Chacha: Miss you Uncle

He was lowering the bodies into graves; I too was getting hyper; Suddenly I saw tears rolling down Chacha’s cheeks.
Chacha: Miss you Uncle
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The initial phase of the on-going movement was hectic for me. I was a lawyer then and this perhaps made me a little important in my locality. Sheikh Abdul Kabir alias Chacha lived in my neighbourhood and used to come to my esteemed father very often. The on-going struggle tied us with strong bonds. He would often call me to his place to discuss various issues.

When Jagmohan assumed office of the governor for the second time in January, 1990 Chacha called on me. Jagmohan's speech, which was very intimidating had frightened him as well. "They (the government) are going for a massive search operation. What shall we do now?" I had no answers but I told him to keep cool. "If they have decided to go for searches there is nothing we can do about it. Let them come and search our houses. We have nothing to hide."

A harsh reality dawned on Chacha. Notwithstanding the heroics of his son, Sheikh Abdul Hamid who was then a commander of JKLF. We were too weak to fight a huge military might. By the time he stood up to leave, his face had fallen. I felt sorry for him. The sun also did not shine on that day. Embarrassed by molestation of women at Chotta Bazar during the first ever search operation in Kashmir, it hid behind the clouds. The molestation of women sent shock waves across Srinagar. People came out to register protest.

Allah-o-Akber Kabeeran Kabeera ( Allah is great; greater than the greatest). This slogan was chanted across Srinagar that evening. We also assembled in Magarmal Chowk and expressed solidarity with Chotta Bazar people. Around midnight, two army vehicles arrived. Many people ran for shelter. But the troops had arrived to rescue their officer who lived in Magarmal Bagh. The officer and his family left the place for good that night. Soon after, a bearded man from Sarai Bala, who used to play cricket with me in the erstwhile Hazuri Bagh came. Ashfaq Sahib (Another JKLF commander) wants you to take out a procession tomorrow morning. I did not trust him. I had absolutely no reason for not trusting him but something deep inside me forced me to seek clarification from Ashfaq Majid Wani. Somebody called him. Good God! He had not talked to the person and did not want people to take out processions in the morning. He urged us to restrain people from doing so. We tried our best but destiny had something else in store for Kashmir that day.

Processions were organized from Batmaloo, Rajbagh and elsewhere. I was with Chacha in Batmaloo desperately trying to keep the people indoors. In the process, I found myself arguing with a stranger on the Silk Factory Road near DAV School. Chacha was nowhere to be seen. Here the CRPF personnel fired several rounds in air. People ran for shelter. I reached to the interior Sarai Bala. A small group was walking towards Lal Chowk. I joined them. Meanwhile a huge procession appeared from Rajbagh area. Many people joined it and we started marching towards Chotta Bazar. 

The morning of January 22 was very painful for me. I was woken up by Chacha. "There are nearly ten bodies in the control room. Get up, we have to bury them", he ordered. I murmured something. Most probably I abused Chacha. Why? I do not know. Anyways, I was out in the graveyard in fifteen minutes. Many people were waiting for the bodies. The truck came with the bodies and things went out of control. A few graves had been dug. I think we buried the bodies without offering Nimaaz-e-Jinaza (funeral prayers). Chacha had lost his cool. He was lowering the bodies into graves. I too was getting hyper. Suddenly I saw tears rolling down Chacha's cheeks. He pointed to a body of a young boy whose chest bore jackboot marks.

Chacha became an active member of Hilal-e-Ahmer and remained busy in distribution of relief to the sufferers. He and his associates, Ghulam Muhammad Bakshi, Abdul Majid Wani, Ghulam Muhammad Dagga and others rushed to Qazigund to persuade fleeing Pandits not to migrate. However, the effort failed. 

Soon after, Chacha was taken into custody and severely tortured before his lodgement in a Jammu Jail. After his release, he resumed his activities. On November 19, 1992, his son Sheikh Abdul Hamid achieved martyrdom in a boat capsize at Aali Kadal. A huge army contingent took the body to Eidgah graveyard. My friend accompanied him. Chacha told him: "Look, how army is taking my General for burial." Hamid, it may be mentioned, was popularly known as General Hamid those days.

Today Chacha is no more and to quote JKLF leader, Showkat Ahmad Bakshi, Chacha's death has orphaned the struggle. Rest in peace Chacha.

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