April is the cruellest month – not in the sense in which T. S. Eliot meant it – but for what is happening in my homeland. Carnage from the start of this month in South Kashmir shattered numerous families when they received the dead bodies of their loved ones. Dull protests were stirred with spring blood, which boiled up; many civilians were killed, a few hundred injured, among them many ridden with pellets, mixing memories of the dead with the desire for freedom.
The last phone conversations of the rebels with their families – who knew that the gun battle would ensue soon and the Angel of Death had already reached the house they were trapped in – surfaced on social media just after they were killed in the encounter. These heart breaking conversations leave listeners in a realm of fluctuating emotions: lament, compatibility, desolation, courage, anger, loss…
In one phone call we hear Aetimad Malik, who had planned to start a Junior Research Fellowship and PhD after having already completed an MA, MPhil in Urdu, and B. Ed, before he decided to become a rebel. In his breaking voice he sought his father’s forgiveness that he couldn’t fulfil his promise, while he announced that he, along with his companions, had been ensnared by security forces. He told him that they tried to escape, but only two out of the seven men were able to get away and they moved back into the house. Aetimad did not know if those lost had gotten away or were killed, it later transpired that they had also fallen to the bullets. Aetimad’s brave father was trying to console him and his companion who had been shot in the head. They knew their fate: in the fight with the more powerful forces they are the easy targets. We must give credit to the courage of this father who knew that this was the last time he was hearing the voice of his son; he, instead, was the one who encouraged his son to not to lose hope, not to give up, to have faith in God. While showering his love on his son he told him: “try to see if there is a way to escape, if not then do not lose courage, stay committed, what else can we do? Listen, God entrusted you to me, and I am giving you back to Him”.
Another heart breaking conversation was of a rebel who sounded more bold; he had never contacted his family after he had left home. He called his family and informed them that he, along with other companions, were in a house cordoned off by Indian forces and they could not escape. The phone was passed around to other family members. His sister and mother urged him to come home for a night, longing to see himafter he had left his home without informing them. They soon sensed that something was wrong: that he called only because he was trapped and he would be dead soon. He was told to talk with his ailing father who accepted his son’s fate and said his final goodbyes; in the background women in the family can be heard weeping. This phone call can shake the resolve of any listener. There was untold pain which culminated in this man’s desire to once again hear his mother's voice, but his dying moments were spent hearing his mother mourn for the loss of her son as his father bade him farewell.
In a final recorded clip, a rebel told his family member to share his final words with the rest of his family. He urged them not to cry, to behave with respect when they received his body and that “we all have to die and it is better to die for the sake of God”.
After the bloodbath of 1st April another young rebel was killed. His father spoke to his relative and emplored them not to weep over the killing of his son. He said that they, like him, shoud be proud of his son for giving his life for a noble cause.
These moving conversations speak volumes. This story does not end here, Kashmir is in the middle of the mess that our rulers created. Every now and then there is a news of encounters, killings and protests. We are caught in this prolonged chapter of war where we do not see a glimpse of any conclusion.
Muddasir Ramzan is an aspiring writer and a PhD candidate at the Aligarh Muslim University, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.