashmiri boys from the workshop settled down on either side of the door, lighting a smoke and peering inside.

Raju has 5 brothers and 3 sisters. His youngest brother and sister go to school. I asked Raju’s mother why they never sent Raju to school. If he goes to school, what will we eat? The old man doesn’t earn much, she said.

Raju’s parents are extremely terrified of what Raju is doing. This is not our country. I don’t know why he does it. I didn’t even know he used to go for stone pelting until he got caught. Many times, I’ve told him to stop all this and do some good work but he doesn’t listen. As his father, it is my duty so I will continue to tell him. I am almost 70. What can I do now? said Raju’s father.

Rajus parents are extremely terrified of what Raju is doing. This is not our country. I don’t know why he does it. I didn’t even know he used to go for stone pelting until he got caught. Many times, I’ve told him to stop all this and do some good work but he doesn’t listen. As his father, it is my duty so I will continue to tell him. I am almost 70. What can I do now? said Raju’s father.

After an awkward silence, Rajus mother turned to me and said, Raju makes fun of his father

I ask Rajus father what he thinks of Kashmir. Kashmir has been good to me. We escaped poverty in Nepal and came here. I also want Kashmir to get better but I know that this is not our home. We are and always will be outsiders. We have no power here like we might have in Kathmandu. I have nothing to do with Azadi. Our border is different. The CRPF do not bother us and I don’t bother them either. We are all doing our duty here.

Raju smirks at his father’s response and said, I hate the CRPF. There is Zulm here. They fire pellets and hurt us. I will hurt them with my stones until I get a chance to join Hizbul. I really want this with all my heart.

Raju’s friends, sitting by the door, murmur something in Kashmir to him. Raju nods, turns around and tells me, Yes yes, nobody listens to my voice here. I will make sure they do. He turns around to look at his friends, the friends smile.

Raju’s mother raises her voice to remind him that he is Nepali.

Raju’s Mother

Father Bahadur gets up, looks away and says I don’t want to hear any of this in this room. I get very scared when he talks like this.His tired frame makes its way out of the doorway and we never see him again.

I ask one of the men sitting by the door, if he also goes to pelt stones along with Raju. No I don’t. I used to go but after going to jail many times, I stopped. Now, I only pelt stones in my imagination, within my heart.

When you don’t do it yourself, why do you encourage Raju to? Is that fair? Especially as he is a non-Kashmiri, I ask him.

The man stands up and says Look at him; he has so much Jazbah (passion). He also wants Azadi from this Zulm. So why won’t we accept him as one of us?

When he was in jail I cried so much. I’m so scared that after he becomes a militant we will have to leave this place because there will be people coming after us. Where will we go? We won’t have any money.

Raju’s mother interjects to tell me, When he was in jail I cried so much. I’m so scared that after he becomes a militant we will have to leave this place because there will be people coming after us. Where will we go? We won’t have any money.

Raju looks at his mother and says, Stop worrying. You don’t need to bother with all this. You be happy.

You want us to be happy when you die? How? How should a mother do that Raju? she asked him as a tear slipped down her face.

Suddenly the room felt heavy with the weight of a very potent silence: the weight of Raju’s mother’s desperation, his fathers absence, the weight of the vigilant eyes from the door frame and the inescapable weight of the words that Raju had uttered. I looked at Raju and saw a desperately confused child, in search of some form of validation. I think of all the young boys who had joined militancy.

I hadn’t been prepared for any of what happened in that small room. I finish my tea and get up to leave. Rajus mother comes forward and hugs me. I hold her close and rub her back, not knowing what to say. She looks up between her sobs and tells me, I don’t want all this Azadi. If I had money, I would go back to Nepal tomorrow itself.She looks around, lowering her voice and pleads with me and says, Please talk to my son.I want my son back. Please dont hurt him. I promise her I won’t hurt him not knowing what do to with the rest of her words.

Raju walks us out and I ask him if he ever wants to travel and live in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

No, there is no stone pelting there, what will I do? he asks me.

The Nepali boy, it appeared to me, has got sucked into the Kashmir quagmire.

Our meeting had too many layers; layers that could go on to form their own stories. If this is the story of Raju Nepali, it could also be a story about his worried mother, his troubled father and the two Kashmiri boys who escorted us to Rajus home to meet his parents.

This story first appeared in the Kashmir Observer print edition in November 2017.

Be Part of Quality Journalism

Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.

ACT NOW
MONTHLYRs 100
YEARLYRs 1000
LIFETIMERs 10000

CLICK FOR DETAILS


Observer News Service

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

KO SUPPLEMENTS