RED AND WHITE

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I close my eyes. Sleep doesn’t come. Feroz’s poem has touched a chord………

Into the sunset, a scream rises from
The stones rebelling in the streets of the old city,
Our hearts turn crimson
The blood seeps into the lake,
And in our eyes Tufail floats like a new leaf
Amid the wreaths of lotuses…….

I close my eyes again, against the background of red and white a view of a tranquil lake, a boatman singing…..I open my eyes, the song has turned into a scream, from the barbed wires stretched across the entrance to a street, a child falling prone, white snow turns red.
What was more dreadful: the look on the boy’s face or the contortions of the soldier’s pallid face, I couldn’t say.

In a sleep deprived state of mind, one is prone to irrational conclusions, fragmented thoughts and emotions pouring out at the speed of light.
At 12, into the night of 15th September, sleep was hard to come by, even on a comfortable bed of a secure home in New Delhi, without the sound of a single fire shot or shattering of glass to break the calm.
For more than two months now (or rather, from ever since I was a child), newspapers  and news channels have been demanding special attention of their customers to showcase the exclusive coverage of the turmoil struck Kashmir, complete with videos and photographs from the valley. However, it took an article titled ‘Voices from the Valley’ (in which writers, poets and professionals of Kashmir have voiced their opinions), read casually in the middle of the night, to ring a bell in one of the unresponsive corners of my mind, a corner that went out of use, cobwebs of gloom and hopelessness having blanketed it for so long. Revelation came late and untimely, yet not without a hope, be it a bleak one.

The heaven on earth is held captive, the culprits hidden behind black masks, the victim however are quite visible, their faces are bare and the pain evident.
Images of Jhelum flood my mind and of Kashmiri apples and snow-hued Kashmiri girls with cheeks glowing, as red as apples of their land. Red and White, White and Red, they really are the colors of the valley………………….Red for blood and White for the death shroud.

Starting primarily from June, a strong aggressive group of Kashmiri youths took to the streets in protestation. And there followed a series of gory events ( adding further to an already long list), pools of bloodshed, broken bodies, broken hearts, more blood and suffocating gloom. Young revolutionaries of the state who proclaim to have taken up the cause of fighting against oppression and problems of identity crisis in the valley have managed to trample upon the wound that never really seems to heal, the hurt being deep, so that clots come and go, refusing to restrain the flow of blood out on the snow.
CRPF jawans or stone pelters, home ministry or a band of anguished youth, human rights rally or curfew in the streets, war for peace or war for freedom, in the end nothing but the wound stays, each time more heinous that before.

Is this the Kashmir of my dreams? I fear the answer. Teenaged Kashmiri boys lie in peace, buried deep inside the ground, moaning at their homes can never cease. And the jawans stand manning the streets of a shambled neighborhood, guns in hands and fear in eyes……………..eyes that fear the sound of a human in the dark, lest they be compelled to raise their guns.

In the end I am left with nothing but questions. Who is wrong and who is wronged? What is tainted, is it the soul of the militants or the actions of the army? When will this end? Why do Kashmiris feel alienated from their own country? Are they right in protesting? Can we blame them?

Kanika Agarwal

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/spunter/3063765658/sizes/m/]

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