I remember once during my childhood, I insisted my father to take me to the parade ground on August 15. I was eight years old and I wanted to see the flag being hoisted. I had seen the celebrations of Indian Independence day on television – smiling people, distribution of sweets and the excited children. That day, I too was excited so much so that I wore chappals of two different colours – something, I realized at the end of the ceremony.
For me, Independence Day was the day when army and a local elder would distribute sweets and notebooks among the kids, who were incidentally the only audience at the parade.
For five years, I was regular at the ceremony. It has been twelve years since. Today it is again the Indian Independence day. Today as all the means of communication were barred in the valley; it took me back to those days when valley was not allowed to launch mobiles services,when people were kept at bay from internet just because India didn’t want the outside world to know about its pain. And like childhood, as there was no internet to surf or working cellphones to call my friends, I reverted to an old diary – my childhood diary.
On one of its pages, I had written an Urdu poem. It was dated August 15, 2000. Let me quote few lines:
Kya ab be Captain Raj Logu ko Dhamkata Rehta hai
Kya ab be Nawjanu ko Peeta jata hai.
Kya ab be Nara Lagtay hain, Jalsu mai Azadi kay
Kya Ab be makanu ko zamin boos kiya jata hai.
I don’t remember what exactly prompted me to write those lines. But yes, I remember Captain Raj. He was a dreaded army captain in my town. Probably, he made me to write these lines.
It was August 14. I was 13 years old and was standing at my shop in the town waiting for myfather’s return. Captain Raj was in the market not to hunt for the militants but to haunt the shopkeepers, pedestrians and the drivers. He was looking for a shop, a bus or car that is without the Indian tri-colour. Any one, who didn’t have a tri-colour hoisted at his shop was beaten. Myneighbouring shopkeepers advised me to bring a flag and hoist it in the shop. I didn’t listen. I had different image of the army – the images of distributing sweets among the children. How can they beat me? I had also read in my civics book that no one can force others to hoist the flag.
But my perception of the army changed in next five minutes. Captain Raj pulled me out of the shop, slapped me thrice on the face and then hit me on the back with his jackboots.
And for them, it was not enough. His loyal guards demanded identity Card from me. I was 13 and a possible militant because I could not prove my identity to the outsiders in my own land. The punishment was 20 ups and downs.
I returned home. In the evening, I wanted to visit my uncle’s home. I took my cycle and left. But flag was missing. I had to pass through an army camp and was told that they don’t allow any vehicle that doesn’t have a tri-colour on it. I was relieved. I had only a bicycle. But as I reached near the army camp, a uniformed man came out of the bunker to check the flag on my “vehicle”. As he didn’t find any, I was forced to hold the cycle on my shoulders and walk a distance of 200 meters as a punishment.
That was incident that changed my perceptions. Next day, I relieved papa of the “duty” of taking me to the parade ground. Sitting at home, instead, I wrote the lines in my diary.
( The write up first appeared in Freepresskashmir.com)