BY Hakeem Irfan
The razor wires, barbed wire mentality, troops, dogs, garbage, bullets, tear smoke canisters, rubber bullets, pallet guns, murders, injuries, hospital, ambulance, protests, identity card, dialogue, peace, treason, apathy, promise break, impotent curfew pass and of course the CURFEW itself. The vocabulary has reduced to these words in present day Kashmir. The paragraphs and columns are all the probabilities of just these words.
The vehicle with public address system arrives around six in the morning and announces the schedule for the day. But thanks to Ramzan, we still wake up a little before the announcement for prayers. It is curfew today. Strict orders of shoot at sight. The respectable citizens are directed not to come out of their homes. Those who do not want to be respected will be greeted with bullets. The unseen man in the vehicle announces. Many say it is a file audio recorded in times of Ghulam Muhammad Shah (Gul Curfew) in 1980’s. It continues…
Interestingly the dreaded vehicle awakens three year old Huvaid in my neighborhood for freedom. Huvaid announces his day by crying out pro-freedom slogans from window of his second story room after the curfew is in force. He gathers all his energy to a level that many other neighbors wake up to his call. So the third call after dawn. The Azaan, the curfew call and Huvaid’s slogan. Huvaid has a typical habit of saying things aloud and he does so every time. Even when he shouts at his mother to clean him after going to washroom. He enjoys the morning clarion call from the vehicle. He is too young for prayers. But seems this shouting has turned into prayer for him.
Huvaid’s rhymes have changed. The ‘Azadi’ and ‘Ragda’ have got internalized. They say the transition has taken place. It is now with the next generation. He also has managed to buy a slingshot and a stylish toy gun on Eid morning. He enjoys the power. The window of Huvaid’s room looks like a pulpit. He waves his hands to none from the window every morning. The kitchen garden and trees in his compound are the audience probably. He shouts at birds and aims at pet cat with his toy gun. His parents are preparing for his admission in a good school. They have saved lots of money. He is the only son.
The story repeats next morning.
Huvaid is again crying. The vehicle has arrived. The announcement from the vehicle have ended so have the ones from Huvaid. But Huvaid is crying. Differently, He is hungry and wants to have MILK. But the milkman could not arrive yesterday. It was curfew. Huvaid’s parents could not buy milk from other place as well. He refuses to stop. He cries and cries, loud. He is not able to articulate his hunger for milk in words. His otherwise naughty face and dark blue eyes are saying it all. He has to remain content with Kehwa (green tea) as powder milk is not good for young children. After sometime Huvaid surprisingly stops crying and raises the pro-freedom slogans more vociferously. He seems to have managed both the temptation and hunger for milk at a very young age.
Many curfew hours have passed. People offer mid-day prayers inside their homes. Masjids on main roads are all alone. After praying the young people talk about the TV debates and Facebook updates about the situation till afternoon. The Facebook contest the media figures about deaths and injuries. The journalism is trivialized. The Sufa (resting place adjacent to masjid) speculations are hot.
One of the persons on Sufa had also visited a nearby hospital a day before during curfew for treatment. He had to apologize to troopers for falling ill at wrong time in wrong place. He prayed to Almighty to make it possible to fall ill at will. Otherwise one could lose his life just for a stomach ache in Kashmir.
With the hot speculations on cold autumn Sufa going on the narrated the real time story. He said that CRPF personnel were milking a cow outside bunker at main Rainawari chowk. He milked nearly five liters out of the holy cow in an unholy way (theft) till he came back from the hospital. The cow according to him was of his neighbor who had taken it for grazing to a nearby graveyard early in the morning. However the owner was chased and thrashed by CRPF and the holy cow was detained.
He being patient and more importantly the other could not say anything and was thanking the Indian troops for allowing him to enter the HOSPITAL premises although after a slap and hard baton shot at his butt.
Meanwhile meeting ended in masjid as somebody shouted from outside that the army patrol is coming again. Back to the TV rooms.
Huvaid is crying again in his garden as his father tries calming him. The curfew hours continued. Late in the night around 11 pm milkman arrives with three liters of milk. Limping along with two small buckets of milk. Huvaid was sleeping and preparing for the next day. The energizer will be available for the next day now. Milkman stayed a bit longer at Huvaid’s place narrating his ordeal of being thrashed by the army a day before and his cow detained and milked by them. This is why he could not get milk for Huvaid and family. Huvaid was starved of milk sadly.
The supply of milk is choked. It has created problems especially for the families with new born babies and tweens. The women folk are seen wandering with the lamps late night searching for even a half liter of milk. The milk is no longer easily available.
A young patient advised to take cold milk by the doctor had to be admitted in a hospital. Many stories of this sort abound.
The repercussions of curfew on Kashmiris are evident and clear but the animals too are facing the brunt. A month back a Murga (rooster) was beaten to death by Indian troops during the curfew. He became the first martyr among its race. It was darling of some twenty hens. They too are mourning. Recently a Facebook picture showed troopers stealing chicken from a coop. A dog was smashed to death by a speedy Indian army vehicle few days back.
Huvaid had a human right to have milk, holy cow had animal right to not to be milked forcibly, dog had the right to search for food and the rooster had a right as well to enjoy the company of twenty hens. They have not spared any.
PS: Maneka Gandhi’s time to say something. May be she could devote the Gandhi part of her name to Human Rights as well in this case.
Hakeem Irfan Madroo is a Kashmiri journalist based in New Delhi.