People were returning from their regular chores, when the news of a famous Kashmiri local rebel who had turned to militancy at a very young age, was killed in an encounter near Kokernag, 15 km away from district Anantnag. People in long chains came out of their homes, leaving all comforts inside, with slogans “Burhan tera khoon se inqilab aayega” (Burhan you blood will instigate a revolution) just to mourn the death of their hero who was a role model for many youths across the valley.

I was returning from Srinagar when seated behind me shouted loudly “yea cha pouz” (is it true?) and everyone in public car turned around, asked what had happened. The colour of his face turned pale red. His blood pressure was visibly increasing, as he replied in a broken voice: “Burhan bhai achieved martyrdom”. 

We were all suddenly shocked and requested the driver to drive the cab very fast. Everyone inside the cab poured out grief and many among us were crying continuously. Amid mourning, people inside the cab were petrified.

I turned on my phone, rang one of my friends who lives in Tral. He confirmed the news to me. This news was going to become the cause for the unrest which has been going on since Burhan’s death.

At around 8’o clock I reached Islamabad contemporary Anantnag. People were on the streets. The mosques in and around the Islamabad bus stand were reverberating with the recorded paeans and people outside were sloganeering in chains and groups “Hum kya chahtay azadi!” (We want freedom).

People inside mosques were listening to harangue from local imams (clerics) who were delivering a speech on jihad. The young boys, who were in two or three groups, were clinching their fists and raising their voices loudly “Gadaro sun lo" (apostates listen) and the other groups roared with the vociferous chants: “Azadi!" (Freedom)

I was 5 km away from my house, but the situation which I was witnessing in Islamabad horrified me. Somehow I got a lift from a local friend and reached my home safely.

On my way to my town, I saw how people were leaving the comfort of their life, coming out with aggression, taking out rallies from one street to cull de sac, with a local preacher heading the rally, chanting a slogan “Asalam ‘O Asalam”  (Peace be unto you) and people in groups and chains following the imam were screaming “Aye shaheedo Asalam” (Peace be unto you o martyrs)

As I reached my hometown, my neighbours were sobbing; some were raging, others were crying out when someone inside a local masjid was giving a sermon calling everyone to mourn the death of Burhan.

As usual people living in our adjoining areas came in long chains with their heads wrapped with green flags, shouting some anti-India, pro-freedom slogans, and endorsing those who achieved martyrdom erstwhile.

It’s not the first such situation to have prevailed. I witnessed the same when I was in Class 12, exactly when the 2008 unrest was at its peak – when people outside on roads and streets carried green flags in their hands, wrapping their heads with green cloths with a logo of a crescent and a star – when rallies from villages to towns to cities were being taken out by massive groups and people who have political connections leaving aside clamoured for Azadi

Next day, as the dawn announced the new day, the situation across valley turned violent.  The valley was on the edge once again. People across the valley, especially from south Kashmir, were defying curfew trying to reach Tral, the hometown of  Wani, where he was later laid to rest. Some of those who were unable to reach Tral, came out on roads, took out rallies and joined together in local cricket grounds to bid the local rebel adieu.

The chief clerics were especially advised by local youths to deliver a good speech on jihad. The local boys were yelling slogans praising the beauty of jihad, and some were busy singing paeans for local militants especially Wani who had sacrificed their lives for Kashmir struggle, while some were busy in “alleluia”.

At Tral the situation was very much different. Wani’s body was lifted by thousands of young mourners who were numb, crying loudly; tears were rolling down continuously from their eyes. The other rebels, his other companions, joined the gathering. In the funeral procession, according to the eyewitnesses, they gave a 21-gun salute to their commander and role model.

In the aftermath of Burhan’s killing the valley is witnessing mayhem once again reminiscent of the 2010 unrest. Weeks have passed but normalcy has not yet returned. People are calling this the “do or die, final round”.

The roads are filled with stones, empty teargas canisters, bullet covers, electric poles blocking travel to other parts of valley. Paramilitary troopers, armed forces and local police officers are present on each street showering teargas canisters, breaking mirrors of houses, beating local protestors and showering bullets directly on demonstrators. The valley has been put under siege.

