Wednesday, July 01, 2009

You can't curfew our hearts

A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man.

Baramulla is a small, hilly, quaint township in north Kashmir. As I blog, it has been curfewed over. The orders may have been announced or unannounced but everyone has to adhere or you die. If you perchance don't know that a chocolate-color-curfew [the only presence is the cops/CRPF with their brown outfits, lording over empty roads and street dogs] is on, you may well be shot in the head or heart by a CRPF jawan lying in wait. In the last 36 hours, five kids have been killed in this fashion. Their only crime was that they had gotten together [in their naivety or in a bout of emotional impulse] to protest alleged misbehavior charges against the local police by a woman, which has since been rubbished by the cops. In the 21st century Kashmir you can't show your fists. Expression is dangerous. Resentment is prohibited. Dreams have been curfewed over.

Agree a furor exists. Agree that there is a huge mistrust that people harbor against India and the state government, agree that the same cops said a month back that those two unfortunate Shopian girls bore no injury marks and died of drowning [since proven wrong], agree that there is a trust deficit with the police who even failed to register an FIR in Shopian for a long while [eventually forced to do so], agree that the separatist leadership has been severely gagged, agree that people are genuinely angry at the Omar led government’s insensitivity, especially the way things were mis-handled in the aftermath of the rape and murder case -- not a dram of remorse exists. Instead the local police and CRPF -- exactly the likes of riff-raff -- who when they are not killing, while their time away by smoking bidis and cutting off color jokes while watching C-grade Hindi films, have been given a free rope. And boy do they whip the people!

I don’t know how to put it straight but people get beaten up a lot in Kashmir. And that shit happens everyday. People are slapped on highways and lowlands. In orchards and bylanes. For little or no reason. The catch is high-handedness. Ergo, to break up an instant protest, the Khaki scoundrels use excessive violence, which is not only disproportionate but plain inhuman. The fiercely independent Kashmir Times correctly editorializes that they are armed with blanket powers under the prevailing draconian laws and enjoy immunity for their acts. The dreaded instrument of repression is evident in the kind of blatant human rights abuses they commit and get away with. Omar, the new CM with old prejudices, can’t do much. He can, however, promise enquiries as the body count grows.

There are restrictions on movement. There are house arrests. There are beatings. There are bayonets held up to scare us. There are tear-gas canisters. There are furious bullets piercing innocent 20-somethings. There are attempts to silence protest. When has the stick suppressed the giggle of children? For 62 long years there have been protests, even before that. It is a mad trapeze in our hearts. They attempt to disperse people, chasing unruly crowds but fail to disperse the aspiration that hangs still in the smoked air.

You can curfew the lanes but not our dreams.