A tale of two mournings
Since we have been witnessing and bearing the pangs of our tragedies from the 1990s but the year 2018 may be the most agonizing and tragic year in the conflict history of Kashmir. During this year many towering intellectuals – scholars like Dr. Mannan Wani, Dr. Sabzar Sofi, Prof. Mohammad Rafi Bhat and a promising journalist (like Syed Shujaat Bukhari) lost their lives besides scores of the civilians too. Even if it was the killing of a local policeman, at the end of the day (whatever may be one’s profession) it was a loss to Kashmir. What is more disquieting is that we have become so much assimilated to these things (killings) that it looks like a daily normal thing for us, otherwise every Kashmiri has his own story faced by this on-going conflict whether directly or indirectly or for that matter in one way or the other. Let me share the story of my own twin tragedies faced this year due to this conflict.
Last year, in the month of November, I was waiting in the Faculty of Arts, Aligarh Muslim University for my classes to attend. In the pre-class session while checking the news feed from my Facebook timeline I saw a picture of a young energetic man dressed in Army fatigues and holding an AK-47 rifle. While closely looking at the photograph, I was dumbfounded to see him as my cousin brother Aashik Hussain Butt. The same Aashik who was always dressed in branded clothes, the same person who was very enjoyable, just keeping with his business, never gave any indication of joining the militancy and now confidently was holding such a thing that actually begins a countdown of death in Kashmir. Somehow I managed myself and went out of the department to call my brother to inquire about the same. And when he picked the phone, I directly came to the point and he replied in a doleful voice, “yeah, it is true but what can we do? Patience is the only recourse!”
Time passed and now I was day by day getting involved back into my studies but that picture had already created a worry in my frame of mind. I always worried about his safety because we all may be evident with the fact that the average life of a militant in Kashmir is around six months and the death keeps always knocking at your door and the bullet is what follows you every time. Subsequently, this year in January, I visited my hometown for winter vacations. Fortunately, his elder brother met me at my home and I enquired the reason of Aashik’s joining. He, as usual, replied the same to which every Kashmiri is experienced too, the daily harassments and other agitating things.
I was back to Aligarh after some days but the fear which always remained in my mind of losing him finally came to be true. In the evening of 4th March 2018 when I was back from my weekly classes, my mood got changed from normal to distress because of the fact when the news about the shootout in Pahnoo Shopian, where a militant and three civilians were killed, surfaced on internet. How can one be at peace when my nation or for that matter my hometown is drenched in blood.? Next day in the morning I was shell-shocked at the core of hearing the news of Aashik Saheb’s ‘martyrdom’. For a moment, I didn’t agree but later I was bound to believe the news which read as the two more bodies had been recovered at the encounter site, among whom one was my cousin. I was mentally prepared that this had to happen one day but I never knew that it would happen like this. I quickly went out from Maulana Azad Library to the hostel with the aim to leave for Kashmir as soon as possible to have Aashik Sahb’s last glimpse and attend his funeral prayers. But it was impossible to reach to Kashmir in a very short time as first you have to go to Delhi from Aligarh by bus or train and then take a flight to Srinagar. I was in a situation of a dilemma- my mind stopped working. I called my brother again to tell him that I am leaving immediately and arrange a flight ticket quickly. But he didn’t agree on it. Still, I requested him to permit me to come for some days which he resisted. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that going now is of no avail. Even his younger brother too was outside Kashmir at that time for a Ph.D. entrance test and hence was an unfortunate person like me who couldn’t have last glimpse.
Six months later, after this agonizing and severe tragedy, there was another tragedy which our family (from maternal side) had to bear and which was even more shocking and mournful because only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches! It was the morning of October 11, 2018 (the same day when scholar turned militant Mannan Wani was killed in Handwara) when I put on mobile data, what followed simultaneously was the news which still horrifies and terrifies me! The news read “Hurriyat (G) activist Tariq Ahmad Ganie (my maternal uncle) has been shot dead by the ‘unidentified gunmen’ in Shopian.” The news surfaced on WhatsApp along with the photograph in which he was drenched in the pool of blood. I didn’t know at that time if I was reading the reality! How can one be so cruel, how can one kill a person so brutally who was so kind-hearted, helpful to people and didn’t do any harm to anyone! In case of first tragedy, I was mentally prepared that after choosing that path this had to happen one day but the second, tragedy was completely acute and shocking. But later I told myself, “Umair, it is Kashmir. Here innocence is not judged but whoever becomes an obstacle in state’s way is eliminated!” Now, hoping that one day this ‘unknown gunmen’ will be known so that my dilemma will come out from the gloom. It was hard to adjust oneself, control ones emotions and uneasiness that too when you are far away from your home to a place where there is nobody to console you. You have no one to console. You have to manage all this and control it by yourself. I hurriedly called my brother and he even was so shocked that we didn’t know what to say to each other. I then called my father to inquire about the same and tell him for the arrangement of the ticket quickly. Then, I left from Aligarh. On the way I was regularly checking my Facebook to see the photos of his funeral. In one of the photos I saw my mother wailing near his body. Nothing in the world can be more painful than seeing your own mother crying like this! That night of 12 September I stayed at JNU, and in the next morning took off my flight to Srinagar. Therein JNU in the evening we discussed with the students from other states how these things have become a daily norm in Kashmir and tried to present them the real ground image of Kashmir which has been hidden by media. By the next day, I reached Memander Shopian (my maternal uncle’s residence) amid the heart-rending shrieks and plaintive cries all round.
My painful agony is aimed to highlight the fact that how this armed conflict impacts one’s psyche even if one lives or studies outside Kashmir because your mind always remains preoccupied in worrying about your brethren in Kashmir and especially your family. Even though at that time I was able to come home to become a part of this tragic grief but in both cases of mournings what has been hurting and always will hurt me is that I couldn’t have their last glimpses and become part of their funeral prayers. All, I can do now is to recal the past memories spent with them and moved on.
Author studies at Aligarh Muslim University and hails from Shopian, Kashmir. He is relative of the slain persons Aashik Hussain Butt and Tariq Ahmad Ganie. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.