Saturday, November 14, 2009

Two Cars and a woman...

In Mangolpuri in outer Delhi, this morning, a Scorpio first crossed over the road divider breaking the cement railings and then rammed into a still Bullet motorcycle throwing down 25-year-old Sanjeet Khatra on the road. The white Scorpio, with four people in it, then reversed back and accelerated to hit him again. It kept ramming into him till Khatra was bleeding and dead on the road. A minute later, Pawan Garg came running out of the drivers seat and stood beside Khatra’s damaged body. “I have won the battle,” he shouted in anger.

Pawan Garg, 30, was then beaten by the people, who were walking on the road and saw it all happen. His wife, sister-in laws, and father came out of the Scorpio when people started breaking it and kept crying on the pavement. “He was beaten for a long time and the car was broken too but then police van came and took him away,” says Vijender, a betel leaf seller on the same road. Khatra was rushed to Sanjay Gandhi hospital where he was declared brought dead. Garg, according to police, was also taken to a hospital by the Police Control Room van, where from he absconded later.

In Kiradi, few kilometres from the spot, houses of Khatra and Garg, separated by a lane, stand facing each other, their shadows merging. Garg's house is locked and surrounded by policemen, and Khatra’s are mourning. “He was my best friend, we went to school together, college together and shared everything. My friend is dead,” Savita, Khatra’s sister said. Khatra had applied for a teacher’s job recently after after doing a course in Primary Teacher Training from a college in Janakpuri.

The family says that they had no animosity with the Garg’s except that there had been a couple of arguments over parking space in the lane. “There was a fight last year in November between them over their cars and since then there has been nothing. I don’t know why it happened,” Khatra’s mother, Shankuntala said. “My son used to tell me that Pawan always gave him spiteful looks and I used to tell him not to look back at him.” Outside, in the lane, Khatra’s silver grey Alto is parked.

Police sources, however, say that it was Garg's wife, Parul, who lay at the heart of the animosity. “It seems that the two had illicit relations and Garg had come to know about it. It is a crime of passion and there of dozens of eye witnesses who saw it happen,” said DCP Outer Delhi, Atul Katiyar. Khatra’s mother says that her son had no relation with Garg's wife and the two families hadnt talked to each other in a long time. Khatra’s older brother, Sudhir, however, said that Garg had doubts about his brother’s relation with Parul. “He sometimes used to say that my brother has some relations with his wife and sometimes even said that he had relations with his children but I used to tell him that it was only in his head,” said Sudhir Khatra.

Garg and Parul had a son and a daughter and Garg owned a utensil shop just outside his house.

Parul has recorded her statement with the police and so have other members of the family. Police are looking for Garg, who absconded from the hospital. “We are looking for him but it is highly shameful that he could abscond from the hospital and the police had no idea,” Katiyar said. Police sation Mongolpuri had earlier registered a case of death due to rash and negligent driving but later changed it to murder.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sellling 10 rupees for 12- this is Old Delhi.


On the side-walks of the congested Chandni Chowk, the old curiosity shop is selling new glittering coins. Sitting on the pavement, Arun Aggarawal, 31, sells Indian money to Indians and is making profit out of it. And he is not alone; all the money changers and old coin sellers are onto this new business and it is thriving. The new ten and five rupee-coins from the RBI which haven’t yet been seen in the open are being sold in Chandni Chowk for Rs 12 and Rs 7 respectively as a dozen policemen book some illegal bike parkers just metres away.

The till-now-unseen ten rupee coins dated as 2006 and 2008 issued by RBI have not been circulated till now and when people see the shiny steel and copper coloured coin all along Chandni Chowk, they can’t resist buying it. “It is unique and I will show this coin to everyone because no one has seen it yet. It first thought it was a fake but now I know it is real but that doesn’t mean I will spend it,” says Vineet Bhardawaj, 24, an Employee in a MNC, moments after buying two coins worth Rs 20 for 24. “I know it sounds stupid but this is a collector’s item.”

The ten-rupee-coin has been minted in 2006 but not yet seen in the market. The 8 grams bi-metallic coin with Nickel- Copper on one side and ferrous steel on the other designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad with the theme of Unity in Diversity is the black markets open heaven right now. When asked by The Newsline why the coins had not been circulated properly in the market, Raghu Raj, spokesperson of the RBI said he had no idea that this was happening and refused to comment .

Outside the Geeta studio in Chandni Chowk, a thickset man in his fifties squats besides two bowls full of these new coins perched on a small table. First, the coins attract few people and the people attract more people and soon the entrance to the studio is barred and curiosity shop is in bloom. The discoloured Victoria’s are pushed back, Lincoln’s semi hidden and even the rusted ones are discarded. It is the new coins which are attracting crowds.

“Which country’s coin is this”? asks a interested Waseem Ahmad while looking at the bowls. His hands fiddle with the coins and he finally picks up one. “India ke hain, kaheen aur nahi milenge. Sirf hamare paas hain. (These are Indian and you wont find them anywhere other than me).” Ahmad, 31, a software designer buys one.

“We have never done so much business as we have in the last 20 days. I must have sold 10,000 coins till now and I am selling,” says an equally busy Aggarwal.

Aggarawal buys the coins from an agent for Rs 10.50 in bulk and sells it for 12 in retail. “The person who sells me the coins is an RBI employee and now everyone has his own agents and we are earning good money,” says Aggarwal.

----- ENDS-----

son kills father: father nails him after death.


When Satish Prakash, 30, bludgeoned his reclusive father Raghubir Singh, 65, to death three days ago in Alipur area believing that his father had an extra-marital affair; he didn’t know that his father’s diary would help police to nail him out soon. In his small room, alongside perfume bottles, fairness creams, pornographic magazine, Singh maintained a diary recording everything that happened to him but there was no mention of any women. Alipur Police have arrested the son charged him with murder.

On June 13, police received a call from the Singh home saying that their father had been murdered and was lying dead in his room. When police came, they found blood splattered on the walls and dried up on the sheet. Sigh was lying dead on his bed with several injuries on his head, neck and ears.

Singh, a retired clerk with Comptroller and Auditor General’s office, lived his own home as a recluse. “His room had a separate entrance, and he cooked for himself even though his wife and family lived in the same house,” a police official said. “We came to know that he hardly ever talked to anyone in his family.”

The Singh family had a dispute over property among themselves and there were regular fights and quarrels before the night when Singh was finally murdered. Police often received calls from the family and usually from Singh himself who felt that his family wanted to kill him. “He called some days ago pleading us to come to his home because there was a quarrel. We went and he said that his family and he are at odds and they would kill him. We said that this is a family mater and what else could we do,” says the police official.

