How I Grew Up Fearing For my Cop Dad’s Safety, Kashmiri Son Writes
News about abduction of a policeman scares the families of the militia and they worry about their safety.
I am 24 years old and maybe too old to crave for fatherly affection. But I feel the need of the company of my father more now than when I was a kid. I wish he was with me to guide me when the mid-life crisis kicks in and beliefs are shaken.
I need my father to be at home on holidays to cherish the fun of a family gathering. I need him to be there to hold me up if I fall, not from the edge of the verandah of our house like in my childhood, but from the ascents in life as I grow old. As I grow old, I miss spending time with my father.
It was a privilege to be born into a police family, not because it ensured you of safety amidst insurgency that had broken out in the early 90s. I belonged to a gunman's family – the other side of the society.
My childhood passed at a time when the romance with the gun was at its peak.
Looking at my father’s pictures on the wall, donned in the police uniform with a gun slinging on his shoulders, would give me goosebumps. I would spend hours together imagining myself holding the same rifle someday and adding more pictures to that beautiful ‘wall of fame’ in our house.
But with each passing day, unabated, I would unravel the harsh fronts of the life of an authorised gunman in my home, in the volatile southern district of Kashmir.
I hardly remember my father, a policeman of lower rung spending time with his family ever since he joined the police force. I do recall my mother doing solo parenting by switching the roles of father and mother for us, for years to pass.
My father used to visit us for Eid which was equivalent to sighting another crescent. Unlike the one in the night sky, he would appear right in our kitchen room –reconfirming that it was Eid the next day. This Eid though, the crescent sighting was short-lived as he was recalled to his station and we celebrated one more auspicious occasion without him.
During my father's training days, I saw what element a woman is made of. She would always make sure that we are nurtured and nourished like none other in the society, a princely upbringing, which every parent wishes to give to their children. Telephone calls from my father from a distant training centre in Udhampur would end with a long list of do’s and don’ts for my mother to execute. ”Do feed and look-after children well,” would be the core in the long and rambling to-do-list.
A knock on the neighbour's door after sundown would give us chills. Mom would shield us from fear or reality because we belonged to a service family. The situation was no different when the insurgency erupted for the first time and now what it is today.
The very role of policing in a conflict region like Kashmir these days throws immense and intense challenges. These challenges just multiply when you happen to be a part of the same society you are serving as a cop. You are not only an ordinary employer of the state government but a warrior in uniform. Your battles with the gun in the battleground near encounter sights are equally as hard as the ones with mind and psyche in leisure at home.
The otherness in the society towards a policeman makes him an outcast, who is viewed as at war with his own people.
The iron-fist policy of the Centre vis-a-vis Kashmir conundrum, which puts forces at the forefront to deal with, has never gained any substantial ground since its very inception, and so is it faring in the post-Burhan era when the alienation among the youth is at its all-time high. It has created more problems than it has solved. Making the lives of even the families of combatants on both sides vulnerable is the biggest drawback it wears on its face.
The dance of death picks its pace with every new corpse it produces, leaving behind the trails of sufferings of survivors in the form of orphans and widows. With the recent kidnapping spree – which seemed no less than an apt replica of some Bollywood movie from the 90s, or the weapon snatching bids, or the killing of SPOs for that matter, the face-off, by all dimensions has gone now well beyond the battlegrounds, trespassing all the safety lines of division in the Kashmiri society.
I remember, on the day of mass kidnappings of the kins of Jammu and Kashmir policemen last month, I told my best friend to escort me to places, in the backdrop of the fear of meeting the same fate on any coming day.
Any news report flashing about the killing or abduction of a serving policeman would send the families of the militia into a spell of doubts and apprehensions about their safety.
No matter which side you belong to in a conflict, you happen to bear the brunt of the rage that fans its flames. The worst part about it is that peace becomes virtual, a synonym to ceasing guns to roar. On the other hand, the pain is perpetual, emanating from every corner, shrouded in different bandages, bearing eternal scars, transcending the divisions, and thus, takes in its ambit the entire landscape. With the casualties of local militia touching all-time high this year, the life for an otherwise ordinary employee of the state is set against more odds now than ever.
(The author is a civil servant aspirant hailing from south kashmir. He has done his BTech in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE ) from Jammu University. You could reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
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