(A story in the backdrop terrorism in Kashmir)
Taufeeq was highly depressed today. He had never felt so guilty in the twenty eight years of his life as he did today. He was feeling humiliated and a feeling of self-loathing welled up within him. He had heard people hating others, but that a person could hate himself too was revealed to him only today.
The immediate cause of his present state of mental turmoil was the attack of the militants on the house of Dr. Ahamad of Sopore who was a famous physician of the state. The extremists were not satisfied only with the attack. They had gone a lot further. They had misbehaved with the ladies of the house who had tried to resist the molestation attempt on a young lady. And while leaving the venue, they had put Dr. Ahamad’s bungalow on fire reducing it to ashes. The Ahamads had now taken shelter in the houses of their near and dear ones. All this had happened because Dr. Ahamad provided emergency treatment to a wounded army officer and saved his life. Being a doctor, Dr. Ahamad believed that it was his duty to treat all who came to him and it was not his job to go into their backgrounds, their ideologies or their motivations.
That night was one of the most harrowing nights of Taufeeq’s life. He could not sleep even for a minute. He had resolved to take the matter of attack on the Ahamad with the higher authorities in the state. The next day he had met the state’s Minister of Home Affairs who had not only assured him of strict action against the culprits but had also called the Director General of Police to order him to speed the tracking down operation so that the criminals could be nabbed. But Taufeeq was not much impressed as everyone in the state, including him, had become habitual of hearing such ritualistic assurances.
Unfortunately, his suspicions had come true. What to talk of nabbing and punishing the culprits, the police had miserably failed even to identify them. Taufeeq’s hopes of bringing the perpetrators to book came to a naught and he felt extremely helpless at these developments. He felt as if he himself had been living in a jungle infested with strange wild beasts which could prey upon anyone and at anytime. The beasts were not the common ones that he had seen in real life, but with strange features: Wolves and lions with abnormally long and ferocious horns. Surprisingly, these animals were two-legged contrary to all animals being four-legged. Undecided ad confused, he felt so weak that he would have collapsed if he had not immediately taken support of the nearby pillar after meeting the Director General of Police.
Taufeeq, a computer expert, who used to provide computer training to the new entrants of the terrorists’ outfit, had several times protested against the attacks on the innocent natives in the meetings. But whenever he did so, he was mocked at and jeered by the group.
But the latest tragic developments had shaken him completely. He was not only feeling shattered but cheated too. He was cursing the day he had attended his first meeting of the outfit organised only for new youths and addressed by a long-bearded fellow who had called upon the youths to come forward, join the jihad and serve the Allah as the very existence of their qaum and aqidat were threatened and if they served their faith, Allah would bless them. He had also said that even if they died serving Him, they would be remembered for their shahadat. And in the heat of the moment, he too had decided to join hands with the outfit which, he came to believe, was fighting for the cause of their community. Inspired by their mission, he had resolved to train the members of the outfit in the area he specialised in.
Taufeeq had never thought that this decision which he had taken in good faith will ever be so disastrous. He had never imagined that the outfit could even harm its own people and fellow members of its own community. His eyes opened for the first time when the militants had attacked the teenaged sister of a so-called police informer, had raped her and then put her to death. On that day, Taufeeq was dumbfounded to utter a single word. The young girl had succumbed to her torture just before his eyes and the heartless had not given her even an honourable burial what to talk of giving the body to the relatives. They had thrown her mutilated body in the open fields. And he could not do anything except standing as a mute spectator to the ordeals of the girl who was bleating like a lamb before the sharp knives of the butchers. He seethed with rage within but lacked both strength and resources to intervene.
Thereafter, he could not sleep for several nights but had continued giving training to the new recruits in the outfit in the hope that he would be able to change their mindset in due course. But today he was speechless.
Yes, he was fully broken from within by the way the Ahmads had been treated. How could he forget the timely medical aid at midnight to his brother-in-law, the husband of his only sister, that Dr. Ahmad had provided? He was indebted to him for it, had great respect for him and never missed an opportunity to praise Dr. Ahmad’s virtues: His kindness, moral integrity, nobleness and dedication to his medical profession.
Today he was feeling guilty – guilty as if he himself was party to the atrocities the outfit had perpetrated upon the Ahmads. He gave considerable thought to the issue and finally decided to sever his relations with the killers of Dr. Ahmad. He was sure that it was not the killing of an individual, or even a family. It was the death of an age-old concept of Kashmiriyat that he had always held dear. The concept was no doubt hazy for him and if somebody asked him to define or elaborate it, he would not be able to do it. And yet there was something in it, a charm, a mystique, a set of unstated ideals and assumptions and he always felt that he was a part of it.
The next day Taufeeq was found dead in the nearby fields. His eighty-year-old father, Noor Mohammad, was sitting by his mutilated body and was cursing the day when his son joined hands with enemies of the humanity against his advice. The perpetrators had not spared him too who had served them for several years. Probably they had got a scent of his true feelings, his firm disapproval of their mode of functioning, and they had decided to eliminate him.
The old man looked around for help. Shouted, cried, and wailed. But nobody came forward to help him fearing reprisals by the extremists. For some time, he kept standing beside his dead son’s body in stoic silence. His frail arms were trembling. Suddenly, he got energy nobody knows from where and shouted at the top of his voice, “O coward rats! Go and sneak into your holes. These old and wavering arms still have the necessary strength to carry the one in which he had grown and played.” And saying so, he picked up the dead body and sauntered towards his better-half who was eagerly waiting to have a last glimpse of her son.
Next day at the graveyard, there was no one to dig the grave. The father-mother duo dug it themselves and lowered the dead in perfect silence giving him a solemn farewell.