Among the saints of Kashmir: A meeting in wilderness

It was a quiet, sultry summer. The fighters had come from a long distance to hold a meeting with a newly appointed commander in Kupwara district of the valley, north of Kashmir. Tiered, the fighters took a bath in the nearby stream, on a hanging giant rock overlooking almost a dozen Indian army posts situated in a strategic way to keep an eye on the movement of local population. There was an aura of uncertainty in the air. The commander, a young soul with inexplicable military knowledge and skills, was waiting  for his fellow fighters desperately. I was a non combatant fulfilling my individual responsibility to assist those fighting the horrendous military occupation and fully aware of the consequences of doing such a job. I was always ready to face the outcomes of walking on this path but never preferred to evade the moral responsibility I believe everyone has in a place like Kashmir. I usually prepared food for the fighters and watched them cleaning their guns. A long rope with a piece of metal on its one end to probably pass it through the barrel of the weapon easily and a soft white cloth with red strips on its another end. They were pulling the rope through the barrel with a bit force. A “ Pull through” they were calling it! 

As they talked, I was following their exchange avidly. I had been doing so since I came in contact with them. But this time it was about settler colonialism and hence a long meeting. Longest I have ever witnessed. Not caring about the terrain and time, they continued their talk till the Muazzins started calling for the prayers. The calls seemed echoing in the air distantly. It was otherworldly. Flocks and flocks of Jackdaws were passing in the twilight of the dusk, going back home or attending a marriage as we believed in our childhood! Numerous ropes of smoke were coming up from villages down the hill. I was trying to identify my home. Difficult and irritating it was. But then a sudden peace prevailed! Every house looked mine, every dimly shining roof was my own! The wagons running like aunts on macadamized roads started flashing their headlights as it was getting dark and quiet. A word from commander came. Make ablution and prepare for prayers. He lead the maghrib prayers as if leading the funeral of evenings of all adversaries. The fighters were done devising their plans to counter a looming threat. I knew they were true to their words and brave enough to defend their homeland with blood. They usually write their verdict with their own blood, with their youth and life!

That day I realised that that the jackboots of oppression, exploitation, occupation and epistemic injustice may, apparently, be stronger but the resistance, even under life-ceasing circumstances, continues with much enthusiasm and eagerness. The unshakable belief in the dawn of freedom will continue to be the religion of resistance and no enemy, however brutal, however powerful can overpower such people!

It was time to depart. Fighters in one direction and their commander in another. I had to bid them adieu and reach home before the evening meal was over in the kitchen. Amid the howling of jackals, hum of bees and the vroom of armoured vehicles, I reached home. Safe! I walked into kitchen where mother was waiting desperately for me to come. Her face brightened as I stepped in. Mother’s in Kashmir have been at the receiving end of this political situation here. India’s politico-military occupation has shattered this community and yet they are dealing with it bravely. Mothers here have been actively involved in resistance against forcible military occupation of our homeland.

It had been almost three months since that meeting. Rice cultivation was over and weather was turning dry and cold. A young boy draping a muffler unevenly around his neck showed up on our door. A stranger and yet familiar one whose eyes seemed in constant search for something big and beautiful. He was carrying a message. A written short note; a token of resistance and valour. The enemy’s plans to accelerate the demographic changes in the region and our indomitable will to fight back was what one could read between the lines. The commander had not given up nor had his fighters lost their spirit of fighting back! The all out war waged against us is to be countered at any costs, the commander had written. The message carried a short description of what can be called as a prompt action against an imminent danger. Heart of a Rebel!

We had a long chat. The boy seemed angry and energetic! A restless soul eager to do whatever one can to avoid what can be called an onslaught on ones religion and identity. How can a belligerent occupying force put curbs on people with such hearts and minds? Impossible, indeed. He had to go. I watched him walk away and fade in the fog leaving behind a trail of hope; a path of respect and dignity to follow!

Another boy has showed up! Mother is preparing food for us. A cold breeze is passing through trees as if breathing life in them. We can hear a cicada chourusing on a dead tree. There is another one!

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