“I haven’t really heard about someone’s suicide after military torture, Yawar’s is the first incident of suicide I heard”; A Kashmiri student from Aligarh Muslim University

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Interview with Kashmiri students in India part 5

”Every day we used to read news. We were very worried about the condition back home. We were getting news about shut downs, curfews, people being killed by security forces, no direct news comes from there, phone lines were shut, land lines were shut. When I went back on 18th, my dad, they called me on 17th, we had a marriage function at my place, I was waiting for that call. I was not sure if it was happening, they have cancelled it or postponed, when they called me they told I can come.
My dad came to the airport to pick me, my flight was around 6.25 in the morning. We reached home, on the high way there were security forces everywhere which had been brought recently outside the valley. Apart from the security forces that is deployed already they have bought nearly one lakh or more forces. On the high way they were asking curfew passes, strict restrictions. Still we managed to reach. The marriage was solemnized, earlier they expected three hundred to four hundred guests. But after the abrogation of article 370 they had to shorten the number. Everything was normal, but that uneasiness, that silence was all around. People were not sure what is going to happen. Are they going to protest, nobody was sure. The leadership was put in jail. There was not any news. The cable TV was shut. My dad listens to the radio. He was listening to BBC and Voice of America. Initially I was very worried, uncomfortable and then I got used to it. People being stopped, questioned, if I had to go only towards two three kilometers from my home, there would be a check post. Public transport was off, people who have got their own vehicles, two wheelers or four wheelers they can go. On Fridays there are additional restrictions. On the evenings I saw people moving out of their homes. I went to Srinagar two three times, on my two wheeler, in the morning I saw people moving out, government employees were being asked to maintain their attendance, they had to mark their attendance and come back. Meanwhile I saw few public transport vehicles people runs for their own business. The teachers were asked to come to the schools by the paramilitary forces but they can’t force the children. In the prime time they show that we are opening the schools we are opening the government offices, nothing of that sort is happening really. Government employees go mark their attendance and come back. Someone who didn’t go to the office for two three days I heard two three cases where police or someone from crg department goes to the employee’s house to question why they are not coming to the office. Mostly Fridays are more tensed, people naturally expect on Fridays there will be stone pelting, there will be protests and people remain confined to their houses.
The difference I saw there from previous agitations, from 2016, 2010, or 2008, there were no protest this time where say ten thousand people marched to a particular place because nobody was sure what we are going to be asked to do by the separatists or pro aazadi sentiment people. People are confined to their houses, in the evening they would go out for shoping, the shutters of the shops are half shut. Earlier I used to just roam around, this time I confined mostly to the house. I had gone to the centre where computers are set for the journalists to access the internet, that day internet wasn’t working properly, it was too slow. During the first two weeks the news was only about Srinagar area, nobody had access to faraway places like Baramulla or border districts like Kupwara or South Kashmir, that was inaccessible. Now the stories of torture and oppression are coming out.
I was stopped three or four times while I was moving around, at eight in the evening. They ask for the ID, where I am from, where I’m going etc. everything was under the control of army. Once I was talking to two soldiers, they were asking me what I’m feeling about the article 370. I normally don’t indulge in discussions but I told them I feel this is not a good step. But they started talking about Modi, development etc. I tried to convince them but I found they were typical bugs. They were talking about JK police they don’t trust the police, they say the police are joining hands with militants. I heard a local DYSP of my area was beaten by CRPF people saying that when we are able to control our area, when there are no protests in our area how could you let this protest happen in your jurisdiction? I don’t know if that is a rumor but I heard this.
Journalists were being stopped at many places. In Srinagar area they can move, in the interior area they can’t move, the down town area of Srinagar, there were restrictions all the time. I went twice there, most of the roads are blocked by barbed wires, only at some places the roads are open, I didn’t see any journalists visiting our area, but now I’m reading news that a journalist from a particular media house could visit my area, restrictions are still there. The government is trying to normalize the situation by asking people to open their shops, markets, come to the offices so that they can show the world everything is normal and people are happy after revocation of article 370. People are observing civil curfew. If the government is asking to open a shop the shopkeeper shuts it down. Last days I was there at several places militants came and asked the shopkeepers to close their shops. Many people were beaten, who defied. Right now the army can’t contact their local collaborators, so they patrol the streets all the time, even if they get small information they raid the place. They are trying to normalize the situation but people are defying everything. People are asked to stay inside their houses and do their business in the house.
