By Saba Firdous
What is it that I am unable to forget despite the passage of years? What is it that makes me insecure when I step out of my house or even when I am in the safe comfort of my home? What is it that is still a nightmare for me? It is indeed fear! Fear of survival and being forced to survive in my own home, my own hometown, my motherland, where I have spent and enjoyed every moment of my childhood, where going to school has always been fun, where I have enjoyed going out with friends at any time ,be it day or night. But alas! Things have changed drastically!
I still remember that haunting day. It was the summer of 2009 when the whole valley was under turmoil. People were shouting ‘hum kya chahte azadi,’ (we want freedom), curfew was imposed and no one could step out of their homes. Kashmir was in bloodshed and many innocent lives were being lost, especially those of the young. The women were being disrespected by the Indian security forces. The youth, even the smallest of kids, were indulged in stone pelting. Little did I know that all of this would affect my life in such a permanent fashion.
That day, my family and I were sitting inside our house unaware of what was to happen the next few moments. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to lock the main gate of our house because during those days no one would keep their doors or windows unlocked out of fear that the Indian military forces would enter their house anytime and beat them ruthlessly. Now as I was sitting with my family, we suddenly heard a big bang as if someone had ferociously banged the main gate of our house. On hearing this sound my mother and grandfather rushed out quickly to see what was happening. As the two of them went out, they saw a middle aged man entering our house to hide himself as the CRPF personnel chased him. During those days people would be arrested even for minute reasons such as talking on the phone in streets or even in side lanes. It so had happened that the man who had had entered our house to hide himself from the security personnel had been talking on his phone in the lane nearby our house. The CRPF men had taken him as a stone thrower given chase. Seeking escape, the guy entered our house as the other houses in the locality had their doors and windows all locked.
Now as the man entered our house, without even thinking about the consequences of his hiding in someone else’s premises, the CRPF men banged all our doors and windows to catch hold of him. The man took shelter in one of the room upstairs in our house and locked the door inside. But the CRPF men were smart enough to understand that he was hiding inside the room so they started marching towards it, banging and thrashing all that came their way. As some of the security forces started marching upstairs, some of them started harassing me and my family. I was witnessing all of this helplessly. I got really scared and started crying. On seeing me cry, one of the soldiers came angrily towards me and shouted ‘tu kyun ro rahi hai, hum ne tujhe to kuch nai kiya na.’(Stop crying! We didn’t even harm you!) My mother pleaded with them to not say anything to me as I was the most pampered child of the family but they kept harassing me in that manner. Meanwhile the other soldiers had thrashed the door of the room where the man was hiding. They dragged out the so called stone thrower and started beating him relentlessly. He started bleeding profusely but the brutality was such that they did not spare him, they showed no mercy. As he was being dragged downstairs, the CRPF men were accusing us of being supporters and shelter providers to stone throwers and terrorists, whereas we were not at all involved in any kind of unacceptable activity.
My grandfather went forward to save that – yes, teenager, as he was bleeding copiously and being beaten to pulp, but they started abusing even my aged grandfather. They dragged him out in the lane and kept beating him till he was almost unconscious. As he was screaming, people from the locality came out to find the reason of this chaos. On witnessing such a brutal act of the security personnel, people came to save that man, but the CRPF men starting beating everyone around. Somehow, the people managed to save that man and he was taken to the hospital immediately by the locals, while some of them began to rush to their houses to save themselves from getting beaten by the brutal men.
As for my family and me, we went inside our house and locked all our doors and windows. We were frightened to the very core of our being. The Indian soldiers were banging and thrashing doors of every house in the locality ,abusing and shouting, labeling us as ‘terrorists’. They left in anger leaving our house in shambles.
Without even letting the ‘stone thrower’ speak or explain his actions, they thrashed him mercilessly. Without even listening to us, they labeled us ‘terrorists’.
Even as a Kashmiri, I was unaware of what really happens in Kashmir. But after experiencing such a nightmare, my opinion has changed, I have realized that people in the valley are not safe even in their own houses and the so called saviors have become persecutors of the people of the valley.
I can never forget this experience of my life, an experience though a bitter one, that made me come closer to my homeland Kashmir, and sparked a sense of patriotism in me. An experience that made me wonder – why was that innocent man beaten to an inch of his life? Why were we so needlessly harassed and ridiculed in our own house? I wonder even now.