Some days later, Singh was murdered. Police found his well maintained diary, in which he had written who in his family were trying to kill him. “He thought that his son Satish Prakash might kill him but in the last entry in his diary, he was afraid of his grandson LIkesh, who he felt would kill him,” says police. When the police questioned the sons and other relatives, they say, they were already sure that someone among them had killed him. “His youngest son, Prakash, broke down soon and accepted that he along with his friend, Salim, had killed his father because he never cared for his mother and had an extramarital affair,” says Atul Katiyar, DCP Outer. Prakash and Salim convinced two more of their friends who entered into Singh’s room that night and covered his face with a pillow and bludgeoned him with a musli. Singh stopped resisting and breathing but his son didn’t stop till he was sure that his father was dead.

Police have registered a case of murder against the son and his friend Salim and are hunting for the other two accused.

IN his home, there is mourning for the son but none for the murdered father and in diaries, there is no hint of an extramarital affair but police believe that he might have skipped the part out.


Finally, the long novel of daryaganj ends in a sad way...


This Sunday, Daryaganj just wasn’t its usual self. There were no yellowed texts stacked against the walls, no literature scattered and littered on the pavements, no hawkers shouting names of authors and no book lovers pushing their way through the bookish pavements. Daryaganj just wasn’t its usual self this Sunday and it might not be the same way ever again. As Daryaganj police decides to bring down the instances of pick pocketing and traffic congestion and MCD distances itself from the issue, the 45-year-old-book market for which people come even from other states faces the brunt.

“Police can close the market anytime if there is a law and order problem because of it. It is 45 years old but if state has the permission for the market once, it can as well take it back,” says DCP Central Jaspal Singh. Singh did not know that his subordinates had closed the market on Sunday though.

The around one-kilometer stretch of Delhi, which is the book lovers ‘Perian spring’, does not have any official permission but the book hawkers had been allowed to sit there every Sunday for the last four decades. But now, the Daryaganj police decided that it would not allow the market to be there in its present shape because of the traffic jams and crimes like pick pocketing and teasing of women.

The police say that it is hard to manage the market on Sundays because of so much rush. The SHO of Daryaganj police station is on a leave and the Additional SHO closed the market saying he was short of staff. “It is not only the book sellers but the cloth sellers and others have also come there. There are regular jams and eve teasing and they have started to use even the road for their goods,” says Adnl SHO, Daryaganj, Madan Lal.

The customers, many of who buy books only from here, some collect books, some art, and some even plan their visits to Delhi in a way that they could buy books here on Sunday left without a whimper this Sunday. Customers asked each other on the pavements as there was not even a single hawker to ask and when they heard that police had cleared the market, it is an immediate heartbreak. “This was one place where we could buy books really cheap and those books which we cant find anywhere. How can the police just come and close this market? We have come from 20 kilometers just to buy books,” says Pradeep Sharma, an MBA student.

Infact, the police hadn’t even told the hawkers that they would not be allowed to sell books on Sunday. “We came out in the morning with our sacks and an hour later, police came over and asked us to empty the pavement as it was because of us that the crime rate was increasing,” says Subhash Aggarwal, President of the Sunday Daryaganj Book Bazaar Association. The book bazaar employs around 250 people who sell books there.

There have been questions on this market even in the past and the issue is currently subjudice. The MCD says that it has nothing to do with this market and police can do what ever it wants to if it is a law and order problem. “We are not even in the picture. This market has no documents and is illegal and it has been allowed to be there only on humanitarian grounds. The police surely can close it,” says MCD spokesperson Deep Mathur.

For the ignorant customers who might be planning to come next Sunday, and the hawkers who have a stockpile of books in Godown, the future is uncertain.


Friday, June 12, 2009

It rained here last afternoon after a long time. It wasnt the first time though, but strangely it felt so. I walked out and sat on the little ashy verandah with my feet against the rusted railing, and smoked. The sky turned grey, and the white Delhi summer light changed to those old kashmiri kerosene lamp lights. The cigarette felt hotter nnear my fingertips. I lit another.

The rain fell on the railing and broken drops flew over to me, wetting the cigatte. I dint mind. The leaves rustled and the sky gargled and for a moment i believed i was in Kashmir. A few girls walked by, and the wind blew, revealing a few already revealed legs, rumaginga few already rummaged thoughts and dammpning a few few already damped souls. I was in delhi, i remebered. And i remember Sohail's dilemna who was now standing by my side and talking about Kashmir too. His girlfriend left him, he told me one ight. "because she wanted to have sex," he said with a surprised look on his face. "You should have done that before her even asking for it," i replied shrugging my shoulders and sypathising with the girl.
How can you say this, zahid?
Why? What wrong did i say?
If you kill one man, you kill the whole humanity... If you fuck one woman, you fuck the whole humanity...
I spurted out my smoke and he laughed. We both did, for a long time afterwards.
"Wasnt i right?"
Of course, i said.
Now sohail was standing, his arms pressed against the railing, as if about to to do pushups. O yea, he has recently joined and gym. He loves it. Its unisex, and hez even made a few friends.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A night in the maternity hospital in Srinagar


There is no crowd pushing forward to gate crash, no fake excuses by attendants to get inside, no obstinate denials by the security and no bribed entries later. The gates are flung open, men smoke on the porch and the benches. The dark moonless night has fallen and Lal Ded (LD) hospital, the valley’s biggest maternity hospital, is silent except for the dogs and few far away voices.

Pale light floats through the long corridors narrowed by people leaning against the walls, some sleeping on green, blue and red Styrofoam mats, and some chatting in whispers on the wooden benches. In the labour room on the first floor, women moan rhythmically in pain, calling their mothers and fathers as they would have called them once as children. The high pitched shrieks woven together with subtle moans float through the entire floor, and attendants pace uneasily through the corridor.

Saleema Jan, 62, squatting and leaning against the wall gently rocks herself, her palm covering her forehead as she mumbles a prayer. Her daughter Mehtab Bano is inside the labour room, crying out her name in an agonizing pitch. Saleema Jan is in pain outside.

“Adamas adam phatun, yehai che, gubra, qayaamat aasan (a human growing in a human and then separating: the pain, my son, is beyond words),” says Jan, the tips of her fore finger and thumb anxiously rubbing the corners of her dry lips, her tongue flickering out to wet the tiny fissures. “If my daughter sees that I am even weaker than her, she will loose all strength and can’t face this ordeal.”

Jan remembers the old days when she was afraid of going through the pain again after giving birth to two sons. But, the desire for a daughter made her bear all the agony again. “I used to be happy that I will have another child but then I would remember this moment when every muscle twitched in pain and my hands would shiver with the thought,” she says.

Twenty years ago, the rate of Caesarean deliveries was much less. Women would bear children without surgeries and sections. Jan delivered four babies, but never by a Caesarean section. “Back then, boad operation (major operation) caesareans were looked down upon and women who delivered after cesareans were thought of as lazy and weak,” she says. “But today most deliveries are by an operation in the theatre.”

