Kashmir: Mayhem in March

Tahir Rasool Sofi, killed by army today.
Tahir Rasool Sofi, killed by army today.

[T]he completeness of night’s silence is absolute in Kashmir. Earlier today another boy was put six feet under. Killed in cold blood in Baramulla by the Indian army. Apparently a small crowd was protesting against the hanging of Afzal Guru and driven by pure emotion, pelted a passing army truck with stones. Since Kashmiri blood costs next to nothing, the armymen quickly got down, cocked their machine guns and sprayed the protesting kids with bullets, instantly killing a kid – Tahir — in his 20s. Nothing much. His friends, too shocked to react, smeared his blood on their faces. Grown-ups wept. The army later issued a statement that they didn’t shoot the boy. Period.

The fact is that the army had no need to issue the statement. No one can touch them with a bargepole – statement or no statement — since every military-walla enjoys total immunity in Kashmir and hence feels free to pull the trigger without caring two hoots about who is the line of fire. Hundreds of thousands have perished in Kashmir over the years and no one was ever punished. There are probes ordered and then there are commissions which sit. Nothing much happens. A prompt little denial completes the travesty.
[pullquote]It is never really over. Memories are like warehouses. The injustices accumulate. And scream solders onto another scream bringing about a clarity that is both beautiful and bold.[/pullquote]
There are banana republics and anarchic countries in the world where shit happens. Those godforsaken lands make no claims, at least, to call themselves the longest or largest democracy in the world. They don’t have 70 jingoistic channels to dismiss their ugly deeds. I don’t understand, for the life of me, how India — a constitutional democracy – can get away with this charade in Kashmir. Who on earth kills kids for being impulsive or spontaneous? Does a democracy plunge a poisoned bayonet in your face because you show your fist to it? Pray how can sentiments be ever policed?

And they dug a grave quickly. And everyone cried bitterly. And furious sloganeering happened. And the poor mother and sister were inconsolable. And the father was delirious and his friends won’t sleep tonight. Innocent little details. And there might be restrictions from tomorrow till further orders. And the security grid will think that it is over but it isn’t. It is never really over. Memories are like warehouses. The injustices accumulate. And scream solders onto another scream bringing about a clarity that is both beautiful and bold.

There was a flinty, ferrety frown on the CM’s face in the assembly today. All media faithfully reported the ‘broke down’ speech, as if he were a run-down car. History, however, is a great judge. It will mention the gouts of blood on the streets of Baramulla even if the TV channels chose not to.

Photograph by Yaqoob Lala

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