Shuraym Tariq

Ashiq Hussain Bhat: Cousin recounts his life and killing

Ashiq Hussain Bhat: Cousin recounts his life and killing
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Tujh ko kitno(n) ka lahu chahiye ae arz-e-watan
jo teray aariz-e-bayrung ko gulnaar kare(n)
kitnee aahoo(n) say kalejaa tera thunda ho gaa
kitnay aansoo teray sehraao(n) ko gulzaar kare(n)

(Excerpt from Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem)

The last more than half a dozen decades in Kashmir have been the decades of occupation, unleashed by the Indian state. The state oppression of the Kasmiris has become the new normal, the order of the day. The people, across ages and genders go through psychological as well as physical torture. Killings, maiming and humiliation are the regular woes, the people in this God forsaken place have to have to go through on a usual basis. Amidst this horrifying experience grows yet another generation of young kashmiris, who find it exasperating to endure the very confines their predecessors have long been living. This has been the story of successive progenies of Kashmir, since Indians arrived to occupy this land of saints to satisfy the expansionist hunger they inherited from their occupiers – the British. As a systematic policy, the Indian occupation has targeted kashmiri youth, subjecting them to murder, maiming, arrests, torture and trials. Despite of all these concerted attacks, the people, especially the youth grow more resilient to the Indian occupation, with every passing day and every other killing. Their stories reflect their valor and the desperation to end this unaccounted cycle of violence unleashed on the Kashmiris collectively. People here have become politically mature. They have developed a great sense of their history. They have seen conflict from close quarters. In fact, the recent generation has grown up amidst inexorable uncertainty, experienced crackdowns and search and cordon operations. They have been witness to the uprisings of 2008, 2010 and the 2016. The Indian State’s use of military tactics to deal with people has only furthered the resentment among the people. The ruthless state response that have led to the killing of hundreds of people, with thousands more maimed and arrested, have pushed youth towards arms training, thereby causing a resurgence in the armed rebellion against Indian state. In one of the recent incidents that happened in Pahnoo area of Shopian on 4th March 2018, Indian Army killed 4 civilians, alongside two armed rebels, Aashiq Hussain Bhat and Aamir Ahmad, both belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) rebel group.

hum to majboor-e-wafa hei(n) mugar ae jaan-e-jahaa(n)
apnay ushshaaq say aysay bhee koee karta hai
teree mehfil ko Khuda rakhay abad tak qaaim
hum to mehmaa(n) hei(n) gharee bhar kay hamara kya hai.

Ashiq Hussain Bhat was born at a time, when after all the deceit from the Indian State and after peaceful means seemed to fetch nothing but humiliations, Kashmir saw its first armed uprising against the Indian subjugation. Coming from a destitute family in Rakh Kapran village of Shopian, he had left his schooling half-way and later started working in a hardware store to earn their living. He would always motivate his younger brother, Umer Ishaq to pursue higher education and fulfill the dreams he couldn’t realize himself. He had once asked his brother to promise him that he would study well and set a precedent of success for everyone else to achieve. This dream was instantly shattered when Ashiq hussain bhat joined the rebel ranks. Nobody could judge what had been going on in his mind before he left and disappeared. It was on 9th November, 2017 that a picture of Ashiq hussain bhat posing with an assault rifle, identifying him by his new nom de guerre, Abu Lukman (an arabic word meaning ‘the wise) appeared online – an initiation ritual of sorts for Kashmiri rebels of the social media age. It left his family devastated and they could feel their soul being ripped apart and their world crumbling like a castle of sand. What else do you make of your son turned rebel than sensing its disturbing inevitability, the death?
“It’s very agonizing knowing that your child will never return to you, not even for a hug,” his mother had said. And true to her fears, Aashiq did come back for a hug, only after attaining martyrdom.

How do we, in a handful of sentences, a few paragraphs, put the brokenness of a mothers heart, her crumbling spirit and her lost soul on a piece of paper? I can’t be succinct enough to pen down the impact on the family, my cousin, Aashiq has had over 30 years of his laborious life. How do I fully explain the pain of a mother, of a father, of a sister and a brother who would not be able to hold or hear him, again? The most undesirable thing for the family had happened.

That day was just any other day. I had left my room with some of my friends to the university. I walked a little, before my phone rang. It was my mother. I answered the call as usual with a greeting, but to my surprise she didn’t reciprocate. I tried again and again but there was a glum silence from the other side. I could sense that something was horribly wrong, which my mother didn’t want me to tell about. Finally she gathered some courage and said in a trembling voice, obviously crying, “Ashiq saeb gov shaheed.” ( Aashiq saeb has been martyred). It hit me like a thunderbolt and I felt deaf. I didn’t want to believe what my mother told me. It sent chills down my spine. I wanted to plead her to tell me that she was lying. But I was unable to reply to what some oblivious part of me knew it was going to happen someday. The part of me that became vivid as soon as I heard the inevitable. Everyone in the family knew this was going to happen, but none of us was prepared for the inevitable. I felt like someone snatched a part of me and is refusing to return it. The part of me wanted to cry and a part wanted to crush anything somehow related to the murderers. I hadn’t seen him since long. I started cursing myself for being way too busy with the studies. I flipped through some of the photos of him photos, in an attempt to see if pictures could somehow come alive. But no! the picture seemed to convey that reality is a different picture, unlike in those frames. In those few pics, he is with me and in reality it is an impossible union now. I have lost a brother, a friend. He wasn’t just some young man walking around and doing stuff aimlessly. He knew his purpose and strived for it. The oppression around somehow impacts all of us, one way or the other. Some choose to stay silent and become a coward to witnesses all of it. However some, likewise Aashiq Bhai, choose to die fighting than to be mute spectator of state unleashing its wrath on the people.

Author is cousin of slain militant and can be reached at shuraymtariq@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.

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