Guest post by ARSHIE QURESHI
For a child born in Kashmir, the chances of living a normal life and even survival vary greatly from one region to another. Suppose you are born in the seemingly volatile stretch of Downtown. You may well turn out to be someone whose pictures are flashed on social media as the epitome of bravery, someone whose demise is imminent, and someone ready to wear the ‘Shaheed’ label. I arrived at this place at 4:30 on a cold evening. The room was crowded by women sitting with only one recognizable face; Shehzaad’s mother, Rubeena Akhter. Nobody spoke. The air smelled like rain. After a short while, a tall man in a brown-checkered pheran appeared. Leaning on the walls, he helped himself to one corner of the dimly lit but spacious room. He did not want himself to be identified as a ‘victim of conflict’.
For Shehzaad, life had been altogether different before. He had spent happy summers with his family in the town where violence, as it existed, had never appeared to him naked. By now, he is 23. He has become larger and properly bearded. The one thing which you can’t miss about Shehzaad is that he has giant brown eyes like a dairy cow. That’s what prompts my most idiotic lines of inquiry. Could someone who looks like that really pelt stones on streets? Idiotic, I know. “Do I have to tell you how I was supposed to have been killed that day?” he says, sounding like a gull. I hear a slow whimpering strangled with ache. This soon changes into full-throated babbling—a cascade of terrible, terrified pleading wails as he continued naming those who had been killed during the 2010 agitations.