I was talking to a police officer who is my neighbor. He was saying that the police department is surprised, people are not really protesting, peacefully or not except the mass rally that took place in Soura I couldn’t see any mass rally taking place there. He was saying people should come out to protest holding placards, if there is force used then they can disperse, but a message should go to the world, like look we are protesting.  Even I am surprised, I don’t know the reason behind this. People are so calm right now, is that the fear of state repression or is that because all those who are taken by the state to jail, huge number of people, around twenty or thirty thousand people. May be that might be the case. Front-lines are taken away so people are not really sure. I am waiting for the communication coming back. Then we will see what happens. Because during all these days we can only hear rumors, someday we will get to know two three guys are killed in Srinagar, but concrete information doesn’t reach us. I am waiting for the information clampdown to get over. Then people will get to know about the stories about Kashmiris who had been martyred. Let’s wait.
They want to create fear psychosis. It really is happening. Families are afraid for their children. Their children are being taken away. I don’t know how did they knew about this, but I was hearing about general assembly meeting from last one month, they were hopefully looking at Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s speech in UN General Assembly. People have really high hopes for Pakistan. They say if that country stops supporting us we are finished. Still we have hopes. Movements they can’t stop, ideas can’t be caged. The fight continues, we will see what happens.
I haven’t really heard about a guy or someone going for suicide after torture. In my life, Yawar’s is the first incident I am hearing. If someone is tortured and pushed through all these, if they ask one to come to the police station or army camp if they are pushed to the wall, then they go for the guns, armed method. But suicide I haven’t heard in my life. His is the first case I have heard. This is the surface of stories. When the communication comes back and journalists get access to faraway places, the world will hear much more stories. My home is a hotbed of resistance, Palhallan. That place is known for 2000’s resistance. In a single night four to five people were killed by security forces. This village is showing very week resistance, people are being calculated right now. People were addicted to protest calendars issued by Hurriyat, right now nothing of that sort is happening. Those who used to participate in stone pelting are taken away before 5th August. During the night raids army who gets little bit of any information about a guy who participated in a protest they get hold of him. I don’t hope this situation would change so soon. People are now mentally prepared to hold it for much longer times.
The education system in Kashmir particularly is going down since last ten or twenty years. During 2008 agitation I was in my 10th class. We were away from school for almost six months. Then again in my 12th class in 2010 we were asked by the JK board which conducts the school examination to attend the exam and prepare only for the fifty percent of the syllabus. We were examined only for that.
Children are really suffering. I don’t know what would happen to them, staying away from school for six to eight months continuously during these years. This is a phase when a child learns about the world, of the whole things. For one who is sitting idly for long at home, it is spoiling their lives. Parents right now are not so much concerned about the education, they are more concerned about the safety of the kids. A kid was going for tuition hit by pellets while passing a protest. These things happen. Parents are concerned. For higher education or senior secondary schools government doesn’t want them to come so soon to school or college.
In last years, there were very sporadic protests, very strong student movement. Students protests in schools and then government shuts schools for two three days or even a week, they fear the students might protest. I’m brought up in the shadow of the gun. I have seen people being beaten in the crack downs, now they are called cordon operations. During those days people from a particular village are asked to assemble in a play ground or an open space and then identification parade would be carried. This generation is seeing protests, they are becoming really strong day by day. The fear for the armed forces that was there in my days when I was a child is no more in the current generation. Fear is the biggest weapon in the hands of the state. People are ready to fight and take on the armed forces be it by protests and by joining the armed struggle. We can say it is a positive thing for the moment. We are seeing this situation from twenty years now. Even when there is shortage of food we locally collect food and distribute it to the needed ones. You can’t see that happening outside, in India.
This generation is our asset now. If they get loose something it is lost for all of us, for the movement in the long run. We are now prepared for anything. People feared that the article 370 might be taken away, and it is done. Right now it is a direct fight with the government. The mainstream parties will now carry the slogan that we will bring back article 370. Earlier they used to beat the drum of autonomy and self rule. I don’t feel anybody is listening to them. They are more concerned about their reputation right now. They are working for government of India here. People are mocking them, whom you were working for these years. Freedom movement is going to gain from this step, Indian government has created a damage”.

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