According to a report published by a doctor in 2006, 85 percent of the deliveries in LD happen by caesareans. As per the WHO guidelines, not more than 15 percent of the total deliveries should happen by caesarean. The report cites “Adequate trial of labour not given to the pregnant women” as the main reason for the high cesarean rate in the hospital.

“If a woman gets a cesarean in her first delivery, it is almost sure that her second delivery will also come by a cesarean and the chances of a third child being born to the woman are negligible,” says a female gynecologist. The gynecologist says that women now demand cesareans because they do not want to go the pain. “I write on the medical records that the cesarean was demanded,” she says. She has herself had cesareans for her deliveries.

On the second floor, above the labour room, families wait on benches, and blankets. Cups of tea pass around. There are no shrieks, no moans here. Only faint sounds of occasional steps come from inside the Operation Theatre.

Fahmeeda Akhtar, 47, waits with a soft mink blanket on her lap. Her daughter is inside too, but under the knife undergoing a caesarean. “Vani gaeses bahaar haavun aemis shur sund (Now God should show her the blossoms of this child),” Fahmeeda says, her hands buried under the tiny mink blanket. Her son- in- law has gone out to buy a baby feeder and other things they would need in the post operative ward.

There is no waiting room for attendants to wait for their patients. It looks like a hostel corridor, young boys striking up old chats.

Outside the post-operative ward, Mohammad Shafi Dar, 29, removes his ankle-high fur shoes. He wears no socks. The skin of his toes is dead and white, and his feet smell. The woman sitting next to him pouts her lips and slides a couple of feet away. “I have removed my shoes after three days. My wife had some complicacy and I have not had a wink of sleep for the last four nights,” says Dar. Dar lives in Pulwama where government doctors denied treating her wife and he had to come here in the middle of the night three days ago. “They (government doctors) have started a nursing home near the hospital and they asked us to come there and pay 18000 rupees. They said they cannot do anything if we did not come to the nursing home.” Dar became father to a son this evening. Under creases of weariness and oil, his brown face lights up with the mention of his son. “Only women have the patience to undergo the childbirth. But, we have our own responsibilities and they are also painful too. I cannot share my wife’s pain, or I would have already done,” says Dar.

The bathrooms are stained and messy, and water trickles from the tap. The ceramic is yellowed and rusted: it should have been white once. Someone forgot to flush the commode.

Inside the wards, the lights are dimmed, and patients sleep on the beds- two on a bed. On some beds, husbands sleep with wives.
The floor is packed with the attendants, some sleeping with their lips agape, some hidden under the blankets looking like a sac, some snoring loudly and other irked by the grumbled noise. It is midnight and the warm corridors, by now, are covered with bodies of slumping old fathers, frail younger sisters, ageing mothers and anxious husbands- all sleeping on each other. It is warm, quiet and cozy.

The staircase back to the labour room is like an elevator to war zone- women holding their bellies up with both their hands, walking slowly, as if walking on water. A male nursing orderly carries around a pregnant woman in a wheel chair, her head thrust back, her teeth biting on her lower lip in pain, her hair open with slight traces of an old knot.

Two male orderlies walk in and out of the labour room, carrying in drugs, injections and other supplies. Mohammad Yousuf, 37, a male nursing orderly has been working in the labour room for five years. He doesn’t tell his friends that he works here- only his immediate family knows. “What should I tell I tell my friends that I work in labour room all day? They will make fun of me,” says Yousuf. Yousuf remembers the time when he first came to the labour room and he would carry the moans and agony with him to his home and his life outside. “Back then it was different but now I have seen so much. The moment I leave this room, I forget everything. I don’t even hear the shrieks anymore here. I have become used to it,” Yousuf says. “If I remember it, then, I won’t be able to do anything. If a woman remembers it, she will never give birth again.”

A young girl rushes out of the corridor, crying for her father. Inside, life is conceived of an agonizing ordeal. “Papa, sister gave birth to a boy,” she cries.

In the side corridor, Saleema Jan is still sitting, now on a blanket, chatting with two other mothers. They talk of old times, of village nurses and of their own pain, but with smiles. All of them are all grandmothers now.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Better stones than bull

Better stones than bull
Hilal Ahmad reacts to We the primitive (Write Hand) by Ajaz ul Haque

