Ather Zia

From Dissident Voice, “Kashmir’s Stone Pelter

“You ask about his birth?”

“His birth was marked by checkpoints through which his mother had to pass when she was in throes of giving birth to him. It was in the closeted bloody warmth of his mother’s womb that he smelt that there was bloodletting outside too.

The blood that spurted from his father’s gashes, who had in a hurry forgotten his Identity card and now, had no way of proving himself. Who was he? Was he a militant, a miscreant, a terrorist, and so many other such names or was he an expectant father carrying the burden of his suffering wife; well the bump that he claimed was a pregnancy could be arms, well hidden? Did he get killed that day, he could have, and he may have been? There have been so many like him, that I have lost track. I do not count anymore (though I keep a tally)!”

“You ask how he was raised?”

“He was raised watching his mother worry at every instance of him leaving home or not. Making sure he took the identity card with him, a piece of paper that is worth a visa, a permit of travel in his own land, and there are no guarantees. His mother would go through strange transformations though. She distrusted the roads and streets, where bunkers oozing into the streets created bottlenecks doubling as checkpoints; she preferred he stay indoors. Close to her heart. Then the day bullets rained on their house, there was a crackdown, and several boys were killed. She saw the large impressions of the boots that had brazenly razed through her hearth and the carpet she would let him eat on saying he was messy; she trusted the home no more. Where will I keep you son? He is just a boy, she cried days on end?”

“You ask about his friends?”

“He is especially reminded of the one who could not make it to the tutor’s house, who was walking just behind him. Wearing a blue jacket and coke bottle glasses, the most awkward guy in the group, who probably could not even run properly, was caught between crossfire. He died on the spot, his beloved books strewn about. There is still a curiosity in him to know what color his eyes were. You could never see clearly through his glasses, and he seldom looked up from his books. Then there were the other friends, the ones who sat in his house, at the edge of the bed or moping, moving curtains to see if they could go outside. They never got to play properly. They were not permitted in the yard, especially during curfews for they made too much noise; they sat inside watching too much TV, sometimes with the mute button on. The alley was a no-no, there was too much tension outside, a blast, a killing, it was always something or the other.”

“You ask about his anger?”

“Anger! It’s right there, in his face, spilling into the streets like guts of a sacrificial lamb. It’s in your face! You think it’s stoppable, you think it can be curbed. You think all those thoughts that a sovereign thinks, a state holds at its core and pretends they work. You buy time, you talk soft on the surface and hit hard deep down. But listen, at this juncture you are not handling the naïve, progress-hungry denizens of the 50’s for whom the paved roads were a novelty and the thought of eating at the same table as you was the epitome of development. You promised them cheap rice, concrete buildings and below poverty line schemes that have yet to raise anyone above it. You can still entice a small minority with pittance paying, newly established redundant government positions, created to serve as a gag, a device for buying time, but you cannot ensnare all. Too bad you pose as if you still have this under control. You cannot set a price for blood, though you think you can, power always works that way. But power has schizophrenia, and many sovereigns chose not to acknowledge. It beds the perpetrator as much as it cohabits with the victim. The guns have been relegated to fringes; this stone pelter does not care for them.

This is a teachable moment for you. They brought nothing for him; they will buy nothing for you. The law which you treat law as an “ideal of order” to ensure you territorial rights has lost you all hearts. This young pelter’s stone is lying by the pavement, he used it, he may or may not pick it up again, depends how you corner him this time. But one thing is as clear as the day which is frozen under curfew in the valley that he will invoke law as an ideal of justice, however elusive. You may mediate its language but you cannot override it.”


One comment

  1. Dear Ather Zia,

    Hello! We represent the Washington University in St. Louis chapter of Sigma Iota Rho, the International Studies Honorary. This fall we will be having our bi-annual Town Hall event on campus. During this event we pick an international issue of interest to the greater Washington University community and invite speakers to participate in a panel discussion on the topic. This fall our topic is the crisis in Kashmir with a particular focus on the Kashmiri people and their living conditions. Because this issue has received much media attention, we would like to approach the subject from a fresh perspective. Based on your expertise in this field we would like to invite you to participate in this event. We would be honored if you would illuminate some of the aspects of this controversial topic for the Washington University student body. We think that you would be an excellent contributor to our event and we hope that you will be able to join us.

    The event is tentatively scheduled for Monday, November 8th at 7:00 PM CST. We understand that this is late notice, however we hope that you will still be able to attend. We would appreciate a response as soon as possible, even if you are unable to attend. We are able to take care of any travel expenses and arrangements. Your insight would be a great asset for this event and we hope to hear from you soon.


    Shebani Shah
    Sigma Iota Roha

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