The Rules We Make

The Rules We MakeThe recent events in Kashmir are disturbing, like always. Can we really have a ceasefire in Kashmir?

Just, cease. Stop. Go away.

Take your guns, battle-ware, violence away from Kashmir. And leave.

I think that may not be possible. Not so easily.

But can the violence really stop till the combatants are there?

I am not sure if this qualifies as a war, but there are two parties to it. There are civilians, people who live in Kashmir and want to continue living in Kashmir.  People who want to work and earn from their work in Kashmir. And never leave, because we have a saying in Kashmir, “trade one house for a thousand more, but never set foot outside the door”.

Then there is the army. The ever present eyes watching from bunkers and old bungalows. Steel capped, armour jacketed men from India doing their country’s bidding in Kashmir. Occupying vast lands – practicing Warcraft on the native population. Yes, keeping the population under “control”.

Friday, the 26 May, the police and forces fired inside the Jamia Masjid as per eyewitness accounts. The Nowhatta area is a pseudo battle ground. On most days, it is like a usual market place. There are restaurants selling really red tandoori chicken, a huge shop selling furnishing items, smaller shops with wares on the road, heavy traffic, buses, a car wrongly parked et al. There is little police deployment there on a normal working day. But come Friday, there is nothing except army, police laden with guns and boys with stones.

On Friday when the army laid siege to the Jamia Masjid there was bloodshed inside the mosque. There was blood on the floor of the mosque. Someone had been hit by pellet guns. As per the standard operating procedure the pellets had been fired to kill.

Thankfully no one died. The spirit of Kashmir lived another day.

This follows closely the government’s call for ceasefire in Kashmir. The ceasefire is for border operations. The war within our cities continue. Mehbooba’s penchant for violence is expected to take a sinister turn post Ramadan. If this is a cease fire, what is otherwise.

Why, I ask, we can’t have an easier life? Or a right to live?

A few weeks ago a young man was mowed down by a police truck. The moment was captured on video. This infuriated the police who arrested the maker of the video. The alarming coldness of the act is not a concern of the state, its record is. In the absence of a video the news act would have been passed off as an accident – but the video shows otherwise. I wonder the family of the 22-year-old will see that video again and again and hope that the truck wouldn’t hit him.

Death is permanent. Those who are gone are gone. There is no glamour in young men being butchered on the roads.

Every week we hear about the murder of a young man in Kashmir. Yet there is no discussion on the structure of violence that the state has built in Kashmir where all murder and death are just circumstantial and one party is absolved of all responsibility. It has become very easy to blame Kashmiris for their own deaths. It is like a generation has committed itself to a mass suicide. Overtime. No one wants to hear or even talk about the anger common Kashmiris hold for having to put up with living in a militarized zones. There is no discussion on the daily subjugation that is so ingrained in the lives of these very young men who pelt stones or are mowed down. They and the army men both know who the stronger party in this trade is – the one with the guns, the one with force and power and the one with the law backing them.

A telltale picture of this was a series of three photos taken by a photojournalist. They show a young man talking to the army man (showing his ID perhaps), the second one of him being slapped, and third is the after math.  For most Indians a small incident like this would not matter. But to the conscience of the young man it does. No one wants to take public humiliation lying down. Nothing much was made of this incident. But in the by lanes of Srinagar, a young man laid uneasy at night thinking and despising the occupation even more.

Untitled design
Pictures by Aman Farooq 

It is a constant reminder that you are not free. That you are not equal. And that whatever happens to you, you are not important. Your lives are ruled by the rules we make. And your lives are worth little.

At the back of our minds is this very tragically Shakespearean struggle to be or not to be.

The next Friday, 1st day of June, they drove another man down. And all the bells were ringing. The vitriol was forthcoming. A man lay crushed under the police vehicle, his bones crushed and blood filling his lungs. I wonder about the man behind the wheel of the car, the one who decided to mow another person down. Not just hit him with a car but crush him under it. Did he get down from his seat and walk away, or a posse of other policemen came to protect him. I wonder about them too. Was there regret filling the air like tear gas? Or was there a sense of pride at work done? Or was it helplessness at having fulfilled someone else’s orders, and become a murderer in turn.

The murdered is a memoir in the library of unopened books. He writes his story in different books and every time it is the same and every time he dies in the end. He might have held a lot of promise but now he lays in a grave. I can’t get over the alarming rate at which young people in Kashmir are being killed. It has slowly settled into a normal where a death is not considered shocking enough; there needs to be more added gore to make it noteworthy like mauled under a truck. This slow descent into desensitized territory is what makes carnage normal. There is nothing normal about living in state of fear and always, always yearning for an escape. The curfewed peace in Kashmir is not peaceful at all. And I yearn for an escape from that.

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Author: Rich Autumns

Blogger from Kashmir. Twitter: @RichAutumns

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