The Human Shield

Once upon a time in Srinagar the capital of Kashmir. An army camp sprouted up in a neighbourhood. It was in a school which looked like an abandoned house.

The military troops of India used to patrol on the streets everyday and night. Carrying with them the guns that this boy of eight, had seen in movies.
After some time, there used to checking of the neighbourhood houses by these troops. To the disgust of this boy’s mother and grandmother, the troops would walk with mud jackboots on handwoven carpets. Sometime later these troops had stolen milk from the house.

The troops had a habit of making the boys his age work. Like buying cigarettes, chocolates, candies and most importantly Nevla ( a chew tobacco brand)

So once this trooper called on this boy to buy him Nevla. He tried to act as if he didn’t listen. But the troopers voice turned shrill. The boy got scared and he came with his head down. He was commanded to buy two Nevla pockets worth Ten rupees.

This boy disgusted that he would miss first two overs of the cricket match that he was supposed to play in a nearby field. As he walked near the shop, the potato chips and milkybar chocolate started speaking to him. Trying to persuade him to buy them. The boy with his eyes lightened at the prospect of buying milkybar which he only got when his grandfather visited him. He bought the milkybar from the ten rupees the trooper.

He went through a different way to play cricket. Eating the milkybar bite by bite.

As the match finished where he took five wickets which he believed was the result of the milkybar power. He was to go home as the sun had set. He made his way home by climbing over walls of houses so that the trooper won’t see him.

At night when he went to bed. He wondered what the trooper could do to him. Hang him or beat him with soi (nettles) which scared him so much that he started sweating. Or would the trooper kill his entire family. Imagining his family being killed he got horrified.
He went to his mother in the next room and hugged her so tightly. He looked at his younger brother. His younger brother all of five still with a pacifier in his mouth. He started tearing up. He loved him dearly, seeing him in a pool of blood would devastate him. He prayed that night that the troops kill him first, before everyone.

Next morning, he woke to the sounds of bullets being fired from the military camp. He ran to his father, asking him what was going on with a panicky voice.
“The mujahideen are fighting them.”
“Baba, are the mujahideen so brave?”
“Yes they are.”
“Are they like superman or He-Man?”
“First go wash your face.”

This little boy went to wash his face. Thinking are they like superman kicking and punching evil villains. Or are they like the He-man fighting with a sword and fighting skeletors.

He came back to his father. ” So baba, what are they like? He man or Superman?”
“Did you pray?”
“Not yet, first tell me!”
“Go pray first” as the sound of bullets being fired turned into a faint noise.

The little boy prayed as fast as he could.

“So Baba…”
“This battalion is leaving so they were finishing the spare bullets.”
“So there were no Mujahideen?”
“No, have your breakfast now.”
“What is a battalion?”
“They are like a class, so a new class is coming to replace the previous ones.”
“Baba, does that mean no boy from previous class will stay.”
“Yes.”

The little boy jumped and pumped his fists like his favourite bowler Wasim Akram.
“Why are you happy?”
“The previous ones were very noisy and didn’t do their homework.”

After few weeks the Mujahideen killed many troops from the new battalion in the neighbourhood. The little boy was dragged from his home by the Troops. He was made into a human shield to flush out militants from the house nearby.

The little boy cried and cried. Pleading for help and asking for mercy. ” I will give you the ten rupees back. Take my money pot. Take all of it. Please leave me.”

As he entered the house alone. A mujahid who seemed like 17 years old held him and hugged him. He was taken upstairs to the 15 other mujahideen were holed up.

“Little brother, don’t worry Allah will keep you safe.”
The boy unassured of his safety felt unmoved. He kept crying, the young mujahid gave him chocolates. “I hate them, keep them away.”

The boy kept quiet as the mujahideen prayed and the young mujahid kept guard. The boy too joined the prayers.

The troopers in the meanwhile had sprayed gun-powder on the entire house.

Soon, the house was in flames. And nobody survived. The entire neighbourhood was engulfed in fire. All the houses burnt to ashes.

They were no supermen to the might of the monsters and villains. And the boy’s prayers were answered.

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