Pulwama attack had happened. I was living its aftermath in Hyderabad. The dilemma was whether to open the window and see what was the slogans about, or to stay inside and safe. Around the corner of my street, roughly 150 meters away from my flat, more than 100 people had stopped. Initially, my coward brain subdued the rebellious heart, but smoke arising from the conflict was choking me, and I decided to switch off the light and open the window.
Though, the crowd couldn’t see me peeking, their chants were so loud that it I felt sitting next to them. Candles in hands and Indian flag flaring by side, they chanted in a one voice, Jai Hind. I couldn’t see their individual faces, but I could see their anger; and it was their face.
But, why did they stop there? Do they know that Kashmiris are staying in this area? Do they know that I am alone in my flat this time? Are they going to beat me or, as it appears, even might kill me?
As a Kashmiri, days that followed Pulwama attack, shook me. I was that Kashmiri, who was being manhandled in many parts of India, and what was the difference among us anyways. Every video, every single post of Kashmiris being beaten would send chills down my spine. Every time, with every passing second on the mobile screen, I felt that I was the next target.
Being beaten on street didn’t worry me that much, as getting filmed did.
What would befall on my family when they will see the video of their son bleeding? Or should I ask the crowd to beat me, but not shoot? Would that be possible? I was thinking, what I believe, most of Kashmiris in any part of India were thinking. I was scared; we all were scared.
The scale of casualties was big, but the news of killing of at least 44 CRPF troopers, as a Kashmiri, seemed normal. Death is not an unusual thing in Kashmir. It is one of the most frequent visitors; as it seems, it likes Kashmir, and has decided to stay here only. We, as a hospitable host, have served the visitors well. Every Kashmiri in the office, about which I won’t mention, was sad, while every non-Kashmiri was outraged.
We could feel their pain. We have spent the entire life losing things. But, honestly, I was not thinking about my colleagues and their pain; I was thinking about people living near Lethpora, the area where 19-year-old Adil Ahmad Dar rammed a SUV-vehicle into the CRPF convoy in south Kashmir, and their upcoming days.
I was thinking about media propaganda and pseudo-nationalism of the political leaders.
I had my week-off next day, and went to have a haircut at a nearby saloon. I noticed that everyone in the saloon was staring at me. While I was waiting for my turn, my mom called, and inquired, “Are you alright?”.
Knowing that I’m out of the house, she got worried and ordered me to go back at flat as soon as possible. “Ok! I am going,” I lied to her. I felt awkward in leaving the saloon without having a haircut, but I wasn’t also comfortable in the saloon as well.
Do they know that I am a Kashmiri? But how would they? I haven’t spoken with any of them yet. They kept staring at me continuously. Looking at me, they were murmuring something in their mother-tongue. How I wished that I knew their language. With passing time, I drew more nervous. My turn was coming closer but I didn’t want to sit in the barber’s chair; what if he slits my throat with his scissors and others help him too? What if they take me out and start beating on the road? Everyone will follow anyways.
I came out of the saloon without having a haircut. With my head down, I walked briskly to flat, hardly 500 meters away. It was like I am on an endless errand. I was not reaching anywhere. I was walking so fast that I started panting. I felt loaded. I felt everyone is looking at me. I thought they know that I am a Kashmiri. But again, how would they know?
Somehow I managed to reach my flat, all in sweat. I double-locked the door, which usually remained open. I told my flatmates—all Kashmiri—that had happened. They were terrified. We decided to take all necessary precautions.
We decided to live in Hyderabad as we live in—Kashmir; that meant that we won’t live, but will try to survive. We will expect unexpected every time. We will try not to sound and look like Kashmiri.
On that evening, when everyone else was at work, while I was sitting inside my flat, draped in fear. I felt an inaudible chant, followed by loud shouts; it was only getting clearer and closer. Now, I knew what was going on; I was watching them from my window while hoping that they can see me. They were there and kept shouting for more than 30 minutes, and I kept watching them. Slowly, the crowd dispersed—and I kept watching.
Rouf is from Shopian, Kashmir and is working as a multimedia journalist in Hyderabad.