My encounter with Baramulla Police

Abid R Baba

Very rarely our staunch beliefs or ideologies are shaken to the core by a single incident or a mishap. A human’s ability to stand firm on his beliefs, puts us on a different pedestal than that of other creations.
I grew up near a volatile town in Indian occupied Kashmir’s north, but had no doubts about India’s positive role in the restive region. My friends, although love me, but on the point of supporting India, would always have discussion and arguments with me. They would ridicule my ideology but, that wouldn’t deter me anyway.
I was a staunch patriot who preferred to listen patriotic songs by Mahindar Kapoor, Mukesh Kumar Mathur, Mohammad Aziz, Muhammad Rafi and others on various occasions like Gandhi Jayanti, India’s Independence and Republic day. I preferred to praise the sacrifices laid down by India for gaining Independence like Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom, Gandhi’s assassination, massacre of Jallianwala Bagh and many other important events of historical importance. I had a soft corner for Indian Army and so called ‘security forces’ including these mortals of lesser importance who are trained to catch and Kill- 2 lac Kashmiri policemen. I removed numerous ‘miscreant friends’ from my Facebook on the pretext of their supporting FREE KASHMIR. . It was only till this Security setup taught me a lesson of being a patriot.
I am magazine buff so I have been reading about the claims of both the countries about our fertile Kashmir. While Pakistan calls it its jugular vein and India its atoot ang (integral part) and crown which it is not.
I preferred to cheer for Sachin Tendulkar over Shahid Afridi, during India-Pakistan cricket matches much to the irritation of my friends and family. But, I always thought difference of opinion was healthy and on occasions I would give in to the opposing viewpoint, but that wouldn’t change my ideology.
I feel sorry to say that I remained immune to the happenings around me. I know when people read this they would not be pleased with me. But in the hindsight, I feel a dramatic change was inevitable. An incident in Baramulla town changed my thoughts forever. When I think about it now, I understand that the events leading to the incident played a very important role.
I realized the importance of the countryside people then, I became a real “Muhibbe Watan” thereafter. Up till now, you might be curious to know what happened actually. Let me tell you it is an unpleasant experience, it taught me how to love your land, your people, your Kashmir, its culture.
It gave me an impetus to stand up and free my land from the clutches of Occupation with whatever way I can. On the fateful day, I was enraged. Several thoughts popped up my mind. Like shall I opt for Gun? My skinny stance didn’t allow me to opt for such rigorous task. Throughout the night, I kept asking myself, was it a bad dream? Shall I forget it that way?
I instead opted for Pen. I chose to ink the tales of grief, gloom and sadness. In this conflict torn region everybody has his woeful tale to narrate. I chose Journalism to represent my Kashmir on global level. To let the world know the sufferings of turmoil torn Kashmiris. Every time I sit down to write the melancholy of my Kashmir, that Incident strikes my mind. It strengthens me to be more loyal towards the aspirations of my motherland-Kasheer.
India, through conspiracies, tricks and tactics has left no stone unturned to gulp the rich resources of Kashmir. There is murky politics and conspiracy going on in Indian union at New-Delhi where it is being discussed how to crush our dissent. But amid conspiracies and oppression, Kashmir’s young brigade is showing resilience like never before. My fellow young brethren want to breathe in FREE KASHMIR.
When I say FREE KASHMIR, I mean Kashmir without Military Jackboots, without trauma, without bunkers, without concertina, without killings, without heavy armored vehicles. Without the presence of gun-toting beasts. Without the evil eyed illiterate Indian paramilitary men. Without frisking, without crackdowns, without pellets, without bullets, without tear smoke shells, without mass graves, without widows and half- widows, without renegades and without collaborators.
I want my Kashmir Free. Free from the power hungry politicians, free from puppets, free from enforced involuntary disappearances, free from harassments, Free from third degree tortures, rapes and murderers. Enough is enough, we are fed up now, and we have faced a lot of tyranny, a lot. A humble request to communal saffron Prime Minister here: Please don’t fiddle with us, we will burst and the consequences thereof will not be dangerous.
I am sorry for prolonging this write-up so long but my bruised soul is an unexploded shell. Stories of the ongoing bloody conflict are oozing out like the gush of waters. Let me restrict this write-up to that very particular incident only which changed me for good.