For quite some time now, I have noticed Ajaz ul Haque’s writing on stone pelting, and several other contentious issues concerning Kashmiri society, suffused with a sort of mawkish sentimentality. Typical of that behaviour is that you often sweep a whole world of ideas and arguments, sometimes bizarre and irrational, but mostly unrelated to the issue in debate, to make a point. His first column was titled, in a Swiftseque manner, as “Stone Age… All Jammu Kashmir Stone Pelters Association.” Its plebeian play on words, however, brought a smile on my gloomy face. Though he advocates no further debate on the issue, funnily, he had a second take on stone pelting in his latest column We talk stones as world scales new highs! We talk stones because our world has been reduced to stones. I reckon 80000 or more gravestones are a lot of stones when you count them one by one in all the graveyards scattered across the state, in the marshes of Wullar and rocky mountains of Doda? And which world has scaled heights? The world that reduces to rubble in a few years an ancient civilization in Iraq on a flimsy suspicion, and leaves half a million dead, innocent children among them? These heights are too subjective for a ‘queer’ issue of throwing stones in downtown Srinagar, or rustic landscape of Bomai. These heights are better are left to those who have scaled them.
But I would heed to the advice he dispensed in the crispy staccato sentences of the Write Hand. He says we should not debate stone pelting at all, for even the discussion on the subject seems medieval and absurd. According to him throwing stones means destruction. And only the insane are insane enough to summon destruction upon themselves willfully. Stop. I would agree and let history decide if it was to fair for a people to throw stones at someone they believed had snatched their rights. The star intellectual of the Left, Tariq Ali, once famously remarked `if you have an ugly oppression, don’t expect a beautiful resistance’. Ali was, perhaps, talking about equivalence, not proportionality. Otherwise, the proportion with which you deal with a very sly and ugly usurpation would bring out `baddest’, maddest, and ugliest resistance from a completely dispossessed and enervated nation. And that would be its justification.
However, I don’t want to touch the religious or ‘common sensical’ aspects of the act of hurling a stone at a trooper who doesn’t allow you more ‘civilized’ form of resistance, that is, a demonstration. But I want to take issues with reasoning arrived at by Haque to pulverize stone throwing, stone throwers, supporters of stone throwing, and the imagined goblins-- the guides of stone throwers.
Haque brings in the subject of medieval thinkers. History tells us medieval thinkers were brought up, educated, and later nourished by the kings and commons for the sole purpose of discussing practical as well as abstract matters, the lawfulness of donkey flesh for example. It was probably because practical endeavors were left to practical men in a society highly stratified. A British character in a very popular movie tells his soldier friend that a British soldier wouldn’t die for the queen in the sweltering plains of India if he were to think on worthiness of the queen’s, and his own, life. Also, the medieval thinkers would not worry their ‘lazy and unfruitful minds’ about the war tactics of the crusaders who according to some intellectuals of those times comprised the entire brigandage of Europe assembled by the Pope. In return, the ordinary crusaders wouldn’t mind “open ended” hair splitting debates of the scholastic thinkers, if they were aware of such debates in the first place. The thinkers and the crusaders were unanimous about the need for confronting their Islamic enemies. For thinkers it was none of their goddamn business to discuss whether it was civilized or savage, biblical or heathenish, for besieged crusaders to hurl thousand pound rocks or barrels of scalding fuel on the soldiers of Salahuddin’s. It was the natural thing to do.
Growth of societies is an evolutionary process. Free societies now discuss whether they should elect a lesbian to rule a nation or not. Colonial societies, like Kashmir, on the other hand discuss whether they should throw stones at their tormentors or not. People aware of their colonial stranglehold wouldn’t have discussed it, had not the policemen and enlightened men thrust this discussion upon them. Thus it seems natural in the present scheme of things that some boys throw stones. If they use Kalashnikovs, they are branded as terrorists. You see people are never short of labels. Savage is one more term in this enlightened vocabulary. Although I believe savages would take great offense at the mention of this word, as they have tasted the encounter with the civilized world, which ravaged their lands with a gun in one hand and the bible in the other. Once free, and later ‘scaling a few heights’ the Lassas and Gullas of Nowhatta might in future discuss some delicate issues, like if it was fair---in ethical, moral, ideal, or intellectual sense---for some people to moonwalk as journalists while serving the government institutions.
Often it happens that when you run out of arguments, you turn to personalities. Shall one be branded as a police collaborator if his/her ideas on stone throwing perfectly gel with those of the city police chief who presided over shooting of dozens of boys in Srinagar last summer, while his counterpart in Jammu didn’t touch even those who waved communal flags from army trucks and set ablaze Kashmiri drivers? I would say, never. Similarly, when some people are arguing in favor of stone throwing how come they become the invisible monsters who, according to Haque, are “inciting ignorant” boys and keeping them in a state of darkness. Please refer to your own sermon in last Sunday’s column on how a newspaper is sanctified space for a healthy debate. If someone from London wants to refute the pronouncement of a cleric, why should he be invited to Kashmir for throwing stones to prove his sincerity?
It is again being highly presumptuous to label the stone throwing boys as a monolithic bunch of ignorant, illiterate, and uneducated creatures. I first threw stones at police when I was a 13 year old schoolboy. Though my reading those days was limited to a few borrowed Enid Blyton volumes, I was nevertheless preparing for a serious education. And I knew why I was throwing stones. My friends who have “scaled heights” in different fields in different parts of the world tried this “savagery” quite often in their lives before leaving this land. They don’t regret it. They merely think another generation is doing what it deems right. And these stone throwing boys would age like me, like my friends, and do whatever they are destined to do, except, perhaps, becoming pen pushers like me.
Further, if you read the statements of the police, they seem “concerned” that a sizable number of these boys were college going students who had parked their bikes on roadsides and then indulged in Kani Jang. When a 10-year old girl was raped by a soldier in Badarpayeen, Handwara some years back, Kashmir University students threw stones when they were not allowed to march peacefully beyond the gates of the University. Perhaps, they thought it natural to do so then, rather than writing an article in a newspaper with book-addled brains.
According to Haque’s interesting logic, the arguments of people who favor stone pelting might carry weight if they actually do what they preach. Means, thankfully, there is some scope for the “savages” to enter the world of the civilized. But if we look hard enough in the real world, rather than from the prism of half-learned, intellectual twaddle, we might actually find quite a number of people who have taught by example. Sheikh Aziz was shot near Chahal simply for requesting police and the CRPF troopers to allow the peaceful marchers to proceed ahead. I, and several other journalists who sometimes venture out of closets, were witness to the incident. Shakeel Bakshi was beaten blue for leading peaceful demonstrations. Nayeem Ahmad Khan was beaten in custody for the similar reasons. Geelani, emaciated by surgeries, led the demonstrations, urging the boys to maintain “Islamic decorum.” Masarat Alam, also a stone thrower in his youth and educated in the finest school of the Valley, has been jailed for as many times under the draconinan PSA as the number of articles-sans-substance written against stone throwing. What about Jalil Andrabi who tried to seek justice for his fellow people in the judiciary of those very people who pumped several bullets in his handsome body, and then dumped him in a dirty marsh? Look hard. You won’t have to ‘scale highs’ to find people who taught by example, and still are. Besides, it is a proposition fraught with danger of embarrassment. If Shakeel Bakshi does throw stones now, would Haque follow the suit?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dooru votes for Geelani- stays away from polls.


In Dooru village, there are no queues scaled outside the polling station, no buzz of the earlier phases is repeated. There are no election posters pasted on the walls, nor any banners hanging over the dusty streets. Men huddle outside shops, women gaze through windows and children run around with their faces flushed and eyes wet by the tear smoke only to see if someone today betrays ‘the sentiment’ or ‘the leader’ here. In this village in Sopore, where defiant Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani was born, no one even walked past the polling station today.


And at a time when Kashmir defied the separatist poll boycott, Dooru did not let down Geelani.  “We don’t want any roads, any jobs or any benefits. We only want Freedom,” says Sayeed Naseer, a 36 year old businessman. “The occupational force always tries to lure the victim with these luxuries but we will not succumb to them and forget our slain brothers.”

Pitched battles were fought all through the day between security forces and people. Four persons had been injured in the tear smoke shelling and baton charge by the forces. Youngsters carried stones in their hands fuming with anger over the high voter turnout in the neighboring village Dangarpora- the native village of Congress candidate Abdul Rashid Dar who won the 2002 polls from here.

“They have betrayed our cause, our dead, and our graveyards but we will never forget what we have suffered” says Naseer.

Naseer surrounded a dozen men gets up from a shop pavement ridiculing the election process and speaks in support of the boycott. His accent is slightly familiar, his words somewhat heard. Bilal Hassan, an engineering student, talks about graveyards and independence, properly punctuating the sentence. Even he talks in the same way. In Geelani’s village every one talks like him, uses the same set of words he has used over the past two decades, and even the Quranic references are from the same pages. Here, Geelani is followed and revered in style and ideology but the people are quick to add that that they do not chase Geelani. “Geelani comes second, first comes the sentiment for Azaadi. We support boycott because we believe in Tehreek (movement)” says Hassan.   

