Book review: Waadi-e-Khoonab

Author: S Ahmad Peerzada Pages: 460 Publisher: Kashmir Studies Foundation, Srinagar     
S Ahmed Peerzada’s book tries to document the lives that were murdered in 2010 ragda or ‘Quit Kashmir Movement’. He succeeds in bringing forth the brutality of occupation in Kashmir where human life is not even worth a dog’s life. In Kashmir a dog is protected species but troopers have licence to kill humans here. Peerzada shatters Statists propaganda that the protestors were drug addicts, unemployed youth and those who had family problems (Protesters had personal problems, claims SSP, GK Feb 10, 2011).

Every year the State spends millions of dollars on propaganda to hammer the point to Kashmiris that their future is tied with India. Kashir Channel was launched primarily for propaganda. The propaganda on Kashir Channel starts at prime time with news and ends three hours later in news as well. In between news there are programmes like Akz-i-Parwaz and et al. At noon the propaganda is targeted toward women folk.  Then the battle shifts to newspapers. From the past four years Kashmir is seeing plethora of Indian writers contributing to various newspapers. Among them is/was Padma Rao, a former South Asia correspondent of Der Spiegel, considered one of the Germany’s most venerated weeklies. She was paid a sum of 4,850 euros a month, which amounts to more than Rs 3 lakh (‘The Coloured Text’ Outlook India March 04, 2013). Strangely when Padam Rao was shunted out from Der Spiegel she started to contribute for a regional newspaper of Kashmir. The guess is she must have been paid more! Executive Editor of Force India magazine, Ghazala Wahab is also penning a column.  There is another case of Binoo Joshi wife of journalist Arun Joshi. Both husband wife work for many media agencies. Seema Mustafa, a former Asian Age correspondent, Saeed Naqvi, D. Suba Chandran and the list goes on. What is common that all these Indian writers appeared in Kashmir post 2008 ragda. It needs no greater intelligence who pays them to write for a regional English newspapers and why they are paid to do so.

These writers try to thicken State’s smokescreen. These big Indian writers try to influence the Kashmiri mindset with their spurious sympathies but then Allah has His own ways to help oppressed. A mere 200 rupees book comes and smacks away smokescreen and presents the reality without any clothes draped on.

While the State was propagating that protestors instigated violence, Peerzada, negates that myth. Most of the families of murdered youth buried their loved ones in midnight or in seclusion as they didn’t want uniformed men to kill more people. Many people, who were part of the protests, say that police in civvies were always targeting protestors and fired on them with pistols to instigate violence. With this simple but poignant book author demolishes fictions, half truths and nails lies. The murdered people, as the author digs in, belonged to various stratum of society. Some were students, who were also working to support their families, few were government employees, couple of them associated with singing and acting, some were members of business families and several were self employed. Among the murdered was a youth who had collection of books at an estimated range of 3 lakh rupees. Yet the State and its collaborators were spreading lies to dissuade youth from protesting.

As protestors started waxing in 2010, police and troopers begin to unleash a reign of barbarity. The unformed men developed sadistic propensity toward protestors. Police and troopers would pump bullets into protestors and bystanders. And stop people rescuing them until the injured persons lost sufficient amount of blood. Once they felt that ample amount of blood was lost and the injured is not writhing in pain they would allow people to take away the half dead persons. But the ambulance would not be allowed to proceed without many interruptions. Sometimes the half dead would be marmalised in the ambulance itself. Even the murdered youth were beaten, as the author quotes many families whose sons and daughters were killed in such ways. One of the powerful propaganda slogan used by India is to refer Kashmir as a Paradise. But what they never tell is that the price of living in paradise is death. After all paradise is not supposed to be for living men. One has to die before he enters paradise. State forces are doing exactly that to uphold India’s claim of Kashmir being Paradise.

