| Politics & Society |
A Journey Interrupted
By Majid Maqbool
When the landscape of fear fails to instill fear among people, it reminds the occupier of what remains unoccupied despite occupation: immense courage, an incredible will to resist, and that disease called hope. Beyond that breakable point, people no longer fear those who instill fear and inflict wounds. Fear evaporates. People stand up, remember the wounds inflicted, and forcefully ask for what is rightly theirs. Resistance, then, becomes a habit, a way of life, a necessary act to live a respectable life under occupation.
It’s a particularly bright sunny spring afternoon. Showing up from a nearby CRPF camp, a CRPF trooper with a bulging tummy suddenly appeared in the middle of the boulevard road in Srinagar city. Thrusting forward his rifle, he stopped the tata sumo vehicle we were traveling in. He had a mournful look on his face that suggested as if his youthful years were wasted in an undesirable place, in trying to conquer the unconquered people. With a gun now slung across his shoulder, he asked the young sumo driver to drop his fellow CRPF man some kilometers ahead, near the entrance of Centuar hotel.
Much to his and passengers’ dislike, the sumo driver had to apply sudden brakes to board this unwelcome passenger. Close to the bunker, many movable road blockades were surrounded by a tangled mesh of concertina wires. On one of the road blockades, pulled in the middle of the road to stop the vehicles, read a message in red letters over a white background: ‘CRPF is always for your convenience.’
The middle aged CRPF trooper was carrying a can of alcohol bottles that made clinking sound as he rushed to board the vehicle. He held the bottles in his lap, close to his chest. He was carrying them perhaps for other CRPF men stationed in and around the bunkers near the Centuar hotel. Although fully uniformed, he stepped into the sumo without his rifle. Once inside the vehicle, he did not say anything. He adjusted himself on a vacant seat, next to the window. Then he waved goodbye to his colleague, who asked him to take care of the bottles.
The sumo driver immediately switched off the stereo that was blaring out old and new Hindi film songs playing on FM 92.7. As the vehicle sped away, the driver started profusely cursing the troops in Kashmiri – and the nation that sends them to occupy Kashmir – for behaving as if they own the roads in Kashmir and all the vehicles plying on it. All the passengers agreed with him. And then they sent out their own respective curses – all of them in Kashmiri. The passengers exchanged strange looks with the trooper. He looked out from the window, uninterested and unable to comprehend a word exchanged between the passengers and the driver.
The angry young driver then went on to say something about digging the grave of Sheikh Abdullah, for allowing the Indian troops to stay in Kashmir for so many years. “Yemhez khaet aese kalas peath wean…,” he said angrily as he put his foot down on the accelerator. (These troops have come here to sit on our heads.)
The vehicle gathered more speed. The driver wanted to quickly get rid of the CRPF trooper by dropping him a few kilometers ahead, near the gate of the centaur hotel.
Uneasiness was palpable on the faces of passengers inside the vehicle. All the passengers, including a few elderly women, felt uncomfortable in presence of the CRPF trooper carrying a can full of alcohol bottles. They behaved as if he didn’t exist, occasionally stealing a glance at the bottles that jingled in his lap. “Chenun heaz yae daereath... khaber kot chus gasun,” an elderly woman told the driver without looking at the CRPF trooper. (Get rid of him quickly!)
The sumo driver applied brakes near the entrance of the centaur hotel. Then he waited for the CRPF trooper to step out of the vehicle. The trooper, instead of paying his fare, began walking leisurely towards the gate of the hotel. Seeing the trooper walk away without paying his fare, the driver pulled the vehicle on the roadside. He came down from the vehicle, and interrupted him. The driver was furious. “kiraya do,” he demanded from the CRPF trooper, waving his hand out in askance. The CRPF trooper looked surprised. A while ago, the stern command of his colleague down the road, he had thought, was enough tell the driver that he is not supposed to pay for this sumo ride.
“painsay denay hai kya..?,” the trooper enquired, still confident that there’s no need to pay, as if not paying in his birth-right, as if to pay will hurt his ruling pride in Kashmir. All this while he kept looking out for his colleagues stationed in the CRPF bunkers near the entrance of the hotel. He was expecting them to come out in his support.
The young sumo driver became more furious on his nonchalant attitude, and his unwillingness to pay his fare.
“Warna kya,” the driver shot back, Manmohan Singh deaga kiraya...!?”
A tense silence followed. The trooper showed more urgency to enter the CRPF camp. “Nahe hai…pehlay bolna tha..,” he simply told the driver in a stern tone. And then he started walking away in the direction of his colleagues stationed inside the CRPF camp. Without saying anything, the driver quickly thrust his left hand in the right breast-pocket of the trooper. Only a five rupee note came out of his pocket (he owed him ten rupees for the ride). The driver swiftly put the five-rupee note in his pocket, stepped into his vehicle, and accelerated away. He did not look back at the trooper who stood still, holding the can of alcohol bottles with both hands. He was surprised and stunned by the audacity shown by the young driver.
“Tem zamane heaz maklae yale aeas khochaan aes yaeman,” the driver calmly told the passengers in Kashmiri. (Those days are over when we used to fear them)
The tense expressions of the passengers, who were keenly watching the scene from inside the vehicle, eased into smiles as the driver returned on his wheel. They congratulated the young man for standing up for what was rightly his, for not showing any fear in front of the arrogant Indian trooper. Then they sent out some more expletives, this time for all the Indian military occupying Kashmir. One after another, the passengers blurted out a round of expletives.
“Yaeman d#@#n che rae aes karov choepe…,” said a middle-aged man, putting down a daily Urdu newspaper he was reading. (These b@#*#%s think we will keep quiet…)
“yaeman kya,” said another passenger, “yem karahan Kashere lootha…” (…They want to plunder Kashmir…)
Another passenger, an old man, wanted to emphasize the fact that Kashmir can never be – has never been – conquered by force. Or fear, for that matter.
“Yaeman chaye paye aeas che weante khoechaen yeman!,” he chuckled, his right hand reaching out on the left shoulder of the young driver. (They think we still fear them, eh!)
At this point the young driver turned around, and flashed a big smile.