Persecution has a shape, and a weight and a texture. This summer it is unmistakably evident in Kashmir. Mornings fetch sad tidings here. The beautiful garden that is Kashmir appears run over by strange creatures. When a crisp blue suddenly gives way to dreary evenings, it is sadness beyond comfort. That has become out subroutine. Kids engage the cops, who in turn shoot them in the head or heart, tempers fray, the government shuffles a tad, strikes follow, there is furious sloganeering and curfew. The action shifts to another corner of the garden. Evil emissaries’ prowl. With whips in their hands. They smell of funk and coconut oil.
I am summering in Kashmir and it is kind of bittersweet. Hopping out of the home is a challenge. My media accreditation cards allow me to drive a bit but I am not to venture near the war-zone. That is where the action is: young men – aged 20 and less – try and engage the CRPF in a battle of wits. A devil-may-care ferocity looms. The police train their guns on the kids. 11 boys were killed in this fashion in June alone. And the spiral continues. The government calls the kids rioters. While the claim cannot be substantiated given the government’s track record of speaking nothing but untruth on Kashmir, one finds it hard to put an exact expression to this fury.
Mosque loud-speakers are blaring out old cassettes. They ask people to get out of their comfort zones and gather. God knows how the magniloquent songs of revolution survived these two decades to mysteriously emerge now when no one even cared to remember the lyrics. I don’t frankly fancy the verbosity of the songs but I must concede that the Azadi sentiment hasn’t exactly withered in Kashmir. It lies torpid and in a state of suspended consciousness. People go out and even vote in between the dormant years but it never really goes away. That is the take-home twenty years later.
The strike is now supplemented by a curfew. There are fetters around the garden. Imagine a life where you are kept within bounds, your phones are jammed and your expression is severely gagged. People still find ways and means to sneak out and forgather near their homes. They exchange back-fence talk and speak in exaggerated tones. Someone says that the cops are coming. Some places the crowd simply melts into the alleys. Other places the mob sticks like glue. A confrontation ensues. There is sound of tear-gas shells exploding. The shells come down like handfuls of nails flung hard by a seriously riled sky. Then there is wailing.
The cycle repeats.