Un-wed widows

Yet, they harbour the hope to return to the era they called "Golden period".
Un-wed widows
File Photo

They call them victims of militancy, I call them sufferers of injustice. They  consist of more than half the population of this paradise. They are the sisters of those who were killed, maimed, jailed or hanged. Yet, they harbour the hope to return to the era they called "Golden period"…perhaps 1580 when Kashmir was independent and was known as the "Kingdom of Kashmir".  Since then, Kashmir burst into flames so did half of its population. It was only the men who fought and were killed….but  the women continued to suffer long after….they were left behind for all kinds of abuse and shame……..by men, soldiers, forces, rulers and dynasties….and then sold their stories to further their own cause…. 

  The last two decades have been more frightening…..somewhat different from the earlier decades of suppression. The ironing of belly had changed into modern method of electric shocks that has given us a treasure of pain, memories, vocabulary……. and most of all left the legacy of new "entrants" into the society of our closed Kashmiri culture.  Our life changed, our customs changed and our language changed, we reincarnated into new generation of "cynics and pessimists". We have not lost land, mountains or rivers only….we  lost life, honour, chastity…………….

 Every woman of this Paradise has a story to tell….her brain has become a storage of memories…like a hard drive that has much more capacity to store….they know they have produced a new generation of kids, who have nightmares though they have not witnessed them…… but the nightmares have been fed to them with breast milk….  

 Alas! Hanifa of Chari-i-sharief had no chance of  feeding any child……she spends her time trying to wash out all her memories of 1995. Remember,  the same place which got burnt down during the hunt of Mast Gul, that bearded guy who had come to "deliver" us? On that frightful night when he left Mighty Indian army to wonder about his escape route that took him to his native place across the border, Hanifa's destiny changed altogether… Kashmir lost an old Shrine but she lost her name, identity, home and dignity. Many more Hanifas, then, lost their identity, honour and dignity…….the life of the sacred village was turned upside down, some blame our  "deliverer" and some blame the security camp. Everybody left after the village was plundered and pillaged… but Hanifa couldn't….the sky above and the land below had no space left to hide her….she remained un-protected, un-seen and un-loved….many Kashmiris still remember "Ghazi" and the "men in uniform"….they forgot Hanifa…..who vanished into the thin air……..

The sermons of leaders from "this camp and that camp" about the suffering of our women became myriad, people kept listening to them with patience as if it were the only hope to give them hope to carry forward the mission of our "Deliverers"  in every nook and cranny of the valley…….Hanifa doesn't get mention in sermons as  all other Hanifas become generalized….those who were managing the "bloodshed" had left Hanifa and many more Hanifas to lurch in some corner of the valley…….they looked around for soothing voice, they searched for one moment of comfort…. they dreamt about home full of love and laughter…..but they saw none….they were alone……they became numb…they became deaf and the society thought it better to have un-dead population…..

 Hanifa has stepped into the fifth decade of her secluded life….life that has become colourless… spiritless… dreamless….not because she doesn't want to live but because she doesn't get a chance to live a moment, a day or  a month without ridicule or abuse…..and those at the forefront to ridicule her, were her saviours once…….

what a dilemma for society…the more it suffers, the more cruel it becomes……….the more religious it becomes, the less humble it turns out…..maybe it needs a thorough research into the minds of society,  living in conflict zones otherwise the suffering brings humility, the religion brings conscience….

Even mosques cannot change us……………

Hanifa can neither live nor die…..she can't marry nor be a spinster…. she endlessly stares at sky whispering to herself  "what am I supposed to do"… but the sky mocks back in silence. She wants to live a moment that she can remember but she has been deprived of it by the same society which prays five times a day and has mosques and shrines at every corner of the village……..

The day we lost the sacred shrine of Chari Sharief, her house was burnt, parents killed, brother absconded and fiancé disappeared…she was left to live at the mercy of neighbours who left her at the mercy of "Azadi Pasand" who then left her at the mercy of mainstream..who then left her at the mercy of social welfare, ultimately kicked out for being supporter of this group or that group…..

Our boys were killed, maimed, jailed or tortured….that was not the punishment "Hanifas of Kashmir" were rewarded….they met steady  humiliation, they were dishonoured every other day, dislocated, ostracised and kicked from this camp to that camp like beggars….and, there is a half population of "Hanifas" in this state who have played no role in any political mischief but it is only them who became target of everybody's mischief….they are thousands and thousands in number…homeless, jobless, un-wed and fragile……un-loved…………un-wanted……

 What shall I call them….they can't be called half widows…they can't be called married widows…….can any of you suggest a name as I wish to write a story about them….not a story that might please this camp or that camp…but a story that might pierce the heart of the cruel world that has shut its eyes to these bruised forgotten souls of Kashmir who keep irrigating this place with their blood and sweat upon which the political grocers woo millions of tourists to cherish the majestic beauty of Kashmir………………………………………………..

(The writer is a former editor of News and Current affairs in BBC London)

nayeema7@gmail.com

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