Witnessing Death at my College: The Senior Who Ragged me
Earlier the year, I was used as human shield by Indian army in one of their search operations in our village, one day whenI arrived at Amar Singh College in the heart of the Srinagar city, I found my entire college surrounded by army and CRPF vehicles. A prof. at the college gate from Ramzan Hospital side just caught my arm and pushed me in and closed the gate again. I was wondering what is a professor doing at the college gate and why did he pull me like that, I didn’t know what was happening. I saw my friends crying, teachers consoling students, a very rare sight you might believe, but a common one in our part of the world. Meanwhile someone handed over to me that day’s GreaterKashmir newspaper and on the front page was the news of a student from our college having been labelled as a terrorist and killed at Dalgate. The image of his dead body soaked in a pool of blood was on the front page. Upon inquiring I came to know that the student who was killed was known to me for he had ragged me the year before when I took admission in the college. We would never talk, but greet in a way acknowledging each other whenever we crossed ways however. He was killed and it was a disastrous thing to happen. It could have been me, it could have been anyone else, we literally live at the mercy of Indian armed forces in Kashmir, even a regular college going student wasn’t spared his life. Enraged, we protested only to see our professors and our lady principal get beaten up by army and paramilitary forces. They fired tear gas shells on us directly. I remember running here and there in our big college ground that was wet on that day. I remember students going upstairs and pelting stones on army vehicles that were now inside our college. That was and is the only occasion I have ever participated in stone pelting -a normal thing in Kashmir. I didn’t technically pelt stones, I was assembling stones in my bag and transporting them upstairs to the building that had all our class-rooms, a lecture complex that we called New Block and from where the other students would then throw them on army vehicles. Our little piece of heaven was a battlefield that day. I remember army men entering the main building of our college, that is an awesome piece of architecture, they went upstairs and dug out students from below the benches and injured a dozen of them seriously with their gun-butts.
I remember our Environmental Science prof. trying to hold us back. Till the time SP police arrived more than a dozen students had already been inured and rushed to the hospital. I remember all the profs. not leaving the college and staying with us till every single one of us crossed through the backside gate of our vast sports ground and via the Bund of Gogjibag we all reached Rambag and safely dispersed into the city. Tear gas burned our eyes the entire day and to the extent that I couldn’t sleep that night. There is this strange fact about tear gas canisters and Kashmir. It is the only place in the whole wide world where people have died and continue to die because of tear gas canisters as they aimed and fired directly onto the people. Tears gas shells are supposed to be fired in the air and not to be aimed directly onto the heads of the people, but then we are not talking about any normal place, are we? Kashmir is the highest militarized zone in the entire world and hardly anyone seems to care. People die, everyday. Indian army rapes womenfolks of entire villages. Abducts thousands and buries them in unknown graves and hardly anyone seems to care. 1.25 billion jingoistic Indian voices overshadow our pain and suffering.
If I keep aside my anger and your jingoism too, I would still want to tell you that even though I belong to a generation of Kashmiris who were born under the shadow of gun and have grown up under the repressive Indian policies for Kashmir. Still with all of my conscience I can say to you that we don’t hate Indian people or Indian army. We understand that this is a war and there are no two ways about it. Your army is in Kashmir to keep it with India and to kill insurgents and that they have been doing for about 3 decades now. Indian army can take pride in that and so can you as their fellow countrymen, but as Kashmiris we have been on the receiving side for 3 decades now and we have suffered a lot. I am asking you a question that, before killing an innocent man or before using a college student as human shield, before staging a fake encounter or before raping a woman, should Indian army not think about the pride their country takes in calling itself the world’s largest democracy. Should you as an Indian not think about the promise your first PM made to Kashmiris about their right to self determination that you and your nation have so conveniently forgotten, but we Kashmiris didn’t.
Wake up and clear the haze that has surrounded your understanding of Kashmir and don’t call it what it is not -an integral part.
Thanks for reading.