The Murderer of my Childhood

A Kashmiri Kid kicks an Indian Soldier in the besieged city of Srinagar. (Dar Zubair)
A Kashmiri Kid kicks an Indian Soldier in the besieged city of Srinagar. (Dar Zubair)

 

A picture from Kashmir went viral yesterday, it showed a Kashmiri kid kicking an Indian trooper during the curfew in Srinagar. Why a Kid who barely can make sense of the world would kick an Indian Trooper? What is it that made him kick him?. Is it taught or is he taught to hate  I don’t have the exact answer. I don’t know how to process that reaction in my mind. But I can relate to his feelings.

You see we both were born in a conflict-zone as the political analysts would put it. It is not merely a conflict, it’s much more than just a definition. Political conflicts murder childhoods. They bring in so much pain early on in our lives that we accept bloodshed as a normal happening. Political slogans become a part of our daily vocabulary.A child born and brought up in a conflict zone is more likely to use words like; instigate, encounter, siege, life, hope, condemn, occupation, resolution, negotiation, diplomacy, stalemate, massacre, genocide, aspiration, dreams, freedom, independence, war, deaths… Reading headlines like these have affected my writing style so much that I don’t know how else can I turn the syntax into something else without political terms. It as if I have become them.

When kids around the world would be singing Michael Jackson, we were in the streets singing the songs of blood and freedom.

I was six when there was an encounter going on in our neighbourhood. My father took me along with other neighbours to see what was going on. I wore my brown-coloured-mickey-mouse-slippers which were bought in India during our winter-stays in the capital of Delhi. As we sat down on the parapets of closed shops and there was the usual political discussion while I became engrossed in playing  cricket cards. Suddenly there was a burst of fire on the shop-shutter next to us. We all ran away, my father running with me in his lap. I lost my one slipper in the chaos. I kept crying as it was my favourite slipper. We reached home safely but I kept nagging my father to get my other slipper back. He told me that “I would buy you a new one.” But I didn’t relent, until he was forced to go and fetch it. My mother and grandmother kept scolding me on the street. “Don’t you know what’s going on? Where are your damn brains?” I didn’t know what she meant by what’s going on. I waited, until my father came with the slipper. He threw it at me. I wore it and played with my friends. Wondering what my grandmother meant by what’s going on.

During those days, not many used to talk about incidents of massacres in Kashmir during nights fearing somebody would be spying on us. I would find comfort in my grandmother’s stories. Until one day, somebody was killed in a different neighbourhood and a house was arsoned by Indian Forces. I don’t remember exactly what had happened, but like a faint memory it had murdered my childhood.

In the conflicts, the biggest casualties are the childhoods. It doesn’t matter that there are no statistics to count them or a law to prosecute these murders. What matters are the psychological effects on these kids and how it sticks with them for life. Given the fact that Kashmir has one of the highest rates of PTSD and other psychological disorders, the situation makes it worse.

My innocence was massacred, burnt and raped. My games turned into making militant-caves with Tariq in his father’s firewood heap in the field nearby our home. A military camp was put infront of our lane. At night we were to close all our lights because the camp might think Militants are camping in our home. Everynight there used to be a lightbeam from the camp to check for any ‘activity’. Waking sometimes with gunshots and my uncle with his precise analysis saying “It is far away in this and that colony with this gun.” Slowly, I learnt these skills and names of the ammunition used by Indian Army. In-fact we used to have a competition in school who knew more about guns. Our robber-police became Mujahid-Army, where nobody wanted to stay in the Army until Border (an Indian Film) came.

The army-wallas in the movies were different from those in the real life. When I used to pass them with my mother, they used to pass lewd remarks to my mother. I used to feel furious like anger was burning inside of me. The fire was engulfing within. I hated the sight of them. So did everyone. One day, I heard my mother’s cousin who was a rebel was brutally killed in an encounter. I hated them even more. I just wanted them to go away. Why weren’t they going away? Or when our houses were marked with ‘Checked’ with a charcoal (as in Ali Baba and 40 thieves) by the Army and I was used as a ‘human shield’ to check for ‘terrorists’ in our houses. Hearing stories of my friends who became orphans at the hands of the Army in massacres. Friends who kept using the same uniform for weeks after their house was burnt down with gunpowder with everything in it.

As I grew older, the hate inside of me grew even more. Hating the oppressor became a part of my life. It was a sign of a living conscience. Hating the oppressor is not a sin but a right of the oppressed. It reached its tipping point in 2008. I let go of everything. I felt liberated. And in 2010 Intifada, I was reborn. I have very faint memories of the person I was before 2010. Now every-time I passed an army-man, I would dare to look them in their eyes and not flinch. If the army trooper asked to get something for me, I just ignored him. It was something I always wanted to do in the days of fear.

If you’re wondering why the generation of Kashmiris born in the 1990s are fearless, it is because their fear was killed in the form of a father, a brother, a friend, a neighbour or a cousin. If you’re wondering why the generation of 1990s don’t remain quiet, it is because they are witnesses to the tyranny. It is not because we were taught to hate, we have known no reason to love the occupation. Our hands have smeared the blood of our friends who were killed in 2010. This generation of Kashmiris was born in the era of checkpoints and concertina wires; harassment and beatings with gun-butts: who have seen death in their eyes. Their childhood was murdered by the occupation. Hence they have lost the sense of fear.

Our dreams to be free are not-negotiable. If these flowers who were buds in the 1990s have blossomed into voices, the Indian state cannot crush them. Even if they do, their aroma would spread more and more. These witnesses of tyranny will witness the dawn of their freedom. Insha Allah.

 

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