The clamour of slogans started rising around in the vicinity of a local mosque with a recorded hymn, praising the beauty of “Jihad”. The voice was cracking the walls, making the sound clear and people were rehearsing, yelling the slogans loudly. People of our village were busy in discussion outside the mosque, talking loudly about how good it is to achieve martyrdom. Among us, there were many young boys listening to harangue from the chief cleric of our village, who had witnessed the days of the 1990s, when the armed struggle in south Kashmir was at its peak.

The crowd was surrounded by some intellectuals who had been in jail for a long time on made up charges which haven’t been proved, till date. They were recounting past memories which had been refreshed by the 2016 uprising. They were narrating how the Indian army had inflicted them with atrocities, and how they were tortured many times inside the jail cells on fake charges. They call those memories painful and haunting but they also endorse the fact that the 1990 armed struggle gave Indian troopers sleepless nights.

Among us, was a former militant who was released a few years ago. He was booked under POTA, allegedly for attacking an army convoy. He stood up and started narrating how and where he had been tortured brutally. The torture marks were clearly visible on his body and he had lost the ability to speak fluently. Tears rolled down from his eyes when he narrated how he was tortured sexually in a local detention centre. May Allah save all of us from such brutality, he said in a low tone.

Everyone around him felt numb when he showed them his body’s back, and the deep torture marks could be seen, clearly visible to the naked eye. Those marks were 15 years old and they still looked fresh. This is what I got, “call it a gift from the Indian fence,” he said jokingly. “It’s hard to believe that Kashmir will achieve freedom one day, but my heart says that no longer but sooner we will get it somehow, at any cost, even if it will cost my life.” This was his last message to us.

Time flew, but we were engrossed in his narratives. He infused some sort of aggression into our veins and our blood pumped through our veins at a very high speed. Nobody among the crowd knew that it would be his last sermon.

We were all feeling very fired up while listening to his words, the speech that he gave to us before leaving this world. It was hard to believe that the troopers would fire indiscriminately at us. In the blink of an eye, everything around us turned and paused for a while. Bullets, teargas shells, pellets – everything was showered on us. It was hard to move to some place safe nearby. Everything around me was looking messy. The air was laden with teargas canisters, pellets and some sort of smoke gas. The ground beneath our feet looked like it belonged in a battlefield. Some kind of sound bombs were also used to put pressure on us.

The forces were continuously trying to maim the people. They were torturing us, not only physically, but also mentally. “M**d*r c**d (mother f***ers) come here, fight with us, you want freedom you d*** h***s, come get freedom here.”

These were the only words which were reverberating in the air. It appeared that the police and other security forces had planned to go for a massacre. Some of my friends dragged me to a safe place nearby. My eyes blurred – I thought I had lost my eye sight. The forces who cordoned our area went berserk, vandalised the venue, tents, chairs and other things. They attacked the whole village, broke window panes, mirrors, and dragged other boys from their houses. They announced that the area was under curfew and how we dared to organise a pro-freedom rally. They set fire to tents, burnt wooden chairs, which were laid out to seat some pro-freedom leaders. The women of our village showed some bravado: they came out of their houses, left the cosy life aside, and started beating their chests and began wailing loudly. This is ubiquitous across Kashmir. Women have always been courageous when it comes to freedom. They dared the police officer to touch them. The police officer who was in charge of the brutal forces had seen the anguish displayed by the women vis-à-vis their treatment of the men and young boys.

That was just a glimpse – soon, a woman yelled loudly “walwie marwie – come kill us”. He retorted back and said “you bitch, what do you want?” He jeered, and then said, “Freedom?” The crowd at the back yelled loudly and retorted in anguish. This would have allayed the fears among women.  

This infringement of the law had taken place with the connivance of police officials. The police officer’s connivance with other cops showed that the higher authority had allowed them to go for a shoot-at-sight encounter inside the village to incapacitate the people from organising a pro-freedom event. I quickly ran from the spot and went back home. I switched on one Indian media channel: situation which it projected was so unbelievable, it gave me Goosebumps. I was baffled to see what they were telecasting.

The projection showed that the Indian media was completely complacent at our grief. The words that they used for us were “terrorist”, “separatists”, “pro-Pakistani supporters”, “pro-Isis supporters”, “pro-Taliban supporters”, so on and so forth.

More than 20 people were injured that day, and one among them was seriously injured, as he was hit with a teargas shell on his head. Later on, he was transferred to Srinagar for advanced treatment.

Just an hour passed. Olive green paramilitary vehicles with teargas guns auto-adjusted on the roof rack, solemn-faced soldiers on the top of vehicles with pellet guns in their hands once again cordoned the area. This time, a white police vehicle entered the village, on the front, announcing that the area has been put under curfew. People were all too familiar with that announcement; they had been announcing it regularly since Burhan Wani, a local Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander, was killed. This time they came with a convoy of army (Rashtriya Rifles) for cover up.

