Thieves Caused Heartburns



Looking back is not always joyous. It has its own stings- painful stings reminiscent of shattered dreams, of crumbling ideals and bitter days lived.  Nevertheless, travelling back in time despite all its barbs is cathartic. 
Past is magnetic- anything can make on   one travel back in time. This morning, it was a book, ‘Stories’ by Anton Chekhov’ on a shelf in my tiny library that played this magical trick of taking me down the memory lane.  I have not touched books on this shelf for years. These beautifully bound books of some greatest fiction writers were almost sold free on pavements by newspaper vendors. Staring at me the book for a minute made me feel Chekhov was peeping out of the dusty covers of the book.  And   ‘looking at me out of the corners of his eyes, and smiling -  that tender, charming smile of his which attracted his friends irresistibly to him and made them listen so attentively to his words”. I felt he was reminding me of his great friend Maxim Gorky and his magnum the Mother. 
Like most of the boys in my generation, I was a devout reader of great Urdu novelists Naseem Hijazi and Sadiq Hussain Sardhunwi. There was hardly any amongst my playmates, peers and sibling who did not read novels of these writers more religiously than their textbooks. Overwhelmed with their ‘romantic description of history’ some of friends identified themselves with one or other protagonists in their novels.   It was during these times that an unlettered neighbor – a DNC worker presented me an English novel- Mother by Maxim Gorky. I still remember, the hardbound purple covered book without dust covers - torn at corners, I was perhaps umpteenth reader of this novel. In a way it was a graduation for me - graduating from Urdu fiction to reading fiction in English language. The story of the novel has etherized from my memory, I have forgotten names of most of the characters.  Somehow, I had seen Gorky’s novel as relevant to our situation as those of Naseem Hajazi - it talked about oppression and rising against it.
Those days I often heard this  unlettered D.N.C worker,  on the barber shop speaking against “goondaraj” and abusing some known hoodlum workers of the ruling political party- in our locality some of them were hated. He often presented his leader as good a protagonist as Pavel Vlassov in Gorky’s novel. In my heart of hearts, I also waited for the day the city would be cleaned   toughs and thugs enjoying impunity.  
The gusty historical forces in the shape of  the Holy Relic Movement brought the change- the baton passed to my neighbors ‘Pavel’ – ironically, he was not Gorky’s Pavel – not even a shade of his.  “Liberalization” was the catchword that even caught imagination of my uncle, who started believing that the new regime would be better than the previous ones; little knowing it was an iron fist in velvet gloves.
Thousands all over the state was jailed that included hundreds of students- some were arrested under DIR, and kept in jails for five years without trial; some under Preventive Detention Act (PDA) were detained without presenting before court  for two years. Scores of students in our locality were jailed in our locality…There is belief that about five to seven students were jailed at different points of time from 1964 to 1971.
The jailed   political workers and students after leaving the iron gate of the Srinagar Central Jail or other jails often carried a bagful of stories to share on a barber’s shop. An interesting story that still lurks in my mind   is about some “top burglars and pickpockets”. Instead of booking them under criminal laws like students and political workers these were detained under PDA. Lodged with political workers and leaders in barracks these were given all the facilities of political detunes.  Those days political detunes as per their stature were entitled to daily allowances- top leaders would be entitled to Rs.7  , students   detunes Rs.5 and senior political workers Rs. 3 Per day- these were classified as A, B and C.  Thieves thick with jail authorities were treated as B-class detunes. This caused heartburns in leaders and political workers. Many of them worked as informers for jail authorities in lieu got ‘medical diet’- that included 200gms daily meat or eggs. There were also stories about some criminals detained under PDA set free at night for breaking into houses and returning to jails in wee hours – and sharing the booty with jail authorities….    

Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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