1990, when jihadi hooliganism was at its peak, My childhood friend and next-door neighbor, Hamida, came to my home late evening. She looked happy and cheerful as always. There was only one discussion that people were interested in, during those turbulent times-Militancy and Militants. Hamida was no exception. She was in privy of the sources/ militants that were carrying the execution orders of the Hindu minorities on the behest of their Pakistani masters sitting across the border. She was in fact proud of her association with the Militants.
“I want to share something with you!” she said to me eagerly. “OK, Tell me”, I said casually.”No, not here, let us go upstairs or into the next room. It is very confidential”. Now, my curiosity was aroused. I said “OK, Let us go upstairs”. We both went upstairs to “Kainee”(parapet/ top most floor of the house). She was bubbling with energy as she said,” Tomorrow morning, It is the turn of Ashok. He will be shot dead by the militants tomorrow. Don’t tell this to anybody ever. I am sharing this with you as you are my friend”. My heart sank, but I composed myself quickly and said, “Let them kill him. He deserves it.” She said, “ Wow! I love militants. Let the pundits who are leaving every day for jammu leave, but you stay here. Don’t you worry. Nothing will ever happen to you or your family.” I smiled back at her.” Militants are only killing Indian agents and informers” she said. I nodded my head.
I wanted to tell her, “No! militants are killing Kashmiri Pandits for no reason. I wanted to tell her that militants are killing for the sake of jihad. For fame. For money. For power. For self-importance. For their desires and lust”. But, I could not muster courage. I wanted to tell her that it is the anti-Hindu sentiment that is being fanned by the maulvis of the Mosques by using Islamic terminologies to galvanize the common Muslims, and kill the hindus with impunity and without compunction. I wanted to tell her,” No, There is no bravery and holiness in killing hapless, unarmed innocent Pandits”. But I remained quite. After all, I too wanted to live.
Hamida would not leave me alone that evening for a moment, Though I wanted her to go back, so that I could run into Ashok’s house and inform him about his assassination plans by militants. Ashok was a neighbor and a friend of my brother. He was like my elder brother and I used to tie a “Rakhi” to him every year. Even the thought of getting him killed was suffocating me. But that day Hamida was in no hurry to go back to her home. I wanted to get rid of her so desperately that day. But It looked as if she had other plans. She was chattering incessantly and I was nodding my head in approval cursorily, I was in fact thinking hard, to somehow convey the insidious killing plot of militants to Ashok.
Finally, I came up with a plan. I said to her, “ Hamida, I just realized that I had to call up my relatives in Jammu.” She asked, “ which ones? “. I said, “My maternal uncle. They too fled for Jammu few days back.” “Oh! I see. OK, by the time you will call your uncle, I will buy curd from Ismail Goor”. Ismail Goor, The milkman’s shop was located just opposite to Ashok’s house. I could not go to his house in front of Hamida as that could raise suspicion. My mind was over-working, but I still said,” OK, Let us go”.
During those days, Telephone was a status-symbol and not everybody had the privilege of having a Phone at home. Ashok was a Govt. employee working with the telecom department and was thus in possession of a telephone connection. Adjacent to the Ashok’s house were “Dhar’s” and next to “Dhars” were “Raina’s”. “Raina’s” too had a telephone connection at their home.
We reached too quickly at “Ismail Goor’s” shop.I said to Hamida, “ I will go to Rainas and make a call. You wait for me here.” She said,” alright”. I went towards “Raina’s” house. Before stepping into their house, I turned back. Hamida was staring at me from the milkman’s shop. I quickly went inside the compound of the “Raina’s” and scaled the wall to reach into the compound of “Dhar’s”. I scaled the wall flanking Dhar’s and Ashok’s house and jumped with a “thud” into the compound of Ashok. My knees were aching because of the impact of the jump. But I had no time for small physical pains. The back door of Ashok’s house was ajar.I went inside. Ashok was sitting right there in his Drawing-room. I hugged him and tears rolled down from my cheeks. He was perplexed.”What happened Didda?”he jerked me. I said, “ Leave this place as soon as possible. Militants are planning to kill you.”I told him briefly about my encounter with Hamida and her confidential report. By that time, his wife and brother Satish also came. His wife Dolly too began to cry upon knowing the incident. Ashok and Satish consoled us both and they both thanked me for the information. “I need to go back quickly as Hamida is waiting for me and can suspect something fishy if I take too long.”I said to them. Both Ashok and Satish helped me to scale the compound wall and Very soon I landed in “Dhar’s” compound and finally into the compound of the “Raina’s”. As, I opened the main compound door, that opened into the main street, I was shocked to see Hamida standing in front of the door.”Why did you take so long?” said she. “Line was coming busy. I had to try 50 times, before I could connect to my Uncle.”I said. “Oh! I see” she said casually and quickly added, “I have bought video movie cassettes from Shabbir, We will watch them at your home, since you have a VCP”. I said with a sigh of relief, “ OK. Fine.”That night, we watched couple of movies. She stayed overnight at my home.
Next morning, she went back to her home. I thought, let me check whether Ashok had left or not. As, I was about to leave, Hamida came back. she was panting. I gave her a puzzled look. She said incoherently, “ Ashok has fled”. I said “What! I couldn’t get you”. She put her hand on her chest and said slowly and clearly,” Ashok too has left like other pundits “. I said ,” Oh! I see”. She said, “Lucky guy! The militants fired at the locks also suspecting him to be hiding inside. But they found all his family had fled. Not even their neighbors knew, when they fled,”. I gave her a lugubrious look. I was happy inside and thanked God for saving the life of Ashok-My Rakhi Brother.
narrated by-Mrs. Seema kaul