The 79 year old Hurriyat leader had once contested and won elections from Sopore before the armed rebellion started across the valley. But today, he is the fiercest opponent of elections are so are the people from his native village.  “We will now only vote under United Nation (UN) observers, not till then. We will decide our future by siding with independence, not petty candidates,” says Abdul Rashid Rishi, a college student. “Why is India afraid to do that if it is so sure that Kashmiris want to be with it? Let us vote freely, and then see what we vote for”.

Inside the polling booth, the presiding officer looks bored. “No one came to vote, nor do we expect anyone,” says the official. Outside, the people were getting ready, forming small groups to attack the security forces from different sides.


The Apple Princess


While apple festival blossoms in Himachal Pradesh today, Ghulam Rasool walks over the rotten apples littered all across his orchard in Baramulla. In the peak fruit season in Kashmir, the apple orchards are as deserted as the streets. Kashmir sees one of its most discouraging fruit seasons after the economic blockade and the subsequent strict curfews.

“I have lost most of my fruit and what is left is all rotting. The economic blockade has brought us to dust”, says Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of fruit growers association, Kashmir. We don’t have any interest in out fruits anymore when we see the losses we have incurred. We have lost 60 percent of our fruit already”.

The fruit industry in Kashmir is one of the major sources of livelihood for Kashmiris. More than 30 lakh people in the valley are directly dependent on the industry and 10 lakh more are indirectly dependent on it. They include the drivers who carry the fruit or the workers who load and unload fruits.

Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a fruit truck driver is one of the many who have been hit the worst. Nazir had brought the truck on loan and most of it still remains unpaid. “Now, I will beg the bankers to remit me the interest. I earned nothing this season, not enough to support my family.” His three daughters all aged below 9 are sharing their fathers misery. “We have no money to buy food or to anything. We don’t know what to do now”.

His truck (JK05-9318) was attacked and damaged near Samba on way from Jammu. Even though Nazir has a little to live on, he is too afraid to go resume his job. “I fear going out and drive the fruit trucks.  We can live on meager meals but my family doesn’t want me to be killed in Jammu”, says Nazir. “They pick up Kashmiri truck among 20 others and start bashing us. I dread the petrol bomb which is thrown at Kashmiri drivers”.

With the Kashmiri fruit rotting in the orchards, apples from Himachal Pradesh are fetching more money in the fruit market. “Earlier, Himachal apples would go at Rs 350 but now they are close to Rs 500 because Kashmiri apples are not in market. The Kashmiri fruit is nowhere around”, says Arjun Kumar, Commission agent in Delhi.

As ‘apple prince’ and ‘apple princess’ will be crowned in Himachal tomorrow, Nazir’s youngest daughter, Suman, sleeping next to the flaked green wall, cries for milk.  

Limping through the protests, old women walk to Eidgah.


After every slogan she utters a sigh. In the middle of a massive procession, Taja Begum slowly limps her way through the packed streets. The wrinkles on her face look deeper, the veins on her temples engorge with blood as she raises her fist in the air and shouts “we want freedom”. At 71, Taja with an ailing body has already walked six kilometers with the thousands of people. She too is one of the many thousands who defied curfew in Kashmir today.

“I am suffering with several ailments but no ailment can stop me today. I will walk till I fall down. And I will not fall down”, Taja says as another old woman holds her arm as she stumbles over one the numerous stones that the street is littered with.

Taja like hundreds of old women is a part of the procession on its way to Eidgah. People from all over Srinagar and neighboring towns were marching to join the funeral prayers and bury the Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz who was killed yesterday at Chehal village in police firing.

The women kept joining the protest at every neighborhood, every lane, and every by-lane. “I too like every Kashmiri have only one dream- freedom. We don’t believe in any Indian imposed curfew. We have shown that again today”, Noora Begum from Srinagar shouts amidst deafening slogans. Noora joined the procession at Shaheed Gunj coming out through a narrow alley with a dozen other women, most of them above 50.

With sticks in hand sometimes to lift up and most of the time to support their weak bodies, they keep muttering prayers for the safety of the people in the procession. “Enough Kashmiri blood has been spilled. We deserve freedom now. Help us”, says Rehat, another old lady, as she looks towards the smoke filled sky with her hand outstretched. Someone shouts a slogan and she joins in, her shrill voice and high pictch resonates around. A young boy holds her hand now. “My sons carried me on their shoulders when they felt I had exhausted my self. There are enough sons to carry me if my legs don’t support me”. 

As the dead body of a boy killed in Hyderpora passes in an ambulance, Taja begins to hit her chest slowly and slogans turn into suppressed sobs. Through the wrinkles on her face, the tears find their way quickly. Noora consoles her, first wiping her own moist eyes.

As the procession reaches Safakadal, Taja has slumped into the back rows moving feebly. Noora is nowhere in the people.

With a green cloth tied around her head, the veins of her temples engorged and a stick in hand, an old woman from Safakadal makes her way into Eidgah. “No curfew can keep us in homes now”, she says with the stick cutting across the air. 

Butt Clermont- A dream afloat on water...

It is a dream afloat on water. It is a reality, writ on fringes of a dream.

On a secluded bank of the mesmerizing Dal Lake, these carved wooden palaces have been the most sought after tourist destination in Kashmir. In the lap of the Zabarwan hills, canopied by blue skies and overwhelming Chinars, the Butt Clermont house boats are arguably the most scintillating homes on water.

Only eight kilometers from the city center, Lal Chowk, Clermont nestles quietly in the Naseem Bagh- the garden of breezes. It has played host to some of the most famous people to have visited Kashmir in the last half of the century. From celebrities to politicians, almost everyone who came to Kashmir has come here.

The photos of the guests in the reception room seem to shrink me as I begin to recognize them. My eyes are flickering across the frames searching for that one photo. Instead, I find Joan Fontain, the famous Hollywood actress, smiling seductively. A little away Neil Armstrong stares with his moony eyes.  I find American ex-Vice President Nelson Rockefeller standing besides Mr. Butt, the owner of the houseboat. And finally, I see him. George Harrison, the Beatle, hung on the wall.

The guest book reveals even more names imprinted in history- Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, Dilip Kumar and P.G Wodehouse, the humorist writer. The recent addition is Peter Jennings and Micheal Palin.

 “All these people came to stay in our houseboat because of the service we provide. The way we care for the guests and give them attention is what they like” says Mr. G.N Butt. “We have been working hard to keep our guests comfortable ever since Clermont was established.

The history of houseboats in Kashmir dates back to the mid-19th century which was the peak of Indian Raj in the neighboring India. The maharaja of Kashmir submitted to British dominion, but insisted on one condition: that the occupiers and other non-natives refrain from setting up any fixed buildings in the state. The British agreed. And instead came up with mansions on water.

Butt Clermont was established in 1940 by a handicrafts businessman, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat. "My father was regularly going to Calcutta to sell handicrafts," says Ghulam Nabi Butt, Owner of Butt’s Clermont. "There he met a British couple working in a shipping company and they became good friends. One day they asked him if he can arrange a houseboat for them during their Kashmir visit and he agreed".

