When snow drapes the outskirts of Cashmere white, a little far from the capital city , on the freeway a fat alley sinks into almost darkness. It reads “Shaheed Gowhar Road” , a collective effort from the community of Zainakote to keep him alive as if celebrating the departure of a kind soul. By now he would’ve been an engineer had it not been that bullet that dropped him in the grave , never to return. No words can fully suffice to define him, hands shudder and hearts rage. The untimely demise of Gowhar left a void between the young of two localities and a memory never to fade. Be it the young, old or the children- men knew him as one would know his own self.
But, there was more to him than a teenager who got into troubles. He had stories and the dreams that he would narrate every evening in the backyard of his locality. It were these dreams which crept in his heart and gave him light of a beautiful human being. It wasn’t until he showed up at a gathering , it was lively, he put the light in it. To express him in words would be injustice and no phrase can define what he was. His friends knew him by “Gayya” short for Gowhar, a person who would show up even in the middle of the night if you need him. A skinny boy whose supersized T-shirt hung from his body to his knees and a beard that he flaunted.
But, for his family he was more. A beloved son, a caring brother who had promised his father for Hajj, to help him in the Garage, to be successful. How things can go 180, only God knows. His shattered dreams left behind an eerie silence at his home, with him all of them died. The streets left empty and bizarre it is, that nobody sits on the shopfronts these days. Sometime the sign boards in his name, remind us of him. Like many other boys, he too ended up a Martyr’s poster on the wall somewhere in this god forsaken land, a land that reeks of blood.
When Prime minister of India visited IOK on Nov 7,2015, Joint resistance leadership called for a million march to protest the atrocities and demand their right to self determination. Curfew was imposed and the whole city was locked down next day. The next day in the evening Gowhar was shot by a Government trooper.
Few moments later he scummed to his injuries. As soon as the news broke down, the city burst into anger. Amid the thousands of emotional demonstrators, were his friends who carried him to the Martyr’s graveyard to be buried in cold. It’s hard to carry coffins but, to shoulder a brother is a burden. The weight of that coffin never unburdens your shoulder, you carry it for the rest of your life. Deep there he will sleep alone!. Only a day before he had posted a picture of his friend who met the same fate in 2010. The night was silent except for the shrieks that haunted everyone. The gloom descended as if snow was falling on us. It had shut everything except for the memory. Who would’ve imagined him in a coffin, who could’ve recognized him?. Nobody had seen him dead. This was a friend for us; one that lived and died for us.
Next day the streets stank of pepper gas, the usual action of armed forces to control the protesters apart from live bullets but it could not be stopped. The emotions ran high and loud pitched voices resounded through the horizon. “Long live freedom, Long live freedom, long live freedom”. The whole day a pitched battle was fought. The injured went to hospital and the mourning to mourning. The tear gas shells exploded in his house, “not even the dead can mourn in peace” someone said. God has a strange way to express love; they take away what’s dear. His Grandmother died of heart attack after listening to the news. It couldn’t remain hidden for long. For days his picture remained on the profiles of thousands of young boys of Cashmere as if they were him and he was them. Never to separate, never to fade away. Although a magisterial probe was ordered into the case, the findings of which were never made public. The miscarriage of justice is so obvious in such cases that it’s already a lost battle.
Like him thousands of boys never came home, buried in ghost towns or in the Himalayan snow, the treacherous paths that favor no one. Their return never came as they left waiting wailing Mothers and silent sisters. The silence now engulfs the country; the rage that burns within every heart. And then another Gowhar is carried by a million mourners, burying him in the abode of their palatial hearts. So many that there is no count, their bodies sheer gems and their memories become numbers. For nothing is peace, for nothing is peace. For nothing is peace. All buried, all gone, all dead.
Agha Shahid Ali said it once:
I am writing to you from your far-off country.
Far even from us who live here
Where you no longer are.
Everyone carries his address in his pocket
At least his body will reach home.
At a certain point I lost track of you
They make a desolation and call it peace.
When you left even the stones were buried –
The defenseless would have no weapons.”
And the words pierce through our hearts like spears from a bow
Don’t tell my father I have died, he says, and I follow him
Through blood on the road and hundreds of pairs of shoes the mourners left behind,
As they ran from the funeral, victims of the firing.
From windows we hear grieving mothers, and snow begins to fall on us, like ash.
Black on edges of flames, it cannot extinguish the neighborhoods,
The homes set ablaze by midnight soldiers.
Kashmir is burning.”
I bid you adieu my friend.