By | Mir Aiyaz
Photo : Representational image
Now the road is macdimized and many structures fence one side of it, but for Zaid, in early twenties with trimmed beared, hailing from handwara in frointer district of Kupwara, its very difficult to tread the path he once used to go for swimming and playing cricket with hand-made bat on shoulder and a plastic ball carried by a friend of his.
This abandonment of route began during 2016 uprising when he was first raided at home by state police in connection with stone pelting incidents of which he was allegedly part of. But he managed to flee and still is being looked out for the act which is two years old and more importantly the State’s former chief minister Mehboonha Mufti gave her assent for amnesty to first time stone pelters.
Zaid is the only earning hand in family of five with no land of their own except for lawn cum kitchen garden in front of a one storey building. His father is old enough to earn and mother lost her mental balance during a militant’s funeral in late 90’s.
Since 2016 uprising, he was raided at home multiple times but managed to flee, thanks to his athletic skills.This constant harassment has forced him to self exile, to which there seems no end. He now remains outside valley for better part of the year. While sharing his experience of the past three years, zaid says, ” i crave for those days of freedom when no one would ask me: where are you going? But now, that very road i travelled the most has become a strange route for me because in the middle of the road is police station and men in uniform who always keep an eye on passer-by.”
Recently on the occasion of his cousin sister’s marriage, zaid attended the function but with an element of fear visible on his blushed face.”it was not 24 hours into ceremony, one of my relatives was phoned by officials of the local police station and asked about my presence. This is how dangerous it is. you are not safe within your loved ones.” asserts zaid in a harsher tone.
Many other boys were picked up by police and in one case father of an alleged stone thrower was send behind the bars only to be released after 24 hours.
Besides alleged stone pelters, is younis who can be seen in paddy fields, reaping the crop of others at a time when his 12th class examination is less than a month away. He is doing manual labour because his father fractured his right leg a month ago who is not able to do any sort of work. Now the responsibility of feeding family is on a 18-year-old.
As soon as he sights police vehicle, level of heartbeat increases at a rapid pace and flees to escape the white armoured jeep. When asked about his fear and fleeing, he says, ” i only post news of those who join militant’ outfits on social networking sites. This is my crime i am chased for.”
However, on the other hand a top police official of the district who wishes not to be named said that they don’t harass guys for using social networking sites to spread information about new recruits in banned militant outfits. “But vigil is kept on anti social elements operating on such platforms”. When asked about stone pelters harassment, he refused to comment on the same.
As per report compiled by jk police in early August, 129 militants were active in North Kashmir districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara with 94 foreigners and 35 locals. But people believe that the number of locals may go up, if harassment of youth continues. ” i fear militancy wave in South Kashmir may spread to Northern districts” said a senior citizen of the locality.
As things are going, zaid says, ” continuous harassment might now force me to take up the gun which our establishment despises be it in South or North Kashmir.” The only way out he believes is : “Gun, if psychological torture continues or peaceful life, if the same stops”.
Names and places have been changed on request.