Stone pelters of Srinagar and the walnut tree
Tarun Vijay, 01 July 2010, 08:40 PM IST
Rafiq was a small-time wage earner in Srinagar. He worked in a suburban bag factory as a semi-skilled labourer. His cousin had been found dead in police custody a day before and hence he took leave to join the jenaja — last journey of his dear cousin the week we were in Srinagar to organize a seminar in memory of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who laid his life for the full and irreversible integration of Kashmir with the rest of India. Suddenly stone pelting began by some of those who were part of the jenaja, as anger mounted to see police personnel in the way, resulting in a shootout.
Next moment, Rafiq, who had come to share the grief of the loss of his brother, was dead. A stray bullet had pierced through him.
I felt disturbed hearing the news. What was Rafiq’s crime? How can one explain to the mother and sister of the poor fellow the reason of his jeneja at the age of 28? Couldn’t the police have acted with some restraint and let the anger pass with looking the other side or just keeping away from the jenaja route? Can all the Muslims in Srinagar or the valley be dubbed anti-nationals and terrorists? If we say the valley belongs to us, then those who people the valley must also be owned up and made to feel our warmth of belongingness.
Kashmir is us. Then surely the people too are our own.
And so was Colonel Neeraj Sood, who died fighting the terrorists. He laid down his life courageously serving the motherland. While we empathized with the family of Rafiq and felt strongly about how police can be further restrained, I found no one, in Srinagar publicly mourning the martyrdom of Colonel Sood.
No politician went to salute his body at the airport, no media organization wrote about his death with a sense of sorrow.
On the contrary, there was a provocative glee on the front pages of the Kashmir dailies describing the colonel’s death.
The security forces are in Kashmir on the orders of the constitutional powers and they are simply obeying the democratically elected governors. The same people are happily accepted as personal security guards by even the separatist leaders of the valley, but are often mocked at, almost lynched and brutalized when found lonely and vulnerable. I can understand the anger among Delhi or Murshidabad people against the rough and rude behaviour of a police force run under a colonized framework, but if a soldier in khaki is beaten up in Srinagar, it’s not because he is wearing khaki. It’s India he represents. His motherland, India, which is beaten up.
If the Srinagar youth are us and we feel an affinity with them, it’s not because they are pro-Pakistan or demand separatism, but because we feel they are Indians and we must show our camaraderie to them as fellow citizens living under the grace of the tricolour. Hence, we must share their agonies and pains and dreams and ambitions to rise like Shah Faisal, who topped the Indian Civil Services exam and wants to be a role model for the Kashmiri youth — not the stone pelters.
Jawans of the security forces, which include the police too, are as much children of Mother India as are the Indian Kashmiri youth of the valley.
I visited various parts of Kashmir and know for sure the trouble that hogs the limelight in Delhi and elsewhere is simply limited to a few urban centres crowded by a lazy and almost semiliterate on Kashmir, national and international media. The whole exercise of the stone pelters and their “abbas” is to attract attention and show that not everything is fine in Srinagar. The local people, be those shikarawallas (boat owners in Dal Lake) or small shopkeepers want their business to run, see their children grow in a happy atmosphere, have them study in good schools and colleges and rise in life. For them, business means attracting more tourists. They feel aghast that if these stone-age separatists are so devoted to Kashmiri welfare, why do they spoil their business in the peak tourist season? They don’t want to shut their shops and businesses almost every other day, sometimes for weeks at a stretch, but the fear of getting killed by the anti-national elements and having no corner to take shelter, they yield to the bandh calls of the terrorist groups. It’s the separatists who are using the common Kashmiri as cannon fodder to their lunatic agitational approach, funded and guided by Islamabad. They have a vested interest in keeping the common people poor, backward and indulging in stone pelting, because a happy, prosperous and peaceful Kashmir would delegitimize their claims and demands.
So what happens when a Shiva temple is burnt on the outskirts of Srinagar during a bandh call? Or an Amarnath Yatra is sought to be shrunk to just 15 days in the name of environment protection by those who were responsible to kill the Dal lake with pollutants and have nothing to say about that? When the falsehood overpowers the stark naked truth and the media laps up the make-believe stories strengthening a notion that all Kashmiris support separatism? Nothing.
Half a million Hindus were coerced to leave their homes and nothing happened. Temples were destroyed and nothing happened. Not even a feeble series by a chivalrous mediaperson to document the destruction of places of Hindu worship. The president of the Bar Association of Srinagar gave a statement to the press that said: “I am not Indian.” It was front-paged by many newspapers. Nothing happened. An advocate, who declares that he is not an Indian, is practising in the courts and the authorities are keeping a silence on his mouthful of anti-India statements. Being an Indian has become a matter of loss in Kashmir with the Centre’s Nehruvian policies and provincial politicians using separatist emotions for votes.
No stories on Hindus who still remain in Srinagar and Anantnag. They seem to have been categorized as expendable.
Kashmir is full of good, noble-hearted and intelligent people. It’s only the small coterie of separatists fed on New Delhi’s appeasement and American support (like Hurriyat — no base except a Washington-Islamabad helpline). A scholarly politician, a Muslim leader, was in tears while describing the pathetic condition of Hindus in the valley. And he narrated a true story of an abandoned Hindu home that turned my eyes moist.
In a village near Srinagar, abandoned by Kashmiri Hindus, he saw a walnut tree peeping out of a window. It was a strange sight. Walnut trees are grown in an orchard and not in drawing rooms. He went close and found the tree had taken roots inside a room and since the windows were broken, it grew to the side where the light of the sun came from. The plants always grow like that, towards the sun. How was it possible that a walnut tree was planted inside a room? No, perhaps, and he used his imagination, when the Hindus were on a run, in a hurry a member of the household might have left some walnuts inside the room. Years of moisture and a dilapidated condition of the house, which used to reverberate with sounds of laughter and tears of joy or mourning, made the left-over walnuts take root and grow.
Take root and grow?
A house was turned into a jungle.
And nobody would like to speak about it.
A walnut tree grew from inside a house.
Usually, and quite naturally houses grow under a tree shadow. Trees never grow from within a living house.
The walnut tree growing from inside a baithak, a living room of a family must be telling a tale. Where were the samovars, children, the kahwa and the songs when the walnut took a root?
And the slogans of the Hindu Muslim unity, the sufi tradition, the message of brotherhood emanating from Charar -i-Shareef and Hazrat Bal?
No one answered.
I share the grief of Rafiq. But not at the cost of forgetting the martyrdom of Colonel Sood.
I must, with thanks, reproduce a poetic tribute by Shiv Om Rana to Colonel Neeraj Sood here as my tribute to a great martyr:
An ode to Late Col Neeraj Sood
(who laid down his life Kashmir while chasing terrorists)
Rest In peace.
O! My brother-in-arms.
For you wished very young,
To be thus destined.
Expect not your countrymen,
Or political masters
To mourn or give a trime.
For them your life is yet another brine.
TV channels will show a flick or two,
So will print media do.
But all will be forgotten
In another day or two.
Only your family will carry the cross
Of missing son, brother
Husband or father
For rest of their life.
Rest In peace.
O! My brother-in-arms.
For you wished very young,
To be thus destined.