Raising memorials

Raising memorials has not gone down well with the government for obvious reasons; Almost a decade ago, a memorial was raised at Eidgah grounds for the disappeared persons; The police not only removed the plaque stone during a nocturnal raid but also booked Imroz and his associates under penal law of the land.
Raising memorials
File Photo

Two years ago, noted human rights defender and President Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), Advocate Parvez Imroz  while speaking at a seminar held in connection with Hurriyat (M)'s Hafta-e- Shahadat stressed need for raising memorials. According to him, the people of Kashmir have to choose between forgetfulness and remembrance.  He said; "Our memory is our only weapon to sustain the sentiment."

This is exactly what the father of a slain Bijbehara youth said at the anniversary of Bijbehara massacre which took place on October 22, 1993. He said: "India has responded with its huge military might to crush the genuine struggle of the people of Kashmir. Our memory is our only weapon against them. As long as we remember the events and the martyrs, the sentiment shall survive. And, the moment we forget our past, the movement will die down as well," said an old man, who lost his only son in the massacre.  He looked at the horizon and was soon lost in deep thoughts. However, before walking away, he said: "We have to choose between forgetfulness and remembrance."

Raising memorials has not gone down well with the government for obvious reasons. Almost a decade ago, a memorial was raised at Eidgah grounds for the disappeared persons. The police not only removed the plaque stone during a nocturnal raid but also booked Imroz and his associates under penal law of  the land.

Responding to Imroz's suggestion , the Hurriyat (M) chairman, Dr Umer Farooq said all attempts to raise memorials had been foiled by the government.

Imroz's suggestion  and Dr Umer Farooq's response evoked a serious discussion among a group that listened to the speakers at the seminar held in Hurriyat headquarters to commemorate the martyrdom of people killed in Hawal (Islamia College) massacre on May 21, 1990.

On May 21, 1990 gunmen shot dead Mirwaiz Moulana Farooq at his Nigeen residence. Later, the CRPF stationed at Islamia College opened fire on the funeral procession killing at least fifty persons on the spot. Hundreds sustained injuries in the shootout.

Scores of massacres have taken place during the past twenty-five years across the state. Manderbagh massacre of January 21, 1990, Zakura and Tengpora massacres of March 1, 1990,  Kupwara massacre, Sopore carnage, Handwara massacre, Wandhama massacre, Chittisinghpora massacre  are a few on the long list of  massacres.  As rightly pointed out by Imroz, remembrance is a strong weapon and forgetfulness is as good, rather as bad as surrender.  The future generations, therefore, need to know what happened, when, where and why. Although major events of the past twenty-five years have been consigned to records, the memorials at various places or a single memorial at a specific place   will go a long way in narrating the story effectively.

The graveyard at Naqashband Sahib shrine has become an important place. It is a reminder that the people resisted the Dogra onslaught and laid down their lives for a cause. Similarly, the martyrs graveyard at Eidgah grounds narrates the story of the past twenty-five years.

According to Parvez Imroz who founded and now runs runs the association of Parents of disappeared persons (APDP), at least eight thousand people have been subjected to enforced disappearance since 1989 when the armed struggle gained momentum.  They need a place where they can assemble at times, offer prayers for the disappeared, talk to each other and console their melancholy. A memorial having all the names of the disappeared persons with a lawn and an auditorium will add new dimensions to their struggle for justice.   

 It is not possible, rather desirable to have memorials at every place where something happened. For example it is not desirable to have a memorial at Tengpora, Zakura, MandirBagh, Wandhama, Chittingsinghpora and elsewhere. A single memorial at a centralised place can serve the purpose effectively.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq is right when he says that the authorities will not allow raising of memorials.  But that does not mean that the very idea shall be abandoned. There is a place where it can be done without interference from the government. It is also a centralised place and is historically important as well. Let the memorial come up somewhere in the historic Jamia Masjid.  

The memorial will not occupy much space. It can be raised along the outer all of the compound away from the mosque.  If it is done within the premises of the mosque, the authorities cannot interfere. The Mirwaiz can do it on his own. The funds for the memorial can be raised from the general public to ensure their participation and involvement.

Some people believe that memorials are raised after the conflict ends. Kashmir is still in conflict and, according to them, this is no time going for the memorials. However, there is no need of following the trend if at all it exists) especially when we (Kashmiris) have  the distinction of destroying records. To escape the wrath of the army and para-military soldiers during search operations, people destroyed precious documents related to the freedom struggle. The memorials, therefore, become all the more necessary.    

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