Kashmir is the world’s largest militarized zone and has been turned into a bloodied vale since its occupation by India in 1947. People have raised their voices, stormed into streets against the occupation. But the country which claims to be the largest democracy has always responded with bullets and lately with pellets also. The conflict has consumed thousands of lives which continues without any let up.
Despite being a war torn land crying for the solution the holy month of Ramadan is celebrated with religious fervor and become a part of our culture. It does not take much to change the situation in the land but the message of the holy month stays strong. Muslims from every section of the society, young and old keep their fasts for the entire month and celebrate Eid at the end of the month. After the breaking of the fast with the sun setting. There is a huge rush of people for night prayers. Which is called as Taraweeh in Islam.
I too had the habit of keeping the fast since my childhood as my school was few kilometers away from my village. So taking lunch with me was most boring things for me and the month suited my style very much. After breaking the fast, I used to wander with my friends and sit on shopfronts. Having gup-shup and cold drinks with snacks. We had divided it and everybody used to serve the cold drinks on his turn. After that, we used to go for the night prayers. As going home without offering night prayers during the holy month would have been the invitation to trouble from the parents.
I was reading in class 10th during those days. Once in the evening we were having cold drinks as usual and awaiting the night prayers. It was very dark as the weather was cloudy and suddenly a Tata Sumo stopped near us. The head light fell on us and we could not recognize the people in it. When the vehicle turned off the lights we found the Indian army men in front of us. With guns in one hand and bamboo sticks in the other hand. They started to shout at us. Before we could speak anything they were kicking and beating us with their guns and sticks. We were asked to show identity cards and they were hurling abuses at us. We showed our I-Cards and one of my friend had not carried his I-Card with himself. He was dragged and separated from us and we were lined and asked to lie flat on the earth. They beat us with all their might and the practice continued for more than an hour. They took a pause only after they were tired. The entire village was terrified and nobody dared to come out.
The other friend who was dragged and separated from us was bundled under a tractor and five to six men were beating him mercilessly. He had grown a beard on his face and that became another reason for his assault. Lastly, a well-known person of our village gathered some courage and came out along with the female folk. He was abused for coming out with the light but the female folk went ahead and tried to reach us and they succeeded in the attempt and lifted us from the ground. The armed forces then jumped into the vehicle and left the spot. We were not able to move on our own and hence were given first aid and taken home. After reaching home, I was so terrified that I only spoke about the incident after three days. My parents took me to a hospital in Baramulla. I was feeling back pain, the doctor told me that my backbone had been severely injured. I was advised to take rest for months and strictly advised not to play or wander in tissue condition. I was injured so badly that I could not recover fully for rest of my life. The friend without I-Card was injured seriously and it took months for to recover from it.
This incident laid a great impact on our psyche. The appearance of armed personal is seen a signal of the danger and security forces as they claim themselves is least to expect from the Indian forces. We were locked at home after our schools and parents did not allow us for the evening prayers leave alone the night prayers. The terror of Indian forces continued in the area for years and nobody could dare to keep his shop open after 6 pm. Indian forces were viewed as beasts in the uniform as they continue to be so even today. The incident is too old now but we never forgot it and discuss it even now.
Many of my friends are married now. We could never recognize the army men involved and never know our crime. These things are common in Kashmir. Every household has a similar story. Our only crime is that we are born in Kashmir.