Heroes beyond rhetoric
FREEZE FRAME BY SYEDA AFSHANA
“Sir, will we be back in Srinagar by 4:30 evening”? asked the Sumo driver. “Hopefully, yes. But why are you asking so?” replied one among the group of passengers. “Sir, actually I have promised my fiancé to see her at 5:30. We are getting married soon”, the driver said. He was probably worried because of the road condition and rainy forecast while driving towards frontier area.
That day the dawn was overcast and sun had not shown its face fairly. “Wake up my dear, you had told me yesterday to awaken you early”, while caressing his hair, mother told him. “Yes, today I am going to a far-off place with my passengers”, he replied while rubbing his eyes. After getting ready, he said to his mother, “I am going Mom. I may come late”. Half-heartedly his mother saw him off and said, “I will be worried, drive carefully”.
The young man had recently got engaged and he had fixed a date with his fiancé in the evening of that very day. Turning nights into days, he was always on move, looking for opportunities to earn more. Besides earning the livelihood for his parents, he was putting all his blood and sweat to sum up extra money for his marriage. He was true to life. He had no romantic vision to pursue. He just had a reliable mission. A realistic goal—To be the support of his family and earn for their happiness. Honestly and gracefully.
It was April 20, 2004. He rushed to the place from where he had to fetch a team of passengers who had hired his vehicle to monitor the first phase of elections in Northern Kashmir. Since some of the persons who had to accompany the group did not turn up because of certain reasons, a seat got vacant after the designated individuals boarded the vehicle. Seeing this, one of the lady members of the team displayed her interest in accompanying the team and boarded the vehicle. The voyage started. The driver might have been skeptical but was brave enough to accompany the team on a risky assignment because he was simply clear about doing his job.
All along the way, he was thinking of shaping his humble dreams into hardcore realities. The clouds had begun to veil the place that he was cruising through. After driving out of the village near the Line of Control, where the team was on a monitoring exercise, he had no idea that he was literally holding the steering of life of everyone in his vehicle, including himself. He was moving towards the next destination. The ultimate one. The destination was getting closer. So was death.
‘Bang!’ A sudden thud. His vehicle was ripped off. Startling darkness draped everything around. Dense shady smoke was the only shroud. It was a landmine blast. His vehicle had detonated an explosive device. Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, the unsung hero, was blown up by the bomb not targeted either for him or anyone else on board.
Cruelly, the destiny had played its role by offering a vacant seat in the vehicle to a courageous activist, Aasiya Jeelani, who also lost her life in this gruesome incident. Aasiya, as reported, was helping a local human rights group prepare an account of its election monitoring activity.
Ghulam Nabi may have faded into oblivion but his mention cannot be rendered obscure. He symbolizes a common Kashmiri whose sacrifice and service is usually trapped and stamped out under the huge rhetorical discourse. He never becomes a cover story. His story remains unaccounted and unreported.
Perhaps, a man in a street, a face in a crowd, a commoner in Kashmir has no glorification added to his daily struggle. He lives and dies unknown and un-mourned. His blood offers no inspiration to a generation that is fast and gets easily carried away. The shades of reality, in an original form, never get unraveled before them. They don’t even strive to discover them because the rhetoric is so compelling to them.
In Kashmir, we lost lots of people without actually knowing whom we have lost. This is very tragic, and disgraceful as well. The life and death of Ghulam Nabi and his ilk, has always failed to inscribe its significance on the pages of our ever-distorted history. And that remains the reason of the unending chaos surrounding us.
(The columnist teaches at Media Education Research Centre, MERC, University of Kashmir)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 21 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 21 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 22 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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