 Bhat returned to Kashmir and set-up a houseboat at Naseem Bagh. For seven year, before the partition, the British couple, their friends and relatives were the regular visitors to the houseboat. "After partition they left Kashmir and didn’t return. But they transferred this property to our name." says Ghulam Nabi Butt. Since then it has been a favorite destination for tourists.

The Butt’s Clermont Group consists of five houseboats. Each houseboat has bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a living room and a dining room. One of them is a special honeymoon houseboat.

The boats are luxurious and aesthetic. Intricately carved cedar woodwork, magnificently stitched crewelwork on the curtains and tinted chandeliers set the rooms completely apart. The Kashmiri silk carpets grace the flooring.

Adding to the beauty of the houseboat is the touch of Kashmiri Cuisine. One can order from the entire range of Kashmiri delicacies. And the aroma of the famous Kashmiri Kehwa at the Clermont’s is something not to be missed. The cooks can even make foreign dishes with an equal skill.

Three shikaras, canopied longboats await the guests to take them into the vast expanses of the Dal Lake and the floating gardens. The butt Clermont’s unlike other houseboats on Dal Lake has a beautiful garden on one side. Besides playing soccer in evenings, the garden is famous for candlelit dinners and barbecue parties.  

The 'God fearing Communist' of Kashmir politics.


While separatist leaders made yet another show of strength with tens of thousands of people assembling for special Eid prayers today, this festival brings no cheer to the families of the young protesters, who were killed in police firing during the recent ‘Azaadi’ groundswell.

Here is a sordid story of two Srinagar families, who lost their sons during the recent protests. Their kitchens have no whiff of spicy mutton, no smell of pastries which lingers across the homes of the valley today on Eid. There are no new dresses for children.

Tanveer Ahmad Handoo’s mother, Haseena is quite and there are no festivities in their home today. Handoo was killed in Police firing on August 14 near his mobile repair shop in Sekidafar locality of downtown city. Tanveer’s son, Musaib cries for new clothes rolling his body on the ground, banging his fists on his mother’s legs. “I will not wear the old clothes, buy me new ones”. Suraya, Tanveer’s widow is 26 and happiness has eluded them.

There is no source of income for her anymore. “His father used to buy new clothes for him every Eid. How will I explain to my son that there is no one left to buy anything for him”, says Suraya, Tanveer’s widow.

Shehzada cries as her daughter Nazima fiddles with the empty vessels which would be full of dishes every Eid. But this Eid, they have cooked nothing for Eid, not even rice. Sameer Ahmad Batloo, Shehzada’s son was killed in Police firing about hundred meters away from his home. “We were poor but my son would somehow manage bakery and mutton for Eid. We were happy in our poverty- what Eid now without our son,” says Shehzada. “He would buy clothes for me on Eid. He loved me and now he is dead,” says Nazima, Sameer’s sister.

JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik had distributed Rs 50,000 each as “Maqbool Bhat Award” among the families of the six protestors who were killed in the protests. The families said that no other separatist group has come forward to help them in any way. “We are thankful to Yasin sahib that he helped us when misfortune befell us. At least someone cares for those who laid their lives”. Few voluntary groups - HELP Foundation and Sakhawat Center of the Iqbal Memorial Trust have, however, visited the families and helped several of them financially. 

Unlike Jammu where special ex-gratia was given on a priority basis to the families of the slain protestors, the J-K Government has not come forward with any help to the families of 54 protestors who were killed in police action in Kashmir

The house of the dead- one day before Eid


While separatist leaders made yet another show of strength with tens of thousands of people assembling for special Eid prayers today, this festival brings no cheer to the families of the young protesters, who were killed in police firing during the recent ‘Azaadi’ groundswell.

Here is a sordid story of two Srinagar families, who lost their sons during the recent protests. Their kitchens have no whiff of spicy mutton, no smell of pastries which lingers across the homes of the valley today on Eid. There are no new dresses for children.

Tanveer Ahmad Handoo’s mother, Haseena is quite and there are no festivities in their home today. Handoo was killed in Police firing on August 14 near his mobile repair shop in Sekidafar locality of downtown city. Tanveer’s son, Musaib cries for new clothes rolling his body on the ground, banging his fists on his mother’s legs. “I will not wear the old clothes, buy me new ones”. Suraya, Tanveer’s widow is 26 and happiness has eluded them.
There is no source of income for her anymore. “His father used to buy new clothes for him every Eid. How will I explain to my son that there is no one left to buy anything for him”, says Suraya, Tanveer’s widow.

Shehzada cries as her daughter Nazima fiddles with the empty vessels which would be full of dishes every Eid. But this Eid, they have cooked nothing for Eid, not even rice. Sameer Ahmad Batloo, Shehzada’s son was killed in Police firing about hundred meters away from his home. “We were poor but my son would somehow manage bakery and mutton for Eid. We were happy in our poverty- what Eid now without our son,” says Shehzada. “He would buy clothes for me on Eid. He loved me and now he is dead,” says Nazima, Sameer’s sister.

JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik had distributed Rs 50,000 each as “Maqbool Bhat Award” among the families of the six protestors who were killed in the protests. The families said that no other separatist group has come forward to help them in any way. “We are thankful to Yasin sahib that he helped us when misfortune befell us. At least someone cares for those who laid their lives”. Few voluntary groups - HELP Foundation and Sakhawat Center of the Iqbal Memorial Trust have, however, visited the families and helped several of them financially.

Unlike Jammu where special ex-gratia was given on a priority basis to the families of the slain protestors, the J-K Government has not come forward with any help to the families of 54 protestors who were killed in police action in Kashmir.

Doctors join the protests



Saima Khan marches with her white apron carefully folded over her arm alongside hundreds of other doctors. She doesn’t carry a stethoscope today, in fact none of them does. Instead, there are colored placards raised from their hands and pro freedom slogans escaping their lips. Saima is a 4th semester medical student and it is the first time she has come out to protest. In fact, it is the first pro freedom protest of Kashmiri Doctors and Government Medical College (GMC) students of Kashmir.


After Friday prayers, scores of doctors and medical students from GMC, Srinagar came out on the road shouting slogans for Azaadi. The protest march was organized by the medical fraternity which includes doctors, senior specialists, registrars, Post Graduate students, paramedics and all ministerial staff of GMC. The protestors marched around the streets of Karan Nagar shouting ‘We want freedom’ and ‘Indian forces go back’.


The young medical students were angry at the way security forces had dealt with the recent protests in Srinagar. “I saw how the security forces had shot unarmed Kashmiri protestors in their heads and chests. The last month of my duty changed me completely when I saw bullet wounds and deaths”, says an intern doctor, Muzzafar.


