By: Dr Qayum Hamid Changal
It was a crisp December morning of 2002 and I was on my way for the my unaltered morning walk. Those days I would choose the placid path from my locality in Sopore upto the starting point of Kupwara highway via bypass. I remember that weather was sombre and I was wearing my old black jacket and black trouser,not to forget my mom – made fairly comfortable gloves. But hardly did I perceive what that romantic and invigorating morning would change into.
As always I kick-started my walk with half – shrugged shoulders for cold was slight unbearable. The moment I reached the other end of deserted bypass lane, around five to eight army men jumped out of the nearby orchard and surrounded me badly. I was absolutely shattered, could literally feel the dryness of my throat, and for a few seconds it seemed all pitch black. “Sir, I regularly visit the place every morning for my exercises”, I replied even before they questioned anything. One of them,very tall in stature and built gigantic asked for all famous Identity Card. That moment I was cursing myself because even after my mother reminded me to the card with me, I forgot it in my jeans pocket. Very deferential but with an uneasy trepidation I replied,” Sir, I forgot it at home.” And that was it,as if I had violated the most important rule of Indian constitution, he slapped me.
For that very moment I felt dwelling under the influence of colonial power. It hurts your beingness,the very state of existence in your own nest when someone from outside demands the proof of being what you are. But I didn’t protest because more than anything I was fighting to survive another day. You can say I was thinking to die any other day, not that very moment. From the wrong side of me stepped in one soldier and yelled, “Saala M**** C*** jhoot bool raha hai. Maar daalo is h****i ko.” And I couldn’t do enough to convince them that I was a common man. But may be that was where all the problem began, I was a common Kashmiri man. Another one intervened and asked me run back in an opposite direction and don’t look back. Gosh! By then I was sure that they would shoot me and another fake encounter could be in the making. And, unknown of all the results and circumstances only made me to do as ordered. And I ran away.
To be honest I heard one clicking sound of the gun cock. But without looking back at them I kept on running but in a zigzag manner thinking if they fire it might miss it’s target. Sweat and fear,I only thought of my parents and friends. For a moment I even contemplated my news in next day’s newspapers. I started feeling bad for not living long, not doing enough and meeting my fate at last. But God had some other plans and reason unknown to me they didn’t pull the trigger. Even now when I peer back at this incident I have goosebumps. I thank God for extricating me from the mouth of death,but it devastates me for thousands of Kashmiri people couldn’t make safe to another end alive.
(The author is a doctor and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(If you want to share your memories send them in writing to email@example.com. In the subject column of the mail write ‘Memory’)