According to the author in 2010 ‘Quit Kashmir Movement’, uniformed men murdered youth discriminately. The targeted killing of youth was to terrorise people into submission. Six women, 3 children below the age of 12 and 50 youth from the age group of 12-20 were among 125 people killed in 2010.  Not all of them were part of protests. Many of them were beaten to death or drowned when caught alone. Some were targeted point blank and others like Fayaz Ahmad Naik were killed in saving the honour of a woman. According to the author, Fayaz, who had never taken part in any protest, was escaping to another locality from the fear of troopers. “But when Fayaz stepped out from his home,” quotes author from the eye witnesses, “he saw troopers beating a woman. Her veil had fallen and instinctively he picked the veil from road and run toward woman to hand it over to her. The troopers disliked his action and pumped bullets in him. ”  As you go on reading the book you learn how inhuman police has become in Kashmir toward their own compatriots. After several people were killed in Tangmarg and the then Home Minister of India visited the area, government announced that all people injured in the firing should registrar themselves for compensation. Police detained all those who registered their names for compensation. They were released only after they paid ransom to the police but not before FIRs were also filed against them. About the ex-gratia the author mentions many families who refused to take any blood money. There were also rare occasions when families took blood money. But next day, the author writes, such families were called to police station. The author mentions the case of Milad Ahmad Dar from Islamabad, who was not yet 10 years of age. After being killed his father was pressurised to withdraw FIR. He refused. “One day”, says Milad’s father, “DC office Islamabad called me and handed over Rs five lakh cheque. Next day police station Khanbal ordered me to report at their station and persons from CIK, CID there asked me to share the blood money or otherwise the cheque will be taken back.”

Most of the family members, author quotes them, say that they know who killed their wards. It may not be surprise that since 2010 all those policemen killed may have been the same ones who actively took part in murdering youth. Most of the families are proud what their sons and daughters achieved. For them martyrdom is highest form of sacrifice. Unlike elites who are confused what Kashmiris want the poor have no such conundrum. They, says the author, are proud of the martyrdom their wards achieved for the sake of Islam and freedom. He narrates the incident of one young lady who encouraged protestors to continue protests when police run amok. As protestors took flight she showed them bangles which instinctively stopped youth who then continued their protest rigorously. The uniformed men shot her dead on seeing her pampering protestors.

But Peerzada doesn’t glorify death. The book is not perfervid despite having the scope for it. His writing is laconic. He scathingly attacks pro freedom leadership for failing to help the victims. He castigates them for their callousness toward victim families. As a thinking person, Peerzada, puts up valid questions, thought sparingly, he asks the pro freedom leadership: didn’t the victim’s families deserve any visit? Were the killed ones children of lesser gods? Who is going to take care of their families despite most of them refusing blood money?

It is true that most of the people murdered in 2010 belonged to poor section but then the greatness of every movement is to attract the poor people. They keep the movement moist with their blood. When they render sacrifices the ruling class along with elites of the society chide them as ‘drug addicts’, ‘urchins’ et al. The danger for every mass movement is when elites try to wrest control and drive it according to their whims. Kashmir has seen that when in 1975 Sheikh Abdullah told Kashmiris that fight has now shifted from streets to tables. 33 year later many Kashmiri leaders started parroting the line that Kashmiris movement has shifted from armed to unarmed. Couple of years later these elites confined movement to discussions in café shops, writings and status updates on facebook. The elites too want Azaadi provided their interests are not harmed. The education of their wards is not interrupted. Yet they want Azaadi. For them Azaadi is a matter of discussion and round table talks. Protests are nugatory. What they forget is that political battles are still fought on streets.

As happens with hurriedly written books this book is also laced with mistakes.  A book is not a regular column of newspaper where mistakes are understandable. Once you are committed to write a book you cannot make excuse of having no money and other plausible arguments. Peerzada has not taken care of pictures and has forgotten to insert names in some. Despite warts and all the book is an important reference point to counter Statist propaganda.


Inam ul Rehman is a failed journalist