On an exceptionally hot Saturday morning, I along with my friends was riding to a village, to explore the destined place and trek its mountains. We stopped a few kilometers back and bought some junk food and bottles of soft drink and mineral water. Everyone was excited about the trip and scared too, for we were told by a friend who had visited the place a few weeks ago, that he was chased by a contingent of army and labeled as a militant, by army personnel shouting at him,’ you are a militant, stop stop!.’ He says that it was his luck that his urgent steps towards the main road saved him from what he calls aliens.
Our excitement was stroke by fear. As we came closer and closer to our destiny, fear started accompanying us but it was our love for the place that kept us going. We started looking around on every ticking of the clock, just to make sure that no army personnel is around. The speed of our vehicle started reducing, we were now fully into the area of our destiny.
We stationed our vehicles in which looked like a parking area and started looking for a place to sit and have some food. For some minutes we forgot about the incident that had happened to our friend and started enjoying ourselves. We started enjoying our food, feeling blessed to have born in what we felt that time a paradise. We were surrounded by mountains, rushing water flowing at a distance. We were happy and wanted to stay there for the rest of our lives.
But how come happiness in a conflict-ridden place. We forgot that we live in a place where anyone can be killed anytime. As we started our trek, we took pictures of a group of sheep’s that were subjected to follow their leader, the shepherd. We clicked pictures of everybody that we met on our route. We clicked pictures of each other. We were enjoying. We were happy. But as soon as we stepped on the next track in order to reach the top of the mountain, a friend got a call from home. A call of disappointment.
As soon as he picked up the call I felt a sudden stop in his steps. We went curious and started enquiring the reason behind.
He and all of us came to know that the top Hizb-ul-Mujahidin commander Sabzar has been shot dead in south Kashmir’s Tral area and people from every corner of the Valley are mourning and protesting against the killing of the militant leader. I was startled on hearing the news of Sabzar’s death; bordering on panic.
We, in our full trekking gear, were only thinking how to reach the top. But this sudden news made us tense. Our excitement was ruined. We went through the feeling of sadness.
It would have been a tough call to continue the trek. Parents and siblings started calling, one after another, just to ensure we were safe. We started making calls to close associates just to know the situation in the city center and adjoining areas. We were told that the situation is worst and should come back home as soon as possible.
We started retracing our steps. We started riding back home. We started riding past the whole area we had come for. Everyone looked disappointed and tense. Anything that came through refused to overtake our worry. We were all lost in our own thoughts.
As soon as we stroke the main road, that showed us the way to home, it was densely surrounded by tall trees on its peripheries. I searched the road for people I had seen in the morning, the line of shopping stores which were trafficked by people in order to buy their essentials. Everything was shut down and I could only see large grey smoke of tear gas shells storming the beautiful Himalayan sky. I could not locate any of the policemen or the mourners either, but just the lumps of smoke coming out of everywhere.
The thuds coming out from the barrel of the guns started grappling our attention. We were on the road, all on ourselves. Knowing all well that bullets differentiate the gender least we sensed a danger. Danger of might getting hit by tear gas shells, pellets or a bullet, in the coming moments. Danger that could leave a nation to mourn.
Amid the gun shots, anti-India slogans started reverberating the whole surroundings leaving all worried. I could hear the intensity of the protests getting higher and higher and the armed forces in return would answer with gunshots and teargas shells and everything that makes an explosion on the mourners.
On different roads, that we took to reach home, we heard many people shouting different slogans. We heard different messages;
“Bharat tere mout aayi”
“there is only one solution; gun solution gun solution”
“tum kitney jawan maroogai hr ghar se jawan niklaiga“….
But the most repeated message was
‘Hum Kya chahetay – ‘Azadi!’