Sunday, August 23, 2015

Every Kashmiri is not anti Indian

Every Kashmiri is not anti Indian

"It might take decades for the people of this nation to believe that"

By: Salman Nizami
(File Photo)

Nobody asks for a price for an act of kindness. But if such an act is reciprocated by mistrust, hatred and a blow to one’s self esteem, it surely does hurt. Kashmiris have a long history of their kindness being paid back with hurt and animosity as the state battled a wide spread insurgency in the beginning of the 1990s. The people of the valley, in the meantime, for no fault of theirs, became the object of repression of the security forces. True, a vast number of them had come out in support of the demand for azaadi, but an equally strong majority of men and women, who loved India and who remained faithful to their motherland, were also looked down upon as anti-nationals and subjected to everyday humiliation and rant. It seemed, at that time, being Kashmiri was enough reason to warrant hatred.
I will never forget that bright sunny morning in Banihal, my home town, when my playful mood on a quiet day off from school, was filled with horror and dismay at the sound of incessant gun shots for over a minute. My doting sister, who had been ironing my clothes, covered her face with a grey scarf and cried out to me to get inside as she prepared to bolt the doors of the main entrance of our mansion. My father, who had just finished offering namaz, stood silently, trying to fathom what was happening outside. Although I was in senior secondary, I had begun fretting, trying to peep through from our first floor window at the ground outside, while my sister held my hands in support and consolation.
There was dust everywhere and the hot smell of the gun fires could be felt easily. Jaffar, my class mate, ran towards a shop where two men wearing green uniform lay still, with blood profusely coming out from their bullet ridden bodies. Where was any hatred in him for those ailing jawans of the Indian army? No, he was not an anti-Indian. He was just another ordinary citizen of this great country, trying to save the lives of his soldiers.
Jaffar cut his shirt and the other local shopkeepers helped him to wrap the arm of the snipers who had been crying for help. They were the only survivors of a whole convoy of jawans, who had been attacked by terrorists. As their bus was on way from Jammu to Srinagar, the miscreants fired indiscriminately at them, leaving all dead. The two had jumped off from the moving vehicle and were lying helplessly on the ground with multiple bullet injuries. There was nobody to help them except Jaffar and the few locals who had come out at the call of humanity.
Soon afterward, the traffic from both ends stopped and no was allowed to move from the spot. A convey of army trucks reached and the area was cordoned off. Jaffar and all the other local shopkeepers were asked to lay down on the road.
Few army men dashed towards our house, shouting “Bahar niklo”. My aunt, a courageous middle aged woman from Mumbai, refused to come out and asked, “why?” Somebody roared from outside: “Tumharay ghar say attack hua.” (The attack took place from inside your house). But aunt was not the one to cow down. She dismissed the suggestion and shouted back “no one is there in the house, only the children.”
My dad, at this juncture, went out into the open and tried to persuade the army men that his family was loyal to the nation and would be the last ones to offer refugee to militants. “I am Indian; there is no place for a terrorist in my house,” he told them confidently. Somehow his brave demeanour and a voice full of conscience worked with the men there, and the chief among them smiled back, asking my dad if they could search the house.
“Why don’t you save those injured army jawans who have just been taken to hospital? First find out about them, and later investigate,” I broke out before my father could utter a word. It was bewildering to me at that age why should the needless raid of our house be more important for that drove of soldiers than saving the lives of those who were battling in hospital and needed more attention. The chief officer, who knew nothing about the fact that two jawans had been saved by locals, replied, “All of them are dead. Terrorists attacked the bus in which they were travelling.”
Soon, I heard a noise. “Bachao! Humnay inko bachaya, humhay kuch pata nahi.” (Spare us. We saved them. We do not know anything). The terrorists had taken few locals their hostage, and later fled away after the attack. The army men, when they came to learn this, arrested all of them, paying no attention to the fact that they were the same people who had saved two of their brethren and admitted them to a local hospital before they arrived at the spot. The only thing that mattered was they had unwillingly given refuge to militants before the terror strike.
The soldiers started beating Jaffar and other local shopkeepers while we watched in dismay. In those days the army men did whatever they liked, and none could intervene. But it was the most painful sight to see Jaffar being beaten up by soldiers, with no regard to the fact that he had so devotedly, only a little while ago, nursed a couple of army men and saved their lives. “I am Indian, I saved an Indian. I saved a jawan,” Jaffar kept muttering while the men flogged him and dragged him in the ground and punched his face repeatedly. “We are innocent. We helped your jawans. Why are you beating us? For God’s sake, leave us,” the other locals cried as they were pushed to the ground, kicked at, and hit with the butt of AK 47 rifles.
The two jawans had been shifted to hospital and there was nobody from the police or army who knew about it. The locals including Jaffar were taken to custody, tortured and interrogated, while the two soldiers they had saved underwent treatment at the GMC Hopsital in Jammu.
After weeks of incarceration, there was some respite for these locals when the two jawans regained consciousness and testified to police that they had indeed been saved by the locals. Though the army released Jaffar and the other prisoners, there was no apology, no remorse, no offer of regret on part of the security forces. The locals returned home in shabby clothes with their bodies immovable by days of beating and torture, and few distinct scars on their faces briefing everybody about their ordeal in jail.
This is the story of locals in Kashmir who, during the times of militancy, stood for the nation but were labelled as traitors. There was no platform for them to voice their allegiance for their nation, or to tell the country how much they loved it. A mutiny by the few was seen as treason by all. This one incident happened in front of me, but only God can tell how many of us, in how many such hapless moments, may have seen our brethren being suspected and punished for what they had not done. Every Kashmiri is not anti Indian, but it might just take decades for the people of this nation to believe that. Till then, Jaffar’s story will keep repeating itself.

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