It has been seventeen years since that autumn day of October, yet the time seems ridiculously less enough to release the pain left over by the events of that day. Friday, considered most auspicious day of the week in our belief, is rather perceived different by my frail old aunt who would always caution us on this day throughout the turbulent uprisings of 2008 and 2010. Her face bears remarkable lines of pain and agony. Her every wrinkle has a tale to tell that of torment, of grief and misery, of anger and anguish, and of despair and disappointment.
The cause lies in the events of an autumn Friday of 1993, when the leaves of numerous Chinar trees of this small town had started to pale. However, that October the paling leaves had something more to declare than just the arrival of harsh winter.
“Yaqbal” as she used to call her elder son without caring for the actual phonetics of the name Iqbal, perhaps inspired from one of our great poets, was one of the many youth of this Goerwan locality; energetic, full of passion and emotions. That Friday had been an eighth day of siege of the most revered shrine of this valley, Hazratbal, and like thousands others of the town his passion and love for the cause was too strong to keep him home. Ignoring every warning of the fading colours and dwindling leaves around him he joined the roaring crowds responding to every slogan with raised arms and stretched throat as if he knew the winds of his beloved homeland were carrying his impressions for the last time.
As the demonstration proceeded to culminate at the main road that divides the town, Iqbal like his other town mates was dazed to see the crowd of tens of thousands surrounded by the guardians of self-proclaimed largest democracy of the world; whose faces heralded the profane plans in their heads. The intentions of the men in uniform were clear, and what followed was the ten minute spectacle of “No Mercy”.
Friday, 22 October 1993, Yaqbal rather Iqbal the fifteen years old blossoming son ceased to be in flesh and blood. That year the winter was going to be too long and too harsh for my aunt. The ‘Humans’ of Indian democracy had successfully shot him in the head and of indiscriminate firing there were hundreds of Iqbals lying beside one another, each helpless and abandoned. Some shot in the chest, some in the temple and some fortunate ones got hit below abdomen. Wounded Iqbal could smell the perfume of his blood and his mates around him. The winds did their last service to Iqbal carrying this fragrance to the restless mother, who wanted to disbelieve her intuition till the last moment but the inevitable was just about. Like numerous around him Iqbal’s gradually turning cold body was yearning for the warmth of his mother’s lap but “the humans” of Indian democracy were too human to disallow any kind of service to the desperate bullet hit bodies which lay like rubbish on the main road. They fired at anyone who rose for help.
Iqbal along with many others of the town most of them his friends and school mates breathed his last on the road just hundred odd metres from the arms of his mother, leaving her devastated and to despair. Some others died in three-wheeler carts that were used to carry them to the nearby hospital and some died on the hospital beds. The pre-winter storm had swept across entire Bijbehara, more than forty killed and countless were injured in an action executed within some minutes by the services of Indian democracy.
Although many among those killed were younger than fifteen, the other forty Bijbeharites shot dead that day didn’t matter to my aunt but her “Yaqbal”, who had been snatched of his about to begin youth. At first she would look at the shocked face of Iqbal’s father and another moment feel the tender shoulders of her eight year old younger son, Rashid, obviously too low and feeble to support the coffin of his slain brother. Iqbal’s father, shocked to face the death of his son lost his stability and soon drowned into serious illness. The burden of ill husband was taking a heavy toll on this lady who was yet to recover from the earlier loss.
Few years later, after lingering illness the husband succumbed. Although for this grief-stricken lady looking after the ill companion single-handedly had been extremely challenging and exhausting, the death devastated her downright to the depths of her miserable soul.
After son the husband had left too. She would again look at the still tender shoulders of her younger son but then the bare hands of her four daughters also caught her sight, one of whom had been acutely affected by two successive untimely deaths. Four sisters who were snatched with their all hopes wailed again and again over the unkind winters which had arrived with Iqbal’s departure. With his death had descended a chain of miseries and woes upon this mother and her family, who had lost both son and husband in a gap of few years. The thought of her four daughters and younger Rashid would swell her pain multiple times with each passing moment. The accumulating grief would eat her from inside out. I afraid the unforgiving winters had dragged unto perpetuity for this crushed mother.
The ceaseless winters had entirely desolated and destroyed her part of world. Yet it couldn’t keep her to discharge the unfulfilled responsibilities of her deceased husband and elder son. Braving all the viciousness of this dreadful winter which set in with that ill-starred Friday, she managed to provide her all daughters with happy matrimonial lives and got her younger son in a well-established business, obviously not without having to face the toughest adversities life can throw at you.
Her son died once but this mother has been living death each moment and each day for the last nineteen years. The events of that day qualify Iqbal and his forty comrades into martyrs but how shall we define the death of this mother who dies countless times, whenever, reminiscence of Iqbal strikes her, whenever she imagines him in his youth. She lives equal to death whenever she misses her husband, whenever she wishes someone to scold Rashid for his mischiefs, whenever she imagines the burden on the shoulders of Rashid who had to support painful responsibilities at such a tender age, while as her elder son died before youth, Rashid didn’t live his youth. And this mother dies whenever she senses the hopelessness and gloom in her daughters.
The winters which set in her life on Friday, 22 October 1993 definitely lasted eternally for this lady including all Bijbeharites who lost their loved ones to that day, and I am sure mother of every other Iqbal, at least forty of them who lay with “Yaqbal” that day on the road has a similar tale to tell, some even worse.
NOTE: Based on true story