By Saima Bhat
Memories are sacred. How fortunate are those who have a sharp memory. The day was 14 July 1992. I was seven years old. I don’t remember the exact time but it was early morning. Sun was about to rise and birds were chirping, welcoming the day. I was sad, as it was a school day. Still I was expecting my mother to wake me up and prepare me for school.
In the bed, I was struggling to keep my eyes closed. I was trying my best to enjoy another five minutes of sleep. Suddenly, I heard some cries. First, I thought I am dreaming. However, the cries didn’t stop for several minutes. I threw the quilt away and got up from the bed. I came downstairs quickly to see what was happening. I entered the kitchen and to my surprise, I saw my neighbour.
In my deep heart, I thought, ‘what is she doing in our kitchen and that too so early?’ As soon, she saw me, she hugged me. Somehow, I managed to free myself from her. I rushed towards the lawn, from where I was hearing some chattering. There were many people in the lawn. I could not get what they were all talking about nor could I surmise. I could not make any sense of the talks. It looked more of a noise.
I saw my father sitting on the veranda. He was weeping. For the first time, I saw tears coursing down my strong father’s face. I came closer and hugged him, wiped tears of his cheeks. I did not have the faintest idea what was happening. The situation was so strange that I couldn’t ask anyone for any information. Suddenly my father murmured some words, which were shocking, unforgettable and unbelievable! I ran away from him. I thought he was lying, that cannot be true. The words were, “Tariq Shaheed hogaya”.
That was impossible. Just yesterday, in the evening we had our dinner together.
Next moment, the main gate was opened. I saw womenfolk coming in; my mother, my aunts and some relatives, they were all wailing. I heard some women talking that it had happened yesterday, late in the evening. I saw my sister and cousins sitting in front of my mother. I also joined them and enquired. My sister narrated to me what had had happened.
The night before the incident, we had guests while having dinner. They had come to pay visit to a friend who was ill. They left after having a little chat for a few minutes. Tariq Bhaijan left at last. I remember vaguely, while stepping out he was looking back repeatedly at all of us. I looked at him. I don’t know but yes he sighed once also. My eyes were continuously watching him. He gave a smile and left the room. They (he and his friends) talked for a while in lawn and after that left. The clock showed 10.30 pm.
Shortly after, the kids went to sleep. However, the elders were awake, busy talking with my aunt (my father’s sister), who had also come that day. At about 11 pm or so, gunshots were heard from a very nearby area. A volley of gunshots followed that continued for a long time. And what remained to be heard was a big bang of a blast.
In those days, militancy was at its peak. The only news was about death.
Tariq was not home, thus open to the danger. My family got frightened. They all left towards the Main Chowk, Barzulla, which was the epicentre of gunshots. Somehow, they reached the place. However, the locals stopped them from moving forward. The whole area had been cordoned by the army.
Tariq Baijan was no more. One of his friends had also been killed in firing. His other friends: some had managed to save their lives and some were dragged by military along with them.
The bloody rendezvous of copper and human flesh didn’t end there. After leaving the spot where my beloved Tariq Baijan was killed, the army reached near Eidgah in Barzulla. A young boy had come out of his house to see what was happening. And what he saw was his own death. Army shot him. That day Barzulla lost its three sons.
In the silence of homes, everyone was awake for the whole night. Nobody dared to come out to see what was happening outside. Everyone waited for the morning sun to confirm what had happened. Morning sun often brings hope but that day it brought despair.
In the afternoon, a tipper came and entered our house. In a few seconds, it was surrounded by a horde of sympathizers and mourners. I rushed upstairs to the veranda from where I saw my beloved Uncle laying straight. His face was pale. Everyone was crying. I was no exception.
Someone said to me ‘see your uncle as much as you can because this is the last time you are seeing him’. I cried, cried and cried a lot. My tears were not in my control. For just 10 minutes, I could see my beloved uncle. The mourners left, carrying my Tariq Bhaijan along with them. It was as if they were carrying my world away. Yes, he was my world, our world, our beloved one, darling of the kids. Today after 18 years, he still holds the same place.
The memory, which I cherish, is that he would always carry smile on his face. Socializing and being friendly was his habit. To me he was smart and cool. I still remember how he used to carry his branded outfits. He was a style icon of our family and friends. Even today, if anyone from our area takes his name a suffix ‘Hero’ is attached to the name.
Today I know exactly why and what had happened that bloody night. My Bhaijan was a Pakistan trained militant with a militant organisation, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). That night when they were coming out from his friend’s house, they decided to sit on shop front, which was their favourite spot. Nearby in the locality a meeting of Hizbul Mujahedeen (Pro-Pakistani militant outfit) was going on.
In Barzulla, there was a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp who had received information about that meeting. The CRPF men came to attack the Hizbul militants but unfortunately, instead they encountered my Bhaijan and his friends. They fought back but in vain. Some of them managed to escape and others who remained behind were dragged by the CRPF men.
The Hizbul militants didn’t do anything to save them because of the rivalry between the two groups in those days. They left them to fight alone. They left them to perish.
Was the rivalry worth of those three lives! Is human life so cheap that it can be neglected for rivalry?
I pity the rivalry.
There was an assumption for that night that it might be a fight between JKLF and HM but something else had happened. Something; which the destiny had already written for them, long before they were born.
In these 18 years, I witnessed many vicissitudes of the on-going insurgency. I belong to the generation where holidays mean strikes. Morning assemblies mean crackdowns. Firecrackers mean gun battles. Corporal punishments mean killings. I have seen frisking of my brothers by foreign people. I have heard blasts. I have walked through the blood shed streets and what not.
My Bhaijan wasn’t the only one from our family who sacrificed his life for his motherland. That year we lost two more from our family to this conflict. Years passed and we managed to live without our beloved ones. My family wasn’t the only one who got departed from loved ones. Hundreds and thousands of families lost their beloveds to this conflict. People say those people are lucky who were martyred in the way of God, for their motherland against the barbaric act.