In that month, I for the first time stepped outside Kashmir valley. Having believed in the concept of India, I was anxious and curious to see the outside world. Although, I was visiting to seek cure for my eye, it never seemed to take away the joy of traveling to Indian capital. I took the highway—the only surface link between Kashmir and the rest of the world— and arrived in Jammu late in the evening. Pertinently On reaching Jammu, our driver told us that he had earned eight hundred rupees but men in Khaki (read Kashmiri Policemen) demand not less than a hundred rupee note after every three miles from Qazigund to Jawahar tunnel. “I have three daughters back home. I was thinking of getting them married but you see how I shall?” He sighed and showered some choicest abuses towards them out of sheer annoyance.
From there, I boarded a train to New Delhi. Excited, I chatted with my co-passengers. Two of them were boys of my age, and initially we got along well. But, when they started to talk about Kashmir conflict, I started to feel insecure. Every accusation from their side it seemed was hurled at me. I had become Kashmir. Perhaps for the first time, I remained mum and didn’t express my viewpoint during a discussion on Kashmir conflict. Then a thought descended upon me: despite having a diametrically opposite ideology and a penchant to express it loud and clear I never felt so unsafe between my people. The thought just killed me.
Delhi wasn’t what I had thought. I neither felt like a stranger in a big city or a traveler without destination. I just felt so disconnected. A fortnight in the capital city, and I was done. What I had thought would be freedom proved to be utter suffocation. When I reached Kashmir, a sense of freedom despite the military footprint and the concertina overwhelmed me. There were tears in my eyes.
I reached home. The proverbial— safe as a house couldn’t have been truer. But, how safe was I. Two day after I returned, I went to a bank to credit money. It was a usual day; people were moving around, nothing could catch your eye. But as I came out from the bank, I saw a group of policemen puffing cigarettes just outside the bus stop. Having being a participant to many governmental and non-governmental campaigns against smoking since my schooldays, the activist in me couldn’t resist.
I tried hard, but could not and I slowly moved to the place just next to Baramulla Public school where the group of policemen was puffing cigarettes. Deep down, I now think, I had an idea of the repercussions, but at that moment nothing seemed to matter. In an extremely mild tone, I requested the policemen: “It is unlawful to smoke at public places and the government has banned smoking or selling cigarettes across the country since Oct 02, 2008.” Perturbed, they looked at me queerly but didn’t spoke a word. I was quick to add after I gauged their “helpless” body language, “See, It contains some toxic chemicals like nicotine and isoprenoids which harms our health.” I continued. They put their heads down and walked away. I felt empowered.
Keen to share my heroics with my friends and other associates, I had no idea that the feeling of empowerment would last only for few minutes. As I was waiting for the bus to reach my village, a white colored Maruti car came to a screeching halt in front of me. The policemen, whom I had asked not to smoke in a public place which causes inconvenience to others, were inside in civvies. Before, I could get a sense of things: I was bundled in to the private car as people who were waiting under a Chinar near Karyappa Park looked dumbfounded.
There I realized how it feels when a teenager is taken in custody when these “lawbreakers” pounce upon him. While the car moved at a neck-breaking speed, I was badly assaulted and abused. When the car neared to the Police station, the driver shouted at the gatekeeper, “Fast, fast, fast, otherwise the situation would turn ugly.” Inside the premises of the police station, I was dragged into the building.
They took away my valuables and started beating me with whatever they could get hand on. Then they stopped, picked up my cell phone and started dialing my female friends. They abused them, I felt helpless, the rage inside surged. Had I not controlled my tempers, it would have lead me in great trouble. I cursed myself, but they would not stop till my phone ran out of balance.
As a concerned citizen, I had told them not to smoke in public as passive smokers get more harm. That was my fault. Despite being ruthlessly beaten, I tried to put across the reason behind my ‘daring act’ but nothing seemed to work. Instead a policeman told his colleague: “why did you spare him at that moment, you should have shot him dead.”
They called their other colleagues one after the other and everyone gave me some disgusted looks and tortured me emotionally. After three hours of begging and pleading, they let me go. This is how I got my Identity check- A Kashmiri.

An avid Reader, passionate writer, magazine buff, music lover, Abid Rashid Baba studies journalism. He can be mailed at: universalbaba99@gmail.com

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