Feb 13, 2013

A Curfew Visit

(This article appeared first on Kashmir Life)

It was Sunday evening of Feb 10th . I was caged at home like my brethren in Kashmir following the undeclared execution of Afzal Guru, the 2001 parliament attack “accused”. A strict curfew was clamped down to arrest people inside their homes and confine their resentment to the four walls. I was busy with a writing assignment trying to compile a story for Kashmir Life( the weekly magazine I worked for). Without any premeditation, my bad Kidney started troubling me with a severe pain. I was being treated for Kidney stones from last few weeks but the infection belled its whistles again and the pain started to aggravate at once.

I ran out of medicine and was helpless to find any medical shop operating in a curfew.  I struggled the whole night to comfort myself and literally couldn’t stop my poor self from crying in pain that seemed unbearable. I somehow managed to get some sleep lately after dosing some pain killers and any diazepams I could find.

The morning that followed was even worse as the infection swelled manifolds. Now I desperately needed to visit the hospital but I was taken aback by the curfew.  Losing all the other options I moved on and took my mother along as an alibi (as my curfew pass on humanitarian grounds).   

It was the third day of strict indefinite curfew in Kashmir following the undeclared execution of Afzal Guru and it was not easy to move out. Plus more it was Feb 11th, the death anniversary of Maqbool Bhat, the apex figure of Kashmiri rebellion against the Indian dogma.

As I stepped out, the emptied streets welcomed the lone motor I was driving minus few ambulances and many armed wagons bamming their ear-splitting sirens. There were checkpoints after every 100 or 200 meters, all whirled in concertina wires and barricades, looking as if a war has been raged. As I moved on along with my mother, we were stopped at every check point and interrogated to the fullest. And almost at every checkpoint my mom beseeched before the armed Gods for allowing us to reach the hospital. At each of the innumerable points I felt pity over my helplessness and over the slavery we are trapped in. I still feel so, sadly.

Photo By: Abdul Basit

Soldiers charged with guns and loaded with batons were patrolling the deserted streets thereby creating a haunting scenario of a city that looked very vivacious only few days back. I recollected the joyous moment two days before when I was rejoicing my time in Lal Chowk, the heart of srinagar city,  along with my peers.  Now the same Lal Chowk seemed haunting to me. Stray dogs were probably the only creatures rejoicing the freedom of curfew along their police peers.

All over it was all tense like a blackout. A deafening silence had engulfed the whole valley daunting its happiness and peace. No one was visible around and no footsteps audible as if all the souls had been snatched at once. The silence was calm but seemed more dangerous as if signalling the lull before a storm. It turned me ill at ease. I feared the upcoming reprisals of the blunder done by the Indian government at Tihar. I feared the deadly episodes of 2008, 2009 and 2010. I feared the killings. The mission they called #OperationThreeStar to slaughter a scapegoat for pleasing the #CollectiveConscience of a vision-impaired nation might have quenched their bloody thirst but it seemed to be the onset of a new cycle of violence in peaceful Kashmir. I pray my fear proves otherwise.

On the streets I couldn’t feel a smiling face around except some young boys playing cricket on the empty streets at some handful places. As I reached the hospital, I was completely dumbfounded to find people lying here and there like pieces of scrap scattered over a littering place. They were helpless to move anywhere in curfew and thus forced to sleep in the wintry cold corridors of the hospital. My heart wrenched and mourned as I saw a line of poor daily wagers sitting on the shop fronts looking for any opportunity to earn a bread piece to take back home and feed their starved family with.

Later when I reached home safely, another ridiculous mockery form the great Indian nation added to my surprise. The letter posted from Tihar jail intended to reach the family of Afzal Guru to intimate them of the loss reached there almost 30 hours late.  

Heralding a turbulence hitting from the bars,

A letter is posted prior to a storm.

The letter is destined to the country without a post office.

It laments the news breaking all the norms.

Now I can write #Kashmir on the wall over and again

Lest I find a reader with a conscience.


Lastly I bowed before my lord and prayed with a heavy heart, wondering about my stand in a nation that claims to be democratic. I question back the proud Bharat, if I am allowed to, for their stand in Kashmir. Who gave them the right to confine a poor man to the four walls of his home? I question them for the right to deprive a poor man of his daily wages? I question them for the right to deprive an ailing boy of medicine and again I question them for their right to snatch three innocent lives(Following Afzal Guru) that were living happily three days ago?  And lastly I again question, if I am allowed to, for their right to create the entire ruckus in a pacifistic Kashmir?

I can foresee this dictating curfew and rebellion resistance will carry on every death anniversary of Afzal Guru and will get more intense with time. And I fear there will be a day when all this anger, disappointment and the reprisals will snowball into a Frankenstein that will swallow its evil engineer. Lets pray for peace.

RIP #AfzalGuru