The Vale of Duress

I was born in the year 1991. The year, whose traces would never fade from the minds of Kashmiris. Apparently, the militancy was at its peak. I was not aware of the Kashmir conflict, the militancy, the shooting and the bombing that took place at that time, as I was just born; too young and naïve to understand.

I often found my parents discussing this“91”issue. How their friends were picked up, and how ruthlessly they were beaten. I never took stock in these discussions .The reason may be I was too engaged in playing with my friends, and my sweet toys. But my father often tells me, “You were born in the year when the entire Kashmir was burning“. At that time I was not able to make out his words. I often used to wonder “what was burning and why?” who set it on fire? And why wasn’t their any fire brigade coming for its rescue?

In 2004, one of our family friends made a visit to Kashmir, after 15 years .As she arrived; we escorted her to our home. According to her, there was a drastic change in the streets of Srinagar .she said “it wasn’t the Kashmir which I knew from my childhood“. She was among the pandits who left Kashmir in a mass exodus. These words again put me in a confusion that what has happened to Kashmir? Why has it changed? And who were responsible for these changes. And one day out of curiosity I asked these questions to her. Who herself was a sufferer of those times, and witnessed mass rage.

“The place I was born and raised in. It was a charming place where one could enjoy beauty at every step. I and my friends often used to spend our afternoon playing in the garden. The streets of Kashmir were flooded with people of different creed and caste. We used to celebrate each others festivals with the same zeal and passion as one does when celebrating his own”, she said.

She further said, “In the autumn of 1991, we were very excited and happy especially me because it was my uncles marriage ceremony. I was enjoying at the most I can. But soon our excitement came to an end when some militants entered in one of our neighbor’s house. I still remember that how we all rushed into corridors. Unfortunately, a bullet entered through the window and hit my mother’s chest.”

I kept listening to her with tears rolling down my face and her cheeks were already wet with tears. She said, “I felt unconscious with just a first glance on her blood spilling body. As soon as I came to my senses, my whole world was shattered.”

After that incident they left Kashmir for ever. I could feel how those painful memories are still afresh in her mind and whenever I think of her my heart gets heavy with sorrow and gloom. “When I made the decision of visiting Kashmir to be very honest I was a bit scared because at every corner of it I could feel the sacrifices which my mother and my family have made,” she added.

I was not able to console her, but this tragic incident left me with the thought that why I am living in a place which is dark, gloomy, depressing and lifeless? Why I am living in a place which is filled with police, firing and teargas? Why I am brought up in the highest military zone in the world? Why have we Kashmiri become pawn in the hands of so called ‘law abiding bodies’? There are so many ‘why’s’ but unanswered.

But from last three years (when the unrest started in Kashmir) I became aware about the Kashmir issue. I came to know that how innocents are tortured and beaten ruthlessly, and the despot ‘rulers’ slap draconian laws like PSA even on teenagers .The emotions and feeling get trampled under the long military boots of security force. I understood how our ‘political masters’ through their cajoling promises befool innocent people who get easily carried away in their cramped speeches. I understood this is Kashmir “The dale of duress”