Voices from the anonymous graves

Letters Without A Post Office, More Than Fiction

My Beloved Moji,

Stop oscillating between the stations and ministry offices, searching for my whereabouts. I can’t meet you in this world, and as far as the world hereafter is concerned, I am not too sure about it either. I only know that I am calling you from one of the thousands of anonymous graves from our valley.

Moji, had I not gone to the field that day to play cricket, who knows, I may have pursued my dreams of becoming a pilot or poet, writer or journalist, doctor or lawyer. I never thought about my future then; my only focus was to swing the ball like Akram. What happened to my cricket kit? Well, it doesn’t really matter anymore.

When the armed forces surrounded me on that fateful day, despite being used to their presence for over a decade, I don’t know why my childhood fear petrified me, and I stood motionless in my place. Moji, do you remember when I was in 2nd grade, and the presence of the soldiers was still very new to us? On my way back from school, I was stopped by a huge, uniformed man; he towered over me with his gun pointed straight at me; he thundered, “Tere bastey mein kya hai?!!”

What exactly did he expect to find in the school bag of a seven-year-old kid? Too shocked to move, I simply handed him my backpack, which was hung upside down like many of the boys in the interrogation camps of Kashmir. My bag vomited books, notes, lunch box, and pencil box. A decade later, when I stood in front of similar men with different faces but the same attitude, I felt nauseous, I also felt like vomiting my guts out, but the fear of the aftermath was more severe than the present scenario.

My death was sudden, without any warning or pain. Should I be thankful, I didn’t have to experience the electric nodes on my private parts, had chilli powder rubbed on my wounds, got the nails from my fingers and toes plucked by plass, had all my teeth extracted like nails or tortured for so long that I became immune to pain.

Initially, I thought I was living in a dungeon; there were times when I thought I had lost consciousness, and then I thought I was slumbering like the men of the cave; Surah Kahf was one of my favourite surahs from the holy Koran to uphold the dogs over cats.

Finally, when the truth dawned upon me, I realised I was not alone; there are thousands and thousands like me of all age groups. The most shocking thing is that it is not the Kashmiris alone whom I have befriended here: here in the world of the Anonymous Graves, there are men, women and children from different centuries, countries, colours, and religions.

It is impossible for me to intermingle with all of them; I need someone like-minded – not just oppressed, murdered, and persecuted without any faults. All of us are innocents here. But my friends are the ones who rebelled against the system, who raised their feeble voices.

Josef and Chandan are my best friends here. The others call us the three musketeers – Junaid, Josef and Chandan – the minority, the meek, and the maverick. Josef is younger than me by a year or two, but he has been living here for more than seventy-five years, ie, way before India annexed Kashmir.

Josef suffered the most because of his religion. When Adolf Hitler decided on ethnic cleansing, the world witnessed the most atrocious holocaust, and Josef was a victim of that genocide.

First, he spent months in a concentration camp in total fear. Every day, they feared that they would be going to enter that building with a huge chimney, and finally, that day dawned upon him, the day when he was engulfed by utmost suffocation: the day when Josef slept peacefully for the first time in so many years.

Chandan, however, is the most combustible of the three; he says if he is given birth one more time, he will return to Kashmir and fight for our cause. I tell him times have changed now and getting a physical form will not be the only solution; he will have to be omnipresent because there are several places like Kashmir that are equally oppressed.

Josef and I laugh at our dark humour, to which Chandan hurls us with innovative invectives in the Bengali language. In this world, it doesn’t matter who speaks which language; not only are we able to understand our languages perfectly well, but we also understand our pain equally well.

Chandan was pursuing his MSc in Physics when his leader, Charu Majumdar, called for an armed rebellion. Majumdar asked the students and youth like Chandan to unite with the landless peasantry against the oppressive feudal landlords and capitalists and bring equality to society.

When I first heard of Majumdar, I was reminded of Maqbool Butt; I don’t know whether I can call Butt the Majumdar of Kashmir or not – they may have different ideologies and perspectives, but there is one thing that unites the two – both were feared and killed by the Indian government.

Chandan and hundreds of his mutineers were buried in unmarked graves, just like Josef and me. However, the tragedy with his grave is that nobody knows that Naxalites were buried there. People assume it is a Hindu Burial ground or a Children’s Cemetery. In Chandan’s religion also, Dog is an elevated animal – it’s a different thing. Chandan does not believe in religion, God, angels or demons. The only thing that matters to him is the ‘liberation’ of the poor and oppressed – humanity is his religion.

Moji, the tragedy of this trio – a Muslim, a Jew and a Bengali Hindu doesn’t stand for Unity but represents the evil of fascism. Moji, if only you could hear me now, I would have asked you to tell everyone, young and old, to stand united against the evils of capitalism.

We don’t want lavish weddings, consumer fetishism, herd mentality and corporate slavery. We must pull the majority out of the vicious trap of food, clothing and shelter and introduce them to a new social order. Reach out to the people through a mass medium.

By now, the whole world must have turned into a virtual village and is digitised; hence, it is incumbent upon this digital generation to reach out to the mass the way I am trying to reach you through the mass unmarked graves.

Don’t look for me in the places I have left long ago; reach out to me in the Maqbools, Charus, Sarojs, Surekhas, Gauris and Mubinas around you. I exist in the poverty of the malnourished families, tears of the deprived eyes, and blood of the wounded – support them Moji, and I will be at peace.

The dead wishes to die again to hear your wondmay jigar just once

Junaid Butt

Dreams to make this world a habitable place for the oppressed. Been silent for way too long. It's time I SPEAK and make sure my words shatter their reverie.

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