I lacked guts, otherwise a policeman
had done all he could to turn me into a stone-thrower on the
streets of Srinagar.
After days of frustration due to strict restrictions on public
movement, I mustered the courage to drive out of my house in the
curfewed summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir that has been
bristling with anger and pain over more than 100 deaths, mostly in
clashes with security forces.
I was confident as I had a press card to flash in case of trouble
with the paramilitary troopers. Police, I thought, were Kashmiri
friends and it wouldn't take too much to convince them.
As I drove out on the deserted roads blocked with barbed wire, the
only sight that greeted me was patrolling by thousands of men in
khaki in anti-riot gear.
I crossed a couple of hurdles explaining to security forces that I
was a journalist from Delhi and needed to take a tour of the city.
I had a young nephew and niece with me who had been feeling
equally frustrated after days of being locked in at home.
Things were fine till I reached Lal Bazaar where a group of young
people - who were shouting pro-freedom slogans and throwing stones
at police and paramilitary troopers - had just been dispersed.
Bricks and stones were still lying around.
"Stop", a sub inspector with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
shouted. Sensing trouble, I came to an abrupt halt.
"Where are you going?" he asked angrily.
"Home," I said politely.
"Don't you know, you are not allowed to move, leave alone drive a
car?" he said.
I explained that I was from Delhi and showed him my press card.
Soon, his anger turned into a respectful smile.
"You should not leave like this. Anyway, you go ahead but it can
be dangerous," he advised.
We spoke a little more. But by the time I switched on the ignition
of my car, a masked Kashmiri policeman came charging towards me.
"Come out," he shouted in Urdu with a thick Kashmiri accent. I
thought he also had some words of advice for me. He looked at me
with anger and asked my credentials. I flashed my I-card,
parliament's media pass, and tried explaining that I was from
I was unprepared for what followed. Before I could even sense what
he was up to, he took out a bamboo cane and started hitting me on
my legs and hurled abuses left, right and centre.
The children in my car were shocked and started crying. They came
out saying, "Sorry uncle, sorry... hamaare maama ko mat maaro
(don't hit our uncle)."
I was shocked myself and didn't know how to stop this policeman
who was supposed to protect the law - and human rights. I started
crumbling under his cane charge.
It was the gentle CRPF trooper who came to my rescue.
"Why are you beating him?" the
trooper asked the policeman. The cop looked surprised. "Do I need
your permission?" he asked.
"I won't allow you to beat him," the trooper replied, much to my
The policeman became furious and threatened to kill me first and
then gun down the CRPF man. I was at a loss - but the CRPF man
still bundled me and the children off into the car and ordered me
to rush away.
I grabbed the chance and zoomed away. I hated myself later for not
reacting - perhaps for not picking up a stone and throwing it at
the policeman unlike thousands of ordinary Kashmiris who have now
taken to stone pelting.
When you are pushed to the wall, do you expect sanity to prevail?
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The views expressed
are his own.)