What she wanted to tell me before I became an orphan?

“Shall I go to the heaven or hell?’’ I asked my mother as she finished the story which was about the life after death in Hinduism.
“Shut up! You are too young to worry about all this’’ she replied widening her eyes.

The next morning, I woke up with gasps as I heard shrieks of people concurrent to loud gun firings. I heard something which does not suit the beauty of the (Kashmir)valley; Jannat as people call it.
I put my legs down from the bed on the floor fearfully and walked out of the room. I could feel negative vibes in the air, unassertive thoughts surrounded my mind. There was utter silence in the yard, even a heartthrob could be heard. It dawned on me that something is terribly wrong there. I hurriedly stepped ahead and as I put my left leg out from the main door, I saw my foot got soaked with blood. I looked down to find the floor blood-bathed, and the blood was dripping out of my Mom’s wounded body which was barely three meters away from me. The white snow was falling directly on her skin and which and it curbed the blood flow to some extents.
I was stunned with my legs trembling. I buried my face into my hands and it got soaked by tears within seconds. My body slightly bent over reluctantly for my shaking legs couldn’t hold my weight. I was about to fall on my knees right there that she looked up at me unconsciously and shocked. She was crying, her tears and eyes seemed to be more painful than her wounded body.

“My dear son, listen to me carefully,” she said, “They will be back in minutes,” she continued in a shaky and terrified voice, “and they will kill you. Run away from here, Right now! My days are over now.”
I tried to hold her hands into mine while she took a gap of three seconds to continue, “Don’t worry about me. My faith in god won’t be wrong; he ‘ll save you; he ‘ll have to save you’’ she said. Tears were falling down and she was thumping her trembling red hands on the floor. She was dying with a belief that god shall save me.

I fell on my knees beside her. I put her head on my lap holding it by my both hands. Despite heavy snowfall, her face was warm and wet because of tears and sweat. Being utterly oblivious to the fact that my tears were falling on her face, I said, ‘don’t cry ma, don’t cry. Who did this and why are you asking me to run away from here? Who are you are afraid of? Where is Papa? Where is Grand ma?’ As I asked, she sobbed more intensely this time and tried to shook her head but failed to do so.
I warned her that, ‘I wouldn’t go from here if you didn’t tell me the truth’. She indicated by her trembling hand towards the two bodies which were lying just beside the main door. I stood up and ran towards those bodies. I saw that nature already muffled them in Qafan in its own way; a layer of the white snow was stuck all over the both bodies. I screamed out loudly, ‘Grandma speak to me, listen to me, papa.’ But no! In such a heavy snowfall, perhaps, their senses were not being able to hear me.
I looked back towards to my mom. No ! She was not looking at me. I rushed back towards her. It was just a lifeless body now. A few moments ago she was my mother. By her straightened towards me I told to myself that she wanted to tell me something before she took her last breath. But what? What she wanted to tell me before I became an orphan? Or she just wanted to stroke my hair for the last time? I still don’t know!

I felt a complete silence as if even my heart stopped beating for a while. My mouth was open, tears came out of my eyes. “Mum….mummm…..maa”, that’s all I managed to say. And cried! Just cried. She didn’t reply. Her face looked calm now. She went into the eternal tranquility. I cried inevitably looking up towards the sky holding her upper part on my lap. I bent over to hug her as I did not have ample strength to bring her close to my chest. But she didn’t utter even a word to assuage me. Sobs echoed the area for a while, but the voice, if I could hear in reply, was of my echo and that of snowfall on the withered leaves of the trees which were standing silently there, as if they were trying to cover their eyes with snow in order to not to witness what’s happening there. I felt as if they were ashamed of being trees and having nothing in their ability to help me.

‘The culprit is god’ that’s all I was feeling, but at the same time I was praying to the same God, “please send my mother to the heaven’’; the heaven she told me about 9 hours ago.
”Goodbye” I said to my guardians and started running as I saw a group of people, whose faces were covered by scarfs and each of them had a gun, was coming towards me. I’d not have even tried to run away in such a situation, but the last order of my mother was to be obeyed.