The day after Wani’s killing the local boys in our locality took out a rally. We were sloganeering peacefully, yelling anti-India slogans loudly, when some CRPF troopers started firing indiscriminately. The direct fire shots struck people, injuring them.

A local neighbour, who is 15 years old, received a bullet in his abdomen. He was lying on the road when my eyes caught him. He was unconscious, when some locals put a few drops of water in his mouth.

Somehow we were successful in reaching the district hospital, where I saw people on beds with multiple bullet wounds in their body. Some were lying on bed with pellet injuries in their eyes; their families were wailing and crying loudly.

The whole hospital was jam packed with the patients who had been attacked with bullets, pellets and tear gas. And there were volunteers who were working tirelessly bringing the blood donors, helping the patients providing eatables to them.

The situation in hospitals was neither chaotic nor noisy. People were recalling the incidents which they had faced, and how they were beaten by police as well as CRPF troopers. Some were showing anguish that they will “teach those CRPF and police officials a lesson”. Some were busy helping others in this situation.

A doctor told me this is a ‘war like situation’.

“Since morning we received more than 70 patients who have bullet injuries on waists. They are critical and we are shifting them to the main hospital.” 

A group of volunteers came to us, asked in a sad tone, “Do you need anything?” and hesitantly we replied, “We need some food”. The locals who were working tirelessly brought some food and gave some money which we later paid to the ambulance driver.

On way to Srinagar hospital, a group of CRPF troopers stopped the ambulance and enquired about the patient. One among them raged on us “Behn**** pathar martay ho?” (You ******* are you pelting stones?)

We were frightened and had no idea what to say. They ordered two boys among us to throw stones on demonstrators. Thankfully, local protestors did realise the plan of the CRPF officers and they didn’t hurl stones back.

We reached Srinagar around 7 pm, without revealing the situation which we had faced, keeping aside our anger as everyone among us was tired. Some local volunteers took the patients to the emergency ward and helped us in fulfilling the formalities of hospital. Some of the volunteers offered us soft drinks; some were offering food, while some reassured they were there to take care of everyone.

“Whatever you need, we will happily provide everything.”

The whole hospital had been filled with patients who had been shifted from district hospitals of Kashmir. Some were crying in pain, while some were silent, as they were petrified over the ongoing situation – and they still are.

I spent two nights and a day in the main hospital. It was hard to spend time there. People all around were crying. Some were dying with pain, while some reached there already dead.

We were engaged in conversations, updating each other with what had happened in our adjoining areas, when an 18 year old boy was brought to the hospital. The doctors after reading test reports recalled the attack as barbaric.

A doctor cried out:

“How can they spray pellets from point blank range? He has lost his eyesight.”

Every one among us called this an act of unfathomable barbarism.

The boy's eyes were totally filled with blood. The retina was pierced and the hole was totally visible to the human eye. He was screaming in pain, he wasn’t able to talk clearly, all he said was:

“When will this night of terror end?”  

On my way back to home talked to some people about the on-going turmoil. The people unanimously agreed on one thing: Azadi.

A person in crowd said:

“We should take up the gun to retaliate”

But another wisely replied:

“For a stone they killed more than three dozen and you talk about retaliation.”

This is oppression, nothing else.

Since the agitation erupted, the government following the footsteps of its predecessor (NC in coalition with Congress) banned mobile phone services and mobile internet.  Cable television has also been barred – the cable operators have been ordered to allow limited channels.

The current government represented by Bharatiya Janta Party, in coalition with People’s Democratic Party, has started attack on the freedom of press. The police raided offices of local newspapers and arrested some members who were present there. Perhaps the current government by two parties seems in hurry to cage Kashmir and Kashmiris along with it. Across Kashmir the only voice which one can listen would be a dirge. Everything else has been muzzled.

It’s been over 15 days passed since the government imposed curfew in Kashmir.  More than 50 people have been killed in broad daylight, with thousands injured. 

The draconian measures, excessive force which PDP and BJP used against people reflect the jitteriness of government. To say “the situation is under control” would be naive.

It’s not Pakistan which is behind the unrest. It’s the people who are being oppressed and their brewing anger.

The present odour of the Kashmir Valley reflects the actual situation. I hope some sense prevails…