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AN UNUSUAL DAY - TESTIMONY OF A GIRL IN CONFLICT

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By: Shefali Rafiq Bhat

I left home around noon for the my computer classes. The institute is located at just about twenty minutes drive from my home, in main town Anantnag. I boarded a vehicle which, to my utter disappointment, took more than half an hour to reach the town. My classes, which included lectures on computer application and keyboard typing practice, started at 1. I was, somehow, able to get into the class on time.

Lectures finished. Our teacher directed us to go into the computer lab for typing practice. We started typing the sentences our screens flashed and our supervisor noted the time. My typing speed was improving, I was told. In the midst of this exercise my phone rang up. Mom was calling.

"I heard there are clashes going on between forces and locals in Khudwani," she informed, panicking, "I heard some bullet sounds too," she added after a pause. Khudwani, just a kilometer away from home, is a hub of stone-pelting. I have to pass through Khudwani to reach home.  I panicked losing my focus on the exercise I was in the middle of. How would I reach home? How would I reach home safely?

I had to go through an area where bullets, tear gas canisters, pellets and stones were being exchanged. I had never been in a situation like this. It was horrible to imagine. I left the institute and went to the bus stop and, as expected, there was no cab, no bus, no transport to be spotted. After walking up to the main road a cab pulled in front of me- "It's just up to Wanpoh," the drive said. Wanpoh is 4 kilometers from home. Sighting no vehicle around I boarded the cab. I left the cab at Wanpoh and started walking towards Khudwani. I was afraid. Some students including boys and girls and an old couple accompanied me on the way. They too were hysterical about the situation in Khudwani.

We reached SKAUST (Sher -e-Kashmir Agricultural University of Science And Technology) after a 2 kilometers walk. We were few meters away from the main market of Khudwani when we sensed the clashes from a distance after a police vehicle came straight towards us. The boys accompanying us fled into narrow lanes perpendicular to the road. The old couple and the girls, including me, stayed on the road. A police man, peeping through the roof of the vehicle, pointed his gun towards us. We got terrified and began running for our lives. We, I and rest of the girls, landed straight into a sewage canal on the side of road in chaos.

"Bhaago kutiyoo, yehi too hum chahte haiñ," the policeman shouted, laughing. Run, you bitches, this is just what we want!

We remained lifeless in the canal, terrified, even after the vehicle had left. We had lost our senses in fear. I couldn't stand up and neither could the other girls. We all were shivering.

The boys came out of the lanes. They supported us by lending a hand and guided us to a vacant shop on the other side of the road. We sat there for some time and the old couple joined us too. They allayed us till we regained some sense of the situation and the numbness that had befallen on us was partly reduced. ‘We need not to worry’, the old man told us. But everyone around was traumatized. Beads of sweat were glistening on everyone's forehead. Finally, we decided to move on.

The stone pelting halted when we reached the main market of Khudwani. Some policemen instructed us to move faster. We did. We entered a lane, which leads to the road to my home, when some policemen came running towards us. They caught hold of one of the boy with us who was in casuals, a dress that goes contrary of him being a student. Taking him to the other side of the road, a policeman smashed his gun butt into his ribs. He began to scream. They thrashed him mercilessly. "Pathar marega?" (Will you throw stones) a policeman shouted while slapping him.

We came running to the policemen and pleaded him to let the boy go. They didn't listen and continued to beat him. We started crying on hearing his painful screams. The old lady, accompanying us, spread her scarf under the feet of the policemen. Finally they left him. He was limping.

I reached home at 6 in the evening. My mom hugged me when she saw my clothes drenched in sewage. I cried. The trauma still lingered in my mind. The day, I came through, was not unusual in Kashmir.

(Writer is a Ist. year Journalism student at GDC Anantnag. She can be reached at Shefalirafiq1234@gmail.com)

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