15 years have passed since then,but it is haunting as if it was just the other night!!
It was the final day of Ramadhan,and the family was all up at the dining mat to witness the last Sehrii of that blessed month.I wasn’t given a chance to feature in this pre-dawn meal,for this five year old could hardly survive but a half day.I don’t remember what I could have been dreaming then,but it came to a halt when a bullet pierced the wood of that window and reflected back after hitting the wall other side.I woke up,and my mother came rushing to the room I was in,and took me in her arms for an encounter had begun,and cross firing started.
We were all terrified by this sudden change of events.The frequency of bullet shots increased and it was getting hard to bear it then.The family started guessing about the target house of these bullets,while hiding beneath the staircase,for that was the safest corner of our newly built house.As the dawn faded into a dim morning,and gun shots slowed down a bit,we were astonished to realize that all these bullets were aimed at us!!
Yes,the whole village was cordoned and militants were suspected to be in our house.As the December sun ascended skies,speakers of the local Masjid barked aloud,ordering the villagers to leave their houses and assemble at some place away from the encounter site.I remember it was a terrible morning,which I thought to be adventurous.The local youth were forcibly hired to make a search party,and the ‘valiant’ forces used them as a bait whenever they entered a new house.We were taken away from our home,for a ‘special treatment’,and I remember how we all were, men ,women and children alike,made to parade in front of eager mititary personnel.I recall my aunt,who had a 5 day old baby in her lap,pleading to army men when they beat his husband,my uncle,to pulp.It was a day of horror.My grandfather wasn’t spared even.They choked him by putting a sweater down his throat.He just survived.
As the sun made it’s decending journey, more and more ‘defence officials’ reached the spot to kill a bunch of rebels,hiding in my ‘Laal Makan'(They called it so,because it was painted red)
After a day long search,the cordon was called off,and the mission was declared a failure,for they couldn’t find any rebels anywhere.How could have they found them,when they just didn’t exist?
We were allowed to return to our homes,but wait…It was not the same home we had left early morning.It presented such a disturbing view,as if earthquakes had shaken it,and floods eroded it.The walls were no more,doors were pulled out,windows were out of place,mats were recovered miles away,clothes were hanging on nearby trees,trunks were left empty.People from nearby villages came to help us assemble what was scattered all around.It took us days together to understand what had just happened.I remember those wailings,those cries,those echoes.It is all in my mind,it is all fresh,though I am writing it after 15 years of the incident.Our newly built house was ruined,and with it all our dreams.I remember people around reporting the loss of jewellery, cash and other expensives…We were looted.It was a fake encounter,aimed at looting our village,I understand now.
Meanwhile,I remember how all the stock in the house had all of a sudden exhausted and relatives coming with bags of sugar,tea,and all.
It was Eid tomorrow,the day of celebrations and joy.But it took years for us to believe in joy,and happiness again.My uncle was released after few days.He still carries those torture marks.My grandfather never recovered after that episode.And my house didn’t get a varnish ever since.It has same colours.The same haunting red.We recently filled the holes,ruminants of bullet marks,but never afforded to colour it again!
I feel relieved after jotting it down,as I carried this story for so long.15 years is a way too long.
We were not broken though.It is just a reminder of a greater curse we are through.We are alive and surving.We are Kashmiris!!
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