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Devastating Violence Engulfs Kashmir

On the eve of Eid, Tuesday, 5th July, everyone was waiting for the announcement – whether the Hilal committee had sighted the moon or not – glued to their TVs and radios. Confirmation was taking a while and it was time for Tarawiah, special evening prayers, which we would not need to pray if Eid was confirmed as being tomorrow. India had already declared that Eid was on Thursday (7th July), not Wednesday. But we, for this purpose, always rely on Pakistan, not because it is a Muslim country, but because it is geographically close to Kashmir and their decisions regarding the crescent are almost always accurate. After some time, though late, the Pakistanis announced that they had sighted the moon, and our Mufti, too, declared Eid to be tomorrow, Wednesday (6 July). It was an extraordinary situation – we usually celebrate Eid a day after Saudi Arabia and for them it was on Wednesday. It is said that after almost 75 years Muslims across the globe, Saudi Arabia, England, Australia, Pakistan, Kashmir and others were celebrating Eid on the same day, which itself was an Eid. Many families were caught unawares, thinking that Eid is always a day after Saudi Arabia and after the announcement they quickly had to buy things in preparation for the next day's festivities.  

This holy month had filled the air with peace. It appeared as if it was a time of freedom for Kashmir – nothing to fear – to go for prayers at Fajr and come home late at night after Tarawiah or walk freely during Shabs (staying awake all night for worship) and every other thing related to Ramadan. The markets were transformed: with the arrival of Ramadan, shops are filled with dates and other fruits specially for Iftar, while ahead of Eid the markets buzz with people buying confectionaries and other eatables for Eid as well as garments and playthings for children. The month of fasting arrived in June this year, when days are longer and nights are short, the season is hot and dry and it is the peak time for work. They say that each year the month of fasting comes ten days earlier. We usually refrain from strenuous activity during Ramadan, but this time we had to undertake some construction work. It is unimaginable to contemplate toiling under a hot sun all day while refraining from food and drink, but in actual fact it wasn’t so hard. I remember the day of 21st June, the longest day with an exceptionally hot sun: I woke up late at Sehri, so couldn’t eat much before Fajr Azaan, and it was the most challenging day for my patience as I was working the whole day with stones. Alhamdulillah I did well!

After Eid prayers, as usual, protests about freedom broke out at several places. And two days after Eid (on 8th July), the wanted commander of young rebels, 22-year-old Burhan Wani, was killed with two others in an encounter. This ignited more protests and outrage among the people of the Valley leading the authorities to block the internet and cut phone calls first in South Kashmir and then in the whole of Kashmir. The protests are getting worse day after day with clashes, injuries and deaths only fuelling the anger of the youngsters taking part. In almost every corner of Kashmir people are protesting and shouting catchphrases of Aazadi, furthermore Taranas and Aazadi slogans are reverberating in local mosques too. Thousands of civilians along with security personnel have been injured and many others killed; local people believe the media is falsely under-reporting the killings and numbers of injured people, watching the clashes they believe many hundreds may have been killed.

This is the first major protest since 2010, and probably the first such protest over the killing of a local rebel. The situation is alarming, the fury of the people is illustrated by their courage and willingness to fight armed security forces without possessing any weapons themselves. Pellet bombs are the most gruesome tool, frequently used to disperse angry mobs. They have severely injured local people, many of whom have lost their eyesight after being sprayed with pellets and numerous are badly injured. The government is trying every means to crush the rebellion – curfews, closing down all method of communication: internet, phone calls (cellular networks), cable network, newspapers; they have also extended the summer vacation of schools and colleges to 25th July. Pakistan observed 19th July as Black Day in view of this brutal situation in Kashmir.

The current volatile situation in Kashmir means we are forced to live an isolated, dull and idle life, without any connection to the outer world. With the closure of cellular services we are not connected even with our own friends and relatives. Sadly, even though the Indian media has the capacity to feature detailed reports on world affairs and widely discuss various other issues, yet it doesn’t have the courage to speak truthfully about the alarming situation of its occupied land. I had to struggle to connect to the outer world to send this blog. I hope and pray for normalcy to return soon...

Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com