The killing of Rahim Khan

A Kashmiri child in a curfew day. Photograph by AFP/Getty Images
A Kashmiri child in a curfew day. Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

By Wasim Nabi

I forget, not everything

The calm and peaceful days

They never perish from my old memory

The experience isn’t something everyone has

It speaks a long story, a history that belongs to my side

One must always remember to keep an eye on time. Time that has passed and time that is yet to come. Time can be very dangerous, and yet, time can be relief. However, there is no substitute to death.  As we enjoy life, we should feel for death. It will come. You have to face it, so man up. It looks like we have never heard this word – ‘death’ but welcome it.  Welcome it the way we welcome pleasure in life – it is the same.

When I was young, I wish I had never met this word. I was living in the ignorance of childhood – a part of life which everyone wishes to be permanently stuck in. Today, as I try to recall a single happy memory, a good time, from my childhood, I find myself at a loss. The only times I can recall are laced with extreme fear, blood and killings of the people of my land. And of course, the first time I met with someone else’s death.

I remember one of the many days when curfew was imposed by the Indian armed forces in my village. It was a cold winter, and I was sharing a bed with my older brother. It was still the dark, chilly and early hours of the day when someone knocked loudly on our door. We woke up early in the morning as my mother opened the door and I instantly recognized the men wearing that uniform – that dreaded, predatory army uniform. Whenever I went for tuitions, I saw them walking our roads with loaded Ak-47 rifles. Normally, they never scared me but finding them invading the safe haven that was my home, I felt afraid for the first time. They started questioning my father, demanding that they search our house on the suspicion that some militants were hiding in the village. My father allowed them in and quietly said ‘Take off your shoes and do not touch our holy book’.  They grew angry and boisterous, and entered our home without taking off their shoes. My mother asked them to fear Allah – He would surely punish them for not taking off their shoes. They left in a hurry after performing a search, stating that we were not hiding anyone in the house but my mother was not easily calmed and shot angry looks at them. Suddenly someone in the street screamed “Oh my god, what a tragedy!”  Someone was lying in the street and blood was oozing from his body. I was terribly shocked because I knew this man. He was the man who sold us our bread. I can recall as if yesterday, the sight of his basket full of fresh bread coated with hot blood.

His name was Rahim Khan, a lone bread winner of his four member family. His mother was blind and his father paralyzed since ages. His sister was unmarried and his brother Ishfaq played cricket with me. Everybody was shaken when he was brutally killed by the Indian Army. After that incident, Rahim Khan’s paralyzed father stood on his knees.  To this day, he stands with honor and never looks back at his weakness. He didn’t lose hope but the sorrow inside him ate at his heart. His blind wife would never come to know how her son looks. The family took refuge in a village nearby and never came back again.

Whenever I see the Indian army, I envisage Rahim Khan’s blood. Blood which was running like hot oil on his fresh, soft bread. But THIS… this is not only about Rahim Khan. It is about the humanity, honour and dignity of every person of Kashmir. I do not know how many Rahim Khans were killed in every street and corner of this silent valley but I can understand their pain and helplessness. All I long for is to do something. Something real, something concrete to make sure that these killings stop, forever.

That day, I met death for the first time and from that day I never feared death because it seems to me better that I die than live the life of a mute, sacrificial lamb. As a child, Rahim Khan was the first person I saw die but my encounters with death in this valley have not stopped to this day…

Wasim Nabi is studying M.A Convergent Journalism at Central University of Kashmir.

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