Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2012 > Srinagar Today, Remembering Jaleel Andrabi

Mainstream, VOL L, No 28, June 30, 2012

Srinagar Today, Remembering Jaleel Andrabi

Wednesday 4 July 2012, by Humra Quraishi

I’m back from Srinagar. In fact, got back only this week-end and even now sitting somewhat lost in what the Valley had to offer. The one big positive for me was my interaction with the enthusiastic students of Convergent Journalism at the Central University of Kashmir. Also, to see and sense how life moves on…keeps moving on, overcoming those emotional upheavals that come along. And though the senseless-cum-brutal killings of the young in the summer of 2010 have left a definite impact on the Kashmiri, he or she has learnt to survive against odds. Perhaps, tucking away those painful memories in that part of the subconscious which has the unending capacity to store those pains and sorrows.

In fact, in the last few months this was my third visit to Srinagar and each time there stood out decay on the very roads, intersections and at each possible lane of this city. The garbage heaps seem to be getting heavier. The stink unbearable. The traffic mess frightening. And to compound the scenario—stray dogs. Not one or two but a pack of them. These dogs sprawled around, all over the city and in those outlining locales. And unlike the stray dogs of New Delhi, these dogs are huge and said to rip off not just that proverbial pound of flesh but kilos of it. It is a very serious issue but the municipality and political brass seem to sit unaffected. Perhaps, making little difference to them as their bungalows are well fenced or well guarded. Or both. And as and when these men step out of those bungalows, they slip into those vehicles. With little sense of what lies sprawled around, on the roads.

True, hundreds and thousands of tourists were to be seen not just in Srinagar but at the popular locales around, but, mind you, they were either stuffing themselves in those big bodied cars or else walking about in large groups around the Boulevard and much before the evening shadows lengthened. Yes, the dogs and traffic mess seemed coming in the way of strolling along the roads and lanes of this city.
I recall around 2002 I’d walked around this city. For hours I could walk around the down-town areas but not now. In fact, this time those horror stories came up. Several were hounded and many had been attacked and bitten by these dogs. A young student, Abdul Hussain, who has shifted base from his hometown Kargil to study in Srinagar, recounted the horrifying moment when in broad daylight he was attacked and bitten by stray dogs. And had to spend his pocket money getting those anti-rabies shots together with the rest of the medical treatment… In fact, wherever I went locals sat traumatised by these stray dogs.

Surely, these dogs have not been sent/parcelled from China, Bangladesh or Pakistan, to be placed along strategic positions in and around the Valley. And nor have they sneaked in through the borders, or let loose through the porous points along the LoC. So the Government of India needn’t come up with a Secretary or Minister level meet with their counterparts in any of these neighbouring countries, on how to go about tackling this ever growing stray dog population.

There seem only two basic options to be carried out immediately—either shift these stray dogs to some enclosed area out of the city confines or else to gift them in bulk to dog-lovers…

After all, the human form has to be protected at any cost. Here and there, all over.

I’m Sitting, With Those Images …

AND as news comes in of the accused Major Avtar Singh—accused in the murder of activist lawyer Jaleel Andrabi—killing himself and his entire family in the US where he’d been living after fleeing from here, I’m reminded of my interaction with Jaleel Andrabi’s widow, Rifat, and his elder brother, Arshad. It was around 2002 when I had visited them in their Peer Bagh-situated home. I had written about this in my book—Kashmir: The Untold Story… “In Peer Bagh I visited the home of the slain activist lawyer Jaleel Andrabi. The house was full of people—Andrabi’s three children, his widow Rifat and Andrabi’s elder brother Arshad, whom Rifat had married—but it seemed empty of all spirit. Each face sacked under the weight of an unyielding burden. Rifat appeared briefly, then retreated to an inner room. Arshad, sitting with me in his dead brother’s study, spoke for nearly ninety minutes, but not once did he look less tense than when I had first entered the house. He recounted the turn of events: ‘On 11 February, 1984, after the execution of Maqbool Butt (founder of the Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front who was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail after the killing of an Indian diplomat), Jaleel had come out of the Bar and protested. He was arrested and lodged in the Hari Niwas interrogation centre in Srinagar. Though he was released after our house was searched and my father’s licensed gun confiscated, he was a broken man. When the Hurriyat was formed in 1990 he was associated with it and in 1995 he was sent to Geneva as their representative for the UN’s Human Rights Sub-Commission. Thereafter he visited the USA and spoke so bluntly about the situation in the Valley that he was advised by many in the USA not to come back to India. But he came back and was hounded. First on 26 January, 1996, renegades sent by the forces came here but he managed to take their photographs and circulated them. Then on 7 March he was arrested and 28 March, 1996 he was found dead. Now the police say the prime suspect in his murder is one Major Avtar Singh, who they say has committed nine other murders and today lives in Karnal, having been court-martialled by the Army.’ Arshad broke down at this point… When he regained his composure, all he said was: ‘There are thousands of Jaleel Andrabi-type of cases; yet the official murderers move about freely. What more can I say?’”

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