Spring was at its best. It was encouraging the leaflets to come out and enjoy the feeble heat of the new sun. The runlets were slowly coming to life taking along the blackish dead leaves, lying there through the long winter. The snow had bid farewell to the valleys but could be seen blanketing every inch of mountains beyond the horizon. An acute fragrance had filled the air by the blooming of the early spring flowers. The army men who were always seen patrolling the roads with impetuous steps had changed their attire. They had shunned the long boots and big jackets. They look relaxed like they had defeated the long winter with their bravery. Young men who get blaséd by the drab winter enjoy a good time somewhere in the village together. They plan to continue their afternoon cricket in the local ground after it would dry down.
”Allahu Akbar”, a yell from the mosque loudspeaker to call the people for prayers startled the birds at its roof and gave them a sudden flight. They hovered over and circled the village in a jiffy before setting back for pecking. Some of them took a bath in the nearby stream like getting ready for the prayers.
He woke up from the afternoon nap, had an ablution and offered the prayers at the local mosque. He then fed the cattle at home. In the meantime, his friend called him from the lawn gate for cricket.
”Coming”, he yelled and stole a glance towards his father sitting on the verandah making sure he won’t admonish.
”Come back before evening prayers”, as soon as he started ambling towards the wooden gate of the lawn, his mother who was as usual busy with the daily household chores shouted from inside. He acted like he didn’t hear anything and ran outside the gate.
They started the game and were busy playing amidst cheers, laughs and gossips when suddenly a white armoured vehicle stopped at the periphery of the ground. The army men promptly disembarked and surrounded them.
”Come on, get in a queue and show your identity cards”, a black, tall, ginger haired army man, perhaps their group leader yelled from a distance after he saw that the boys were completely surrounded by his men. The children instantly congregated in a queue. They were feeling wary, uneasy and squirm, holding their identity cards.
After seeing their identity cards, Towseef was isolated from the queue of boys. He was told to put his arms up and frisked. He was then kicked, slapped and plunged into the vehicle and taken away.
The other children stopped the game and went home spreading the news of Towseef’s arrest. When the news reached his home, his mother and sisters came out beating their chests. The whole village gathered into their lawn where his father along with some elders of the village decided to visit the local police station to discover the cause of Towseef’s arrest.
“He isn’t here, We haven’t arrested him”, the Station House Officer told them.
“What do you mean? You are the incharge of this area, how can anything happen behind your back?”, his father protested with fury.
“Listen, I really don’t know who arrested him and even what was his crime. Maybe the local army camp had picked him up. I will look into the matter and if he would be there, he will be shifted to police station by tomorrow. You will be informed accordingly. Since it is late, you can go home. I assure you, we will find him till tomorrow”, the S.H.O said while sipping his tea.
Hardly anyone in the village slept that night. They were on the stings. Haunting images were crossing their mind. They were aware of the fate of one whom army would arrest and then interrogate. Grotesque nightmares of bringing Towseef dead from the police station were coming to their mind. In some nightmares, they couldn’t find him anywhere as he was disappeared while in others he was left maimed and tortured. Demons were ruling the village that night and scary nightmares continued to hover the village.
In the morning, they offered the prayers and seeked the safety of Towseef weeping and sobbing. Everybody’s face was gloom etched. Even the dew drops in the compound were spikeless. The birds had shunned the early morning flight and had restricted themselves only to rustle their feathers. A doom had eclipsed the whole village. The elders of the village didn’t wait for the S.H.O’s call and went to police station without taking breakfast.
“Sir is sleeping, you can wait him inside, and yes your boy was found late night. He is in the custody.” The words of the constable gave them a new life and they rushed inside, calling his name.
In the custody room, they found Towseef lying and moaning on the floor. He was pale and his clothes were ripped open. Looked like he was beaten the whole night. Behind the iron rods, they keep on assuring him his release. He was not replying but only moving his body parts in pain and sobbing.
“He is not going anywhere, FIR has been registered against him.” The S.H.O from behind asserted, wiping his eyes.
“But why”, they enquired with anger mingled surprise.
“A pistol has been recovered from him”, the officer picked the jug of water and mocked a smile towards them.
They were left biting their fingers with shock, but were helpless. After that, he was presented before the court for trial where the judge sentenced him to two years of incarceration. Irrespective of his age being below 18, he was shifted to central jail. As soon as the news reached the village, the whole village hit the streets. Men, women, children came out and started protesting and raising slogans in favour of Towseef.
During one of the meeting with his family he expressed a wish to pass his matriculation exam. Books were sent to him and he started preparing for the examination. During the days of examination, he was brought handcuffed in the examination centre to write his paper. He was successful in passing the matriculation from the jail.
After two years, he was released and brought home amid wave of jubilation throughout the village. Everyone came to his house to meet him. He was sitting in one corner of the room on a fat mattress. Whosoever comes, shakes his hand with him followed by a hug. A hot brew of saffron and cinnamon tea was served to everyone who came to ask his condition. He told them the tales of his interrogation and apprehension. This continued for several days till he came to normal life. He again took the admission and continued his studies. The curiosity of education boosted him to study further against all the odds.
But unfortunately he was never let to lead a peaceful life. He was harassed on daily basis by the forces. They would pick him up in the wee hours of night and release the next day after questioning and torturing. Sometimes he would be picked from the school in uniform. Every week he had to present himself there on Friday. He would be questioned upon any untoward incident in the vicinity. Once he was fed up with the unjustified arrests and harassments, he left home one day leaving behind his family, friends and the village that now carries his grave.
After few months, all what could be known about him was a news in a national daily that reads:
“Another militant gunned down by the forces.”
Author is the student of English Literature at Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University. He hails from Frisal Kulgam Kashmir and can be reached at email@example.com.