I dedicate this piece to two human lives we lost last week. I try to capture in words what Suhail Naqshbandi sketched through a cartoon in Greater Kashmir. (Aatif flying in the clouds telling a Kashmiri watching from the earth, `didn’t I deserve a shutdown’? Now the background.
Rizwan Pandit is a young school Principal reportedly detained by the police for investigations. Two days after, the man is declared dead. What happens in between we don’t know. But what happens at last is too naked a truth to be covered by any fig-leaf of law or justice. The details of the case may be investigated but that won’t change the fate of the man sleeping in his grave.
Rizwan’s death didn’t generate a war cry. It was just an incident drowned in a cluster of incidents more important than a human life. Media institutions, television studios, human rights bodies, and political activists outside Kashmir had no time to mourn.
Protesting against the purported `killers’ may be a little premature and pre-timed, but voicing one’s concern on the very loss of life was a hard fact which no one could refute. A death which should have shaken all shook a few and the shock died soon.
The resistance camp here couldn’t be silent. They did what they have been doing in such cases. They did what they are capable of doing. They called for a daylong shutdown.
That is their single stock answer to all such questions – a One Time Tribute to all the dead and the dying and scheduled to die. But whatever little they could do, they did. They couldn’t bring back the dead, they asked the living to suspend their lives for a day.
Shift the scene. Atif Mir, a twelve year old boy lost his life in an encounter at Bandipora. How a boy – still young enough to be called a baby – was trapped in the gunfight is a question with many answers. Reports that flow from the place of mishap are chilling. Was Atif the fodder fed to the cannon? Who did it how and why? Answers may lead to different inferences and conclusions, but the result is the same as above. The boy is dead. But where is that stock answer, that One Time Tribute we pay to those who die.
Didn’t the kid deserve what we reserve for those we lose this way or that? How do we classify this blood which is all our own. Again if we don’t protest against the killers (if we are not sure about them), we can at least empathise with the dead. If shutdown is the only shot we know to fire, why wait before we fire it.
Was Atif a case apart or a part of us? Our tragedies – like our blood corpuscles – have two colours. To them Rizwan was white blood, to us Atif. When we protest, others are silent and when others protest we are silent.
When shall human blood be bleached of this political plasma that has diluted – rather polluted – its colour. When shall our human tragedies appear human only. After all blood is the thing that runs in all of us. And runs in red.