Article 370 Post Abrogation Clampdown: Despair and Gloom – Basit Farooq, Kashmir

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The territory of the barbed wire. Border with a fence.

“Don’t you know anything about my Abu, he asked and fainted down”

It was fine morning of October with Autumn widening its arms to put more leaves down, to dry up lips and put cracks on faces, to make people realize that there is an end to everything, and also to the dreams which people often sing for, and thus bring death to almost every thing breathing. However, this year, I wanted to talk to autumn,I so wanted to say that “This year all living beings in Kashmir have been already cut down, paralyzed and even anesthetized, please”. I normally would sit outside and put my gaze to a little tree in the premises of my house, its leaves fell one after other, the tyrant autumn left nothing undone to undress the tree, make the tree feel that power is supreme and it can make everything dance to its tunes, but I would hear the tree crying perhaps for the leaves falling apart from it, it however wouldn’t astonish me for the aches of this separation were already known to me. With cages outside and barricades put all along the road, it didn’t though seem a road anymore but signified the struggles of life to get to some safe side in Kashmir. I however wanted this tree to hear, only to reduce its pain that; people are torn here with pain in every heart, that birds no more fly in sky, there is but no road for people to walk on, the thoughts are controlled and mouths are sealed. This morning back to my bed however I had woke up perhaps with same lazy energy and with no visible work to do, I thought of Sleeping again before getting out of bed. Who would have thought that the fixed and inflicted line up of living in Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 would change this day (even if only for me to an over emotional reaction) I looked upon newspaper, read normal course headlines with today’s being “Clampdown enters 69th day”. Clampdown, it meant; no cellular phone connectivity, no landlines, no mobile internet, no broadband services. We were thrown into early Stone Age with only difference of fire, fire in our hearts, eyes, and minds and even in thoughts. The fire didn’t burn anything other than our bodies, the ashes weren’t visible deep pain was, life here has been same all away. Time is not precious here, the people aren’t worth anything, they can’t be productive, and it’s futile both ways for people to think other way, past two decades in the valley made us learn that. They throw you into Stone Age in the name of development.
A day before clampdown, in otherwise hot summer, a cold breeze ran down my spine when my friend from North Kashmir called me down to South Kashmir and said it might be his last call to me and asked for forgiveness. I remained dead stuck like corpse lies just before it’s taken in coffin, with pale face and dry throat it all killed inside. I was scared, with hands shivering I opened window pane to see people running in lanes like the ghosts were after them, to stock pile everything for months due to the fear of no one getting back to normal course of life any sooner. I couldn’t say anything back to my friend on call and heard him last saying “ we will meet again, promise me, we will meet again ? ”, I felt he was crying for everything ahead was uncertain now, uncertain was life and so were the conditions where he wanted me to make a promise with him, a promise that we will meet. My heart gave me courage to imagine for fighting against all odds and keeping my word to meet him, before I could say it to him, cellular networks were down. I couldn’t complete my words but a breeze flew and passed by my face, I replied in air to him hoping against all odds that the waves might reach him and make our promise intact. I looked down and gazed at tree in the lawn, its leaves were no dancing with breeze, perhaps the breeze whispered it to leaves that gloom is coming over to take all life away and in the middle of moonlight night, a dark phase has started. The moon looked down and burst out in laughter at the promise I made to my friend for the moon had known it all over years and decades that people in Kashmir were always deceived by promises.
It no more was same this time, Life came to a standstill. The sky seemed no brighter any day, the clouds would gather in sky but it won’t rain any day. Everything looked dull, dead and decayed. I longed for my friend very impatiently; with hope to see him again I singed songs on his name to the tree in my lawn. It listened to my words though they were scattered. The loneliness in longing made me realize how hard it is to live with a mere hope, for hope is an incurable malady. However, I wasn’t alone in this longing, my neighbors son was outside Kashmir, a B-tech student, “I have no money, want to come home” last he said, before cellular connectivity was down, clampdown was imposed. Every day, his mother would stare the gate of her house, a broken wooden gate with one side open, perhaps or her son who might come someday. She would stare it for hours, with hands supporting her face she looked all along on it. I remember once her son was playing football, he hit the same weak wooden gate and broke it with his kick. The gate was never fixed, perhaps, it too was longing for him to come and give it final kick to death. However, with ample time only to pass, it though seemed to never pass I looked upon houses in my neighborhood, these fine high buildings seemed no longer exciting; the walls seemed losing their color, gates of houses no longer opened, imprisoned in house, she stood in her garden looking at her dress. A bride to be next week just after clampdown knew nothing about her marriage. She was in her mid 30s, tall, fair perhaps pale now due to pain, her anxiety made her laugh in depression. She was laughing at her fate, perhaps at everything and even at her mehndi (henna)added hands. She too was in longing, a painful longing for her marriage. The time however didn’t pass easily, with all this pain around, it was like being trapped in a maelstrom, I thought that I was someone else, someplace else. Sometimes someone would notice me, look at me, and I would be ashamed to be caught so deep inside my day dreams’ i missed my friend.
However, the days would slowly pass with no change in the normal course of life, I some how one day looked at the pictures of my friend. With grief in my heart I never knew that any separation would be this hard, like a moth dies in love with fire my heart knew no other wounds than the last given by his separation. I had him as my companion; my fragile shoulder’s never felt so heavy for this love of friendship was something charismatic. A month so passed with one more month, life looked with same gloom and one fine evening I ached in my heart suddenly, I thought of my friend for every timeI would feel unease I would think of him and pray for his safety. I remembered how his Abu (father), the other person in his only two member family, used to make us laugh. My friend loved me a lot after him; his Abu meant world for him and world meant his Abu. I had a strange relation with his Abu, he would tell me stories with moist eyes every time, first time I met him he called me son and I was a third family member now.

These thoughts made me restless and with more unease in my heart, I decided to visit my friend next morning. I left from home and reached his house braving all odds and hurdles. I had a plan to surprise him, but excitement didn’t let me wait at the door of his house and I entered directly to find him in kitchen, the usual place where he would be to cook food. I caught him by surprise and we both laughed with moist eyes. I hugged him and felt like I was embraced by heaven’s child. I kept my promise I said, I kept my promise. He looked back into my eyes with joy and tears like pearls came out of his eyes, he was earlier strong, bold but I sensed he was this time broken. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, a healthy strong person had turned very fragile, dark circles around and fire in his eyes. He was no more energetic, no more cheerful; he looked calm as a sea and mute as a fish. The joy of meeting him however got over me and I hugged him again.

I asked about Abu with excitement in my voice, “Don’t you know anything about Abu, he asked and fainted down, Abu passed away one month before, he said. It shook my soul, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t talk. I had not been with my friend when he needed me most;I had left him all alone. Yes, the siege separated us, it tore us apart. I couldn’t help my friend;I have lived in guilt there after. But, who do I ask for all the pain my friend has bore all alone. Our loved one’s always remained helpless in difficult times of their lives, we can blame and so rightly the illegal sieges put every time, had there been cellular Connectivity, if not anything, I would have listened to my friends heart and grief.
And perhaps, that’s why the moon was laughing at my promise for I didn’t meet my friend when he needed me the most.

The author is student of law at Department of law, University of Kashmir and can be reached at Basitfarooq418@gmail.com

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