Several female students and doctors were a part of the protest as well. “Our parents only asked us to be careful but did not stop us from joining this march. We don’t want to live with India”, says Saima.


As the procession kept moving, other people began to join in. When the procession had marched for two lanes only, the size of the protestors swelled considerably. The roads were lined by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers but the protestors avoided any confrontation with them. They however kept shouting slogans against the security forces. “They (CRPF) can kill a few hundred or thousand more Kashmiris but they will never be able to kill the spirit of freedom in Kashmiris”, says an animated Adil Khan, a young doctor. “I and my colleagues have seen 14 year boys writhing in pain because of bullet injuries and we understood how things are divided on a communal basis. But when Indian soldiers come to us for treatment, we treat them the way we would treat our own people.”


Several doctors took videos of the processions with their own cameras and phones. “We have made our own blog where in we wrote everything tat we saw in hospitals as doctors. We have started uploading videos and pictures on the internet”, says a senior doctor. “The moment the march ends, some of us will rush to our computers and protest online”, another doctor adds. 

Lal Chowk- one day before 'Lal Chowk Chalo'



The streets of Lal Chowk covered with wilted Chinar leaves crackle under the feet of soldier’s heavy boots. The cold wind gushes through the deserted streets touching, on its way, the ‘forbidden’ Ghanta Ghar (Clock tower). It is one day prior to the ‘Lal Chowk rally’ scheduled for October 6 and Kashmir is under Curfew for the third time in last two months. And Lal Chowk- the Red Square of Kashmir is transformed into a cantonment.  


The base of the historic Clock tower is coiled around by rusted barb wires and the broken glass frames at the top lean out from the tower. Every road leading to the clock tower is barred- by red traffic cones, by white iron barricades and hundreds of AK- 47 wielding soldiers.


Lal Chowk or the ‘Red Square’ has a place in the history of Kashmir and more importantly in the political changes in Kashmir. It was here at the feet the clock tower that Sheikh Abdullah in front of thousands of Kashmiris recited a Persian poem of love, saying “I have become you and You have become me” to Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India. Then with the beginning of militancy in Kashmir, Lal Chowk became the site for frequent encounters and attacks between security forces and militants. And, two months back, it was atop the same clock tower that half a million people armed with banners and placards hoisted green flags.


After the recent wave of mass protests in Kashmir, the separatists in the valley called for a peaceful march to Lal Chowk on August 25. But on August 24, the state arrested all separatist leaders and clamped strict curfew in the valley lasting for nine days. The security forces had, at that time, blocked even the view of clock tower with tin sheets fixed on iron bars and concertina wires rolled on the streets of Lal Chowk for several meters.


The call for ‘Lal Chowk Chalo’ was revisited by the separatists keeping it after the month of Ramadan and Eid. This time as well, the state machinery came down heavily imposing curfew in the entire valley one day prior to the day of the march. Lal Chowk is again surrounded by armored vehicles and the Clock Tower is out of bounds.


The roads are silent except for the snarling wind and raucous laughter.  And there are voices of distant screeching tyres, piercing shouts, mellowed voices and of reverse gears. 

From Songs to Slogans



No one in the valley hums songs anymore. It is slogans that linger in air. In Kashmir, it is the season of slogans. People breathe slogans, discuss them, when it comes to rallies or processions, the place reverberates with separatist slogans. And when people assembled near the Tourist Reception Center (TRC) to present memorandum to the United Nations office, the transition in slogans with the change in leaders was quite visible.


As hundreds of thousands of people began to gather and fill the huge ground and its adjoining roads for several kilometers, the slogans rung clear and loud. It was all freedom. ‘We want freedom’ was the only slogan for an entire half an hour while JKLF leader Yasin Malik spoke. “Freedom for this side: freedom for that side” was Malik’s slogan- referring to both parts of Kashmir.


‘Hum Kya Chahte- Aazadi’(what do we want –Freedom) was rhymed from the loud speakers mounted on top of trucks, buses and trees. Then someone holding the microphone would whisper ‘ho aayi aayi’ (it has come, it has come) and the thousands would reply ‘Aazadi’ (Freedom). A few young boys would suddenly huddle around in the middle of a bigger procession, tap their feet vigorously on the dusty ground below and sing ‘Bharat ko ragda- de ragda’ (we have stomped India- Stomped it).


When Hurriyat hardline leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, made his way through the mammoth procession, the slogans changed. Pakistan made its way gradually. ‘Pakistan se rishta kya- la illa ha illal la’ (what is our bond with Pakistan- that there is no god but God) – the crowd shouted. Slogans like ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become Pakistan) resounded in a few corners of the ground. When Geelani concluded his speech, raising another slogan ‘hum Pakistani hain- Pakistan hamara hai’ (we are Pakistanis- and Pakistan is ours) and people said zaroor (definitely). Most of the faces in the crowd drooped, hands didn’t clap, and lips didn’t open to utter slogans. Someone sitting in the crowd shouted ‘Hum kya chahte’ and people raised hands and replied ‘Azadi’.     


“Freedom, that is what we have assembled here for. That is why we have died- for 

Youth vote in Kashmir - for varied reasons


Mohammad Rizwan, 22, is inching closer to the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in Ganderbal to “choose the lesser evil”. Standing in the queue since morning, Javaid Ahmad Dar, 19, is out in the line to get his unemployed older brother a job. Twelve-year-old Yousuf Ahmad in Kangan town did not play cricket with his friends today, only to defeat the National Conference candidate.

In a free-for-all election in Ganderbal and Kangan today, young men vote with mundane expectations. Scores of teenagers, jostling and haggling in the long queues for polling admit that they were in the front rows of separatist rallies two months ago, shouting slogans and pelting stones. Few among them were hurt and even arrested by the security forces.

After the separatist call for a poll boycott, a low voter turnout was expected in the valley already seething with anger and swelling with peaceful pro-freedom protests. But, to everyone’s surprise, the voter turnout was huge- both in the first phase and today in the second phase. Mohammad Rizwan, an arts student, defends his decision to vote by saying that ‘even if no votes were cast, someone will still win’. “They (Politicians) are all social evils but we are here to choose the lesser evil,” says Rizwan. “Boycotting the conduction of elections was an option but not casting our vote makes hardly any sense now. Someone or the other will sit on our heads for the next six years, so why not choose the one who is at least better than the rest”.

To some young voters, these elections have nothing to do with the sentiment of Azaadi but are only a contest for choosing ‘better local administrators’. “Te election is only for local governance. We were leading in the pro-Azaadi protests and still stand fast for the freedom of Kashmir,” says 19 year old Javaid Ahmad Dar, standing in a polling queue at Rabitar village in Ganderbal. “We are only choosing a better administration. We need better drinking water, better roads and better education”.