After darting through congested streets of the valley for almost 5-6 kilometers, I reached the other end of the valley and then my legs answered me. I ran my eyes all around. Oh, Miracle! A ray of hope rose inside me as I saw one of my school friends’ father there. I went towards him and requested to take me inside their home to save me from those terrorists. But he denied saying, ”sorry, who are you? I don’t know you.” I was stunned hearing to his answer. Though his wistful eyes were talking about the reason why he was saying this all, perhaps, he was afraid of those people. He knew I’m a Hindu and saving me will put himself in peril.

I was tired now and my face withered. I fell down there almost unconsciously on the road that a car came and took me inside. Later, it was dawned on me that it was an another family whose house was burnt to ashes and they too were forced to leave the valley. They were strangers but more than whom we call relatives. As the car was going through streets, I saw many houses were burnt to ashes, many dead bodies were scattered over the roadside. I saw a house’s soul burning in the flames. Some people were standing nude in front of those monsters who were carrying guns in their hands; the reason behind doing this was to know the religion they belong to.

Today it’s 21st January. I never come out on this day. I wake up early but don’t come out of my bed. And the black day of 20th January 1990 starts screening inside my head. I find myself somewhere back to those days while you people are enjoying the new year. A fear related to January is stuck inside my heart. To be true there is not even a single day when I don’t remember about it but during winter season whenever I recall those days, my body starts quivering and some questions arise in my mind and those are always unanswered, and perhaps, will remain unanswered till I inhale my last breath.

Why did this happen to we Kashmiri pundits? Was the fault ours or our religion’s? Why have you people forgotten us? I often see you, media, politicians talking about many other riots and massacres and you should in fact, but why are we sidelined? Aren’t we humans? Oh, I see. We are no vote bank. History won’t forget you. We had to leave our land and we lost our beloved ones because some filthy minds wanted to spread their religion. Where are your human right organizations? I see they’re liberal. They won’t speak on this. It’s hard to be liberal when you see your dying mother asking you to leave her immediately, and the same way it’s easy to be liberal running your fingers on keyboard buttons and periodically grabbing the coffee cup to take a sip.

That winter! It was so cold
so cold that they left our houses on fire
that they warmed themselves on our pyre,
that winter! It was so cold
That winter! It was so cold
so cold that it froze people’s emotions
that snowfall seized humanity relations
that winter! It was so cold
That winter! it was so cold
so cold that it froze someone’s mother
that snow enveloped screams of slaughter
that winter! it was so cold
That winter! it was so cold
So cold that even today we’re waiting for a season; anew
that our screams are still finding a place in the snow to go through
that winter! it was so cold
Smell the wind, hear the silence
Souls are still wandering in search of justice
That winter……………….!

Why don’t they understand that when the first ray of the sun comes from the heaven crossing the sky touching cliffs, removing the fog and meets another heaven on the earth, when it falls on the bluish water of the river walking amidst the valley; It wants to see love, feel peace, enjoy spree and listen to some beautiful songs, not your bullet fires and screams of innocent people?

On 19th January 1990, Kashmiri Hindu families were thrown out of their own homeland Kashmir, India. They were asked to choose between their religion or life by some people. Some people? What am I afraid of? Not by some people, but radical Islamists. Some converted to Islam and the others to lifeless dead bodies. It wasn’t a sudden attack. Appropriate warnings were published in local newspapers citing ‘either leave Kashmir, or die‘ on much before twenty days of the genocide. The day before the incident, as cited by Colonel Tej Kumar Tikoo in his book, messages were broadcasted from Mosque speakers asking Kashmiri Pundits to leave or die. Nearly 400 people were killed mercilessly and 1,40,000 people moved to other parts of the country. Government and the law? They’re busy in calculating their vote bank. Or what can be the reason behind the fact that even after 27 years, Kashmiri Pundits are still living in refugee camps with no proper facilities?

~ Swastik Saraswat

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