The army troopers, with olive green uniform, machine guns on their shoulders, some of them with teargas and pellet cartridges hanging lose on their bodies, created the scene of a siege around the village. They hurled abuses and beat many people who came in their way. A group of people came out and started sloganeering. Within seconds, the whole village came out and joined the procession. People were sloganeering anti-India and anti-government slogans. The armoured vehicle with more than 4 CRPF troopers masked, who were dangling at the back vehicle entered into the village, went berserk, and started to vandalise everything in the village.  They lobbed teargas canisters into the air which created suffocation. It was hard to breathe. They were sending out a warning to the people, but due to the repeated echo, it was hard to make out what was being said. Somehow, I managed to go outside to listen to what they were announcing. The armoured vehicle was surrounded by more than a hundred CRPF troopers, and it looked like they were there to eliminate someone.

They seized a group of boys and started beating them indiscriminately. They dragged a few boys, which threw a chill down my spine. After the lapse of a few minutes, there was another announcement – this time, it was made by the cleric of masjid. The announcement was “Army walou raet saen kah nawjawan aasie paazie sarnie nearun” (“the army troopers have captured some of our boys and we should all come out for a protest”). When people reached the cull de sac, the CRPF troopers, with police connivance, started firing at the procession, once again. This injured many. People ran for safe spots. This was the time when I went back to the mosque and saw one person lying in a pool of blood. A group of local boys quickly carried him in a private vehicle and I saw his face: it was the same person who was giving us the sermon an hour or two before.

He was almost dead. A friend yelled behind me, and said “eamou ha morr yea zaenith” (“they killed him deliberately”). I would like to believe that it was a cold blooded murder, as the bullet had hit him square in the chest. The sloganeering continued and a procession went out from the village to the main ground, where other people from adjoining areas were waiting for us.

More than one lac people gathered in the nearest cricket ground and were protesting against the Indian army’s procession. People were crying, some were sloganeering, while some were leading the march. An ambulance reached us, and we could see that some of our neighbours were inside the ambulance. They came down and said that the man who was giving the sermon had died.

People started screaming when they carried the body of the local, who, an hour before was alive and was giving a speech, and hinted that it might be his last.  A group of people, whom, I think, were from the Hurriyat started their sermon and the first thing they yelled was “Aa zaalimo aa jabiru – Kashmir hamara chor do!” (“Oh tyrants and tormentors leave our Kashmir”). Another screamed loudly, “Hum kya chahtey?” (“What do we want?”) People who erstwhile gathered for a protest retorted loudly “Aazaadi” (“Freedom”).

The next group of people continued sloganeering in which they many a times recalled Burhan Wani. Some in the group yelled, “Burhan tere khoon se inqilaab aayega!” (“Burhan, your blood will bring a revolution!”. These things are common in Kashmir. This is how they bid adieu to local mujahideen. Whenever any kind of uprising starts, people usually praise the local mujahideen in their sermons and speeches.

Late in the evening, the police officials came for their nocturnal raids. They raided some houses and arrested some local boys for making a “local chalo” successful. The forces faced the wrath of the local protestors who pelted stones on them. It was important, as many dignified people joined the stone pelters. Many old and young joined the group of stone pelters, some came out with axes in their hands, and some with iron rods. They have made our life hell, this is now intolerable, said a young civil servant in a harsh tone. How come peaceful protests have become seditious for them? He yelled loudly. The police officials ran from the spot and went back to the police station.

The next morning, when the newspaper got home, a headline in bold, red, capital letters – this is usually how they prefer to announce another killing – said, “Another dead, death toll reached 69 in just 45 days”.

People forget the days to count, they are just counting the deaths which come with each and every day across Kashmir. Usually, in between the talks they say “aaz tee ha moud akh” (“today, another died”). Today the news was about the local neighbour who was killed in cold blood. A big picture of him was printed on the front page with a dark background and a long essay on the infringement of law committed by the so-called army jawans recounted the story of his murder.

They usually come and brutalize people. They charge young boys under POTA and put them behind bars – it happens regularly in parts of Kashmir, especially in such place that have an army camp in their vicinity. Late at night, people cannot roam around freely, as the local army troopers beat people mercilessly; at times they arrest the locals and put them behind the bars. It’s believed, that a few years ago, more than 12 boys disappeared and never came back. Some eyewitnesses say that the local army came in olive green trucks and said that these twelve people have connections with rebels who had infiltrated a month ago. As per local eye witnesses, they say that they haven’t returned till date. They call it “Khaki Terrorism”.

It happens only in Kashmir: where a father has to shoulder his son’s coffin. It happens only in Kashmir: the old remain alive but they kill the young to expand their illegal occupation and to avoid resistance. Since 2008, this was the third of its kind of a civil uprising. More than 1000 young boys were killed in broad day light and no one was booked for these killing. In fact, those police officials in connivance with other cops were honoured and promoted to higher ranks. More than 50,000 boys were injured. Use of lethal weapons on people was used since the first uprising took place. Nocturnal raids pushed young boys to move to an unknown place. More than 2 lac boys faced seditious charges. Some were booked on fake charges. It is believed that the government is planning to make a Guantanamo Bay like jail in Kashmir, in order to quell the people’s resistance. But the people of Kashmir have always been courageous. They have always showed bravado. For “Aazadi” they have sacrificed everything.