He had never held a gun in his hands. He did not know how to make a crude bomb. Yet, he should be labeled as a terrorist. That was because by day he was a lowly clerk in I.G’s office but by night a spy for the insurgents. He passed on vital information on police and troop movements to the terrorists. The police identity card helped him go through check-points near Srinagar any time of the day without raising too many eyebrows.
He had no regrets about being a mole to help the terrorists. Nor did he rejoice in the work. He went about his work like an automaton. Fate had converted him into a robot well before he could enjoy the pleasures of youth. It is very convenient to blame fate. At every turn in life, Man chooses the path he is going to take. If that path leads to success, he gloats. If it is a failure, he blames fate. He was no exception to this rule but the one difference was that he accepted the hand that has been dealt to him; he didn’t moan, groan and keep complaining about his lousy luck. He was reconciled to it and went about it like an automaton.
Suspecting that the terrorists who had planted bombs in the secretariat building were hiding in his village, soldiers surrounded the village and opened fire. His father fell prey to a stray bullet. Even the body was not handed over to the family to perform the last rites. They carted away the bodies of all those killed in the firing and disposed them off in a mass cremation.
Within a week, another raid was conducted. This time, the youth of the village rallied around and started pelting stones at the raiding squad. This only helped in aggravating the situation as the soldiers resorted to firing. As the firing commenced, his mother who was standing in the queue in a ration shop, tried to hide behind a kerosene barrel. A bullet hit that barrel and it exploded into a ball of orange flame. The fire took away her sight. The injured were taken to various hospitals in Srinagar and it took him three days to locate her. The doctors declared that the damage was too extensive and that it will be impossible to restore her sight.
He and his sister struggled through life. The army suspected that the village has always been harbouring terrorists and so set up a permanent camp on the outskirts, even though a house-to-house search yielded nothing. Within the year, his sister eloped with a soldier. Rumours were whispered that she was seen getting into a military jeep beyond the slopes of the pine forest.
But those who came to his house in the dead of the night said that she was abducted by the military to be used as a sex slave. Whether that was the truth or it was false propaganda to get him on their side, he will never know but he started going over. Slowly but steadily. They showed him photographs of police ‘atrocities’. They spoke hours about the military’s oppression. All this happened within six months of getting the job- the government job which he got with the help of his father’s friend; the job which he got by lying that he was already 21. One month he was in the transport department; then he was transferred to I.G’s office. The ‘experience’ in the transport department landed him with the responsibility of helping truck movements. That was when they approached him. After seven midnight ‘meetings’, he went over totally.
Every day, he walked three miles to the Pahalgam-Srinagar highway to catch a bus to work; another two hour journey to the city. That morning, as usual, he made rotis for himself and his mother and as he was leaving called out. “Eat the rotis soon. Don’t let them grow cold and don’t try to light the stove”. There was just a groan from the camp cot. He went close and touched her face. The body felt as though it was on fire. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he chided her. He knew he had to get her to a doctor. But how? She was in no condition to walk. He decided to run to Pahalgam and get his friend’s horse. It was tourist season and his friend could lose almost the whole day’s earning. “I will compensate him when I get this month’s salary” he said to himself as he ran down the slope.
He couldn’t find his friend in the usual spot. Has taken couple of children for a joy ride, he was told and so decided to wait. He leaned over the railings of a bridge, staring at the white water of the Lidder river when he suddenly heard someone scream from the other side of the bridge. He turned to see an old lady waving her arms. At the same instant he saw an old man struggling to stay afloat in the gurgling waters. Even if he doesn’t drown, the cold will kill him. Without any hesitation, he plunged into the river. The man weighed a ton, with all the heavy woolen clothing. Unable to take that weight and swim at the same time, he grabbed one of the pylons under the bridge and waited for help. Soon, strong hands grabbed and pulled them ashore. The old woman was tearfully thankful. With folded hands she said something in a strange language. ‘Mahadeva’ was the only word he understood. “Must be pilgrims headed for the Amarnath Cave” he thought.
Another pilgrim translated from Kannada. “Mahadeva will save you from all troubles”. He refused the money she offered and walked away. The sun was high by the time he went to his friend’s house to change clothes and reach his village with the horse. He threw some grass near the horse, kept a bucket of water and shouted to his mother. “Get ready. We will go to the doctor. I have brought a horse”. There was no response. The rotis were as he had left them. He ran to the cot. The body was cold. He was too late. She had breathed her last couple of hours back.
He sat on the floor near the cot and began to sob uncontrollably. He did not cry when his father was killed. He held back his tears when his sister ran away leaving him alone. He was dry-eyed when 27 soldiers died as the bus they were in was ambushed based on the information he had passed on. But on that day, he cried as he had never done in his life.
Yes, he was a terrorist.