The carnival of freedom

There were interminable numbers of people, especially young boys and girls, heading towards the main town of Tral. They were coming in mini buses, two-wheelers, but majority of them were on foot. Everybody chanting, Hum Kia Chahtay Azadi,  Shaheedou Tumharay Khoon Say Inquilab Ayega.


On Monday, last week, three gurellas died in Tral. It was not the first time.  I know it won’t be the last time. One thing I know that all roads lead to the houses of those killed. It was a day to rejoice. It was a day of mourning. It was a day to reaffirm to fulfill the dreams of Kashmir people. I was lost.


In the morning their bodies were brought to their respective villages. Their houses almost equidistant from Tral but in different directions. After people finished the funeral prayers of Commander Shabir of Hauyoma and Shabir of Dadsara, they proceeded towards Larigam to pay respects to Aijaz Ahmad Laway.


I live in the main town of Tral. I had not participated in the funeral prayers of the two gurellas. Perhaps, I had become insensitive to deaths. May be I don’t like “deaths for a cause”. I feel sad, angry, and helpless when I had to encounter such things. I am a student of medicine. I think I am taught to believe in logic. Not in dreams and spirituality.


As I was watching the streets flooded with people chanting, huma kiya chahtay  Azaadi , two of my friends insisted that we should go to Larigam to participate in the funeral procession Aijaz. I never wanted to go. But repeated assertions forced me to change my decision.


When we walked on the road leading to Larigam, we joined thousands of people; women and girls were in equal numbers. It seemed people were on a pilgrimage to freedom.


I am a lazy walker. As I was plodding with my friends, a woman, who apparently looked in her mid 40’s, shouted at me.
“Why don’t you have strength to walk,” she said. “I have visited houses of Hayouma and Dadsara on foot. Now I am going to Larigam. If I have the energy to walk why you can’t young man?”


I was baffled for a moment. The woman who was a part of a group was walking at an extreme brisk pace. She seemed to compete in the race to freedom.


A number of small vehicles carrying people especially youth were also plying. They drivers kept honking; boys singing freedom songs and shouting pro freedom slogans.


A few meters ahead, the boys shouted atop of their voices when they met a para-military patrol on the road. “We want freedom,” they shouted, “Ragda Ragda Bharat Ragda”.


The CRPF men did not retaliate. They bowed their head as if in submission. Their faces looked sad and hung down in silence. Perhaps, they knew they are pawns of occupation who are only allowed to follow the orders of their leaders.


All the way the residents were distributing sherbet and juices to the marching people. It was a déjà vu. Flashback of early days of the militant struggle formed a canvas before my eyes. I had never felt such a strong belongingness among the people with their land before.


I was extremely sad. Deep in my heart, I was thinking as to why the three youths sacrificed their lives. Just for a dream— Azaadi— which they could not see in their lifetime. I pondered what drives them. Where from this bravery stems out? It puzzled me. All of the three youths joined the rebel groups in past few years. They knew people will come to mourn when they will die. Afterwards, they would forget them and will go on in with their lives. They would work, marry, have children, build houses and live till they die a natural death. 


Soon after, I reached the ground where at least 30, 000 people had gathered to attend the funeral prayers. There I saw the father of my friend- Masiullah. It wrenched my heart.


Masiullah was my class mate, who after finishing his B Tech, joined rebels and died fighting two years ago. He used to play cricket with me and we would go to bath in summers in local stream. He would always tell me that he wants to die for the Kashmir cause. He did it. I could not understand why? May be I was too coward or immature to understand about the supreme sacrifice.


I saw his father Abdul Gafar in the myriad number of people. He looked towards me. There was no remorse on his face. As if he wanted to tell me that like his son, more people will sacrifice their lives chasing the dream.


Then leaders addressed the gathering. Following speeches of some leaders, Syed Ali Geelani addressed the gathering of thousands of mourners. There was a pin drop silence as people were attending a class room. The leader broke down. Then he asked people to continue to show their resolve and commitment with the freedom struggle.


As he finished, the entire place resonated with the freedom slogans. I saw a girl who has covered his face in scarf. I could guess that she was a teen. She led a procession of women chanting slogans, “Martyrs your blood would bring revolution”. It was the women who were ruling the huge gathering and leading the processions.


There were some women who were consoling the mother of the slain ultra. She was endlessly weeping. The women told her that she was fortunate that her son has died for the cause. They told her she should rejoice as he has laid his life for the supreme cause- freedom of Kashmir.


My uncle, who too was present in the procession, told me that more people would join the rebels. He said the dead were heroes and pointed towards his body draped in green cloth.


I saw hundreds of youth, particularly the teenagers, taking photographs of the body of the martyr. He looked as he was in a deep sleep. The young boys were also fighting among themselves to shoulder the coffin.


The people were chanting pro freedom slogans, angry, excited and biding adieu to their dead hero who at least rose against the tyranny, injustice, and for achieving a dream. He died as a brave freedom fighter. Not the one who is coward complaining about the injustices and looking towards an empire for redressal.


The mood and happenings of the procession brought back me the memories of the film Umar Mukhtyar. When the legendary Libyan freedom fighter was taken to the gallows by the Italian soldiers his watch falls from the pocket. As he is hanged, a child picks it up and fixes the time. This was the transition which I felt in the procession. The time had frozen in the memories of the children and youth there as well. It implicitly means more dream-chasers. More rebels. More funeral processions.  

(As told to journalist Wasim Khalid)