Today, another reason which brought the young voters out is the presence of local candidates. The votes are either cast for or against the local candidates- who happen to be friends, relatives or neighbours of the voters - and not the parties they represent or their equations with the centre. It is either ‘sympathy’ or ‘hatred’ towards the local candidates which has brought young voters from playfields and separatist circles to the polling booths. “We know the candidate for whom we are going to vote. He is our neighbour and we cannot let some one else win and our neighbor loose,” says 18 year old Parvez Ahmad Najar, Kangan. “After all, our neighbour will still be helpful to us than someone we hardly know”.

The long lines everywhere are a mix of young and old. The youngest, however, are yet to reach 18 – the minimum age to exercise the right to vote. Thus Yousuf Ahmad, a class seven student tries to hide the faint fuzz of a moustache with the collar of his chequered black ‘phiran’. “I study in class 12,” says Yousuf in a creaking voice, his fair face and ears blushing. The others standing in the queue burst in a friendly laughter. “Tell him we study in seventh grade. We look our age,” says one of his classmates. Ahmad is one among hundreds of under-aged voters, waiting eagerly in queues. “I would rather have played cricket with my friends but I only want to defeat Mian Altaf- the NC candidate- because he did not do anything for us in the last six years,” Ahmad says.

Another reason for the youth voter turnout was after recent protests in the valley in which 53 unarmed protesters were killed in police and CRPF firing, people in the valley were disillusioned with the regular ‘chalo’ calls from the separatist camp. Some young voters say that they came out to vote today after Azaadi seemed a distant and dangerous dream which caused Kashmir hundreds of thousands of lives. “What Azaadi? How can we even think now that India will give us freedom? If they would have to do so, they would first wipe away half of Kashmir,” says Shugufta Yousuf, a college student. Dressed in a long ‘phiran’, with her index finger raised up in air, Yousuf shouts, “Franchise is my right and I will cast my vote for the improvement of my society and my life”.


War on You- Tube



On the streets of Kashmir, this latest wave of mass protests is fast transcending from stones to the cyber space. And in a matter of few weeks, it has bloomed into a war on You Tube.


Kashmir, which earlier found its way into the video site only by the famous Led Zeppelin song suddenly witnesses a surge in the videos. Led zeppelin has been pushed down the list in a space of few weeks only. And this time as you hit the key, videos of processions, protests and the stone pelting take the top spot.


The ‘war’ on You Tube started with the famous Chris de Burgh song, Revolution. Chris’ voice has the background of pictures from Kashmir – a montage that reflects Kashmir’s turbulent years. Soon after the first upload, the hits started and the links were sent through emails and social networking sites. This video of Chris marked Kashmir’s stint with You Tube.


“We started uploading Kashmiri resistance videos to inform the world community. We want them to get an idea about what is happening in Kashmir”, says Younis Rashid (Name Changed), 23, who constantly uploads videos on the net. Younis is a Kashmir University student, who along with his friends records video clips with their Cellphone cameras. “Sometimes, we use our phones or else use the available or downloadable footage. Cyber space takes our struggle to a new level.”     


Videos from Kashmir have mostly been uploaded during the 9-day uprising in July, which took place immediately after the Amarnath land transfer controversy. In fact, it was for the first time that cellphones were used to capture images and videos during these 9-days. Hundreds of cellphones wuld focus on procession, on stone pelting angry boys and the fluttering flags. And it somehow saw its way to the internet. “In rallies and processions, flooded with people, raised hands with camera phones capturing everything is a very common sight now. I also recorded some moments from the march to Pampore but I did not know how to upload it on the net, then I gave it to a friend who knows computers and someone told me that it is available on the internet now,” says a 22-year-old Arooj Ahmad (Name Changed).


The responses which are posted to the videos reflect the condition on ground in Kashmir right now. Most of the people write abusive messages and it is a full blown fight.  


With the number of hits (clicks which the videos get) to these videos from Kashmir increasing, more and more Kashmiri people are trying the You Tube. For Kashmiris, cyber space is a new front that they pay attention to while still clutching to stones.  



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kashmiri blood spilled again- Shiites cant mourn now!!!

The white smoke from a whirling shiny steel tear smoke canister reels up in the cold winter air, and incessant ambulance sirens cut across the jumbled far away voices. Smoke lingers like a heavy curtain over the road, making scores of slogan shouting mourners look like silhouettes emerging out of mist. Several people lie flat on the black tarmac and on side pavements mumbling, ‘Ya Hussain- Ya Hussain’. On the eighth day of Muharram, a four kilometer procession of Shiite mourners in Srinagar slowly turns into a protest march but still does not make it to its destination, only leaving more than 30 mourners wounded, scores in jail and countless crying.


“What harm have we done to you? We are only following our religion, please let us go and mourn our loss,” an old woman pleads before a group of J-K policemen and CRPF personnel. “One day, God will seek an answer from you for wielding this baton on a mourner.”


The Muharram procession in Shiite sect of Muslims mourns the martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain. It was the battle field of Karbala in Iraq where Imam Hussain and his 72 followers were martyred. Across the world, Shiites mourn the first ten days of Muharram which is the first month of Islamic calendar.  


The procession was banned by in 1989 after militancy started in the valley. Shiite mourners today hoped that the new government will be lenient with the processions and not injure any of them. “We thought that the democratic government has been restored and we would not be beaten mercilessly but we are again disappointed and our religion is being suppressed,” says Aamir Ali, 26, a mourner.  


As the procession advances slowly, the protestors pelt the tear smoke shells back on the police party, and move forward in a fast run. Police retrieves a few meteres, but fires dozens of tear canisters back straight at the crowd. The crowd again disappears behind the smoke and police follows for a baton charge.


“If the government can provide security for so many yatris, why can they do it for us? Why is out faith and religion being strangled,” says Ajaz Hussain Joo, a mourner.


Zamin Ali, a five year old boy, in the middle of a group of women mourners resisting arrest, sobs without noise. Tear drops trickle over his nose blushed by cold, as his grandmother tightens the black band on his head. “I want to go home. Please take me home,” he cries.  


The Imam Bada is now just a few lanes ahead and that is where the procession is headed. Police again fires tear smoke canisters and the mourners scatter again. No mourner gets past the Dalgate crossing.


More than fifty meters ahead in a narrow lane, next to Imam Bada, two long files of mourners raise Pro Hamas and pro Hussain slogans. The men move their heads in unison, their hard palms strike the hollow rib cages in rhythm with the slogans and the women cry. Girls are perched on top of windows and lightly beating their chest, in sync with the rhythm. The high pitched slogans halt abruptly, a mellowed song of mourning begins and one leads to another.


All the Shiites want to reach here to mourn together. Today, this lane is out of bounds for the Shiites other than those who live in the locality.  There are no concertina wires though, no bullets have been shot today but ambulances ferry injured to the same hospitals no differently than before.