On Sunday 21 October, Indian armed personal killed three local rebels in an encounter in Kulgam. Seven civilians were killed due to a blast near the encounter site, and close to fifty people were injured. Grisly scenes of the injured, captured in photographs and videos, have since flooded the internet. In this short piece, Basharat Ali presents a commentary of photographs and videos available on social media from the Kulgam killings.
Two men carry a body with a face painted in red. The third one calls out for a car. He thinks the man is still alive but he cannot see his right arm. He tries to look inside the man's pheran but there is nothing there. They hold him by his shoulders and his legs. There is a woman running toward them. She cannot lift the body because she has her both hands slapping her face. There is indistinct chatter. Some call for an ambulance and others call for divine intervention. Nothing arrives. These men and women must do everything on their own to survive. This war is long and we are short of numbers.
Another body in white shoes and black trousers follows two different pairs of hands. He has his chest carved out. There is a fine hole visible to the right side of his chest. The blood is flowing out as blood does. His chest bones are visible and they still feel like wanting to jump up to help this man shout a slogan loud. His body does not move except for when the men who carry him fumble. His eyes are closed and his teeth are visible. Hours later his mother asks him, “Where did you go, my son? Get up and talk to me”. She missed the opportunity of offering him strength in their last phone conversation. She brushes his hair and sends him to meet his maker.
The third body is carried fast. The hope that he can be alive is provided by half of his right arm pointing towards the sky. There are no fingers but only five hollow wounds at the end of what can still be called a hand. The palm of this hand can still hold a stone. The arm does not bend. The face does not change expression. Yet, there is hope of returning to the battle the next day. The fight is not over yet. The war is here to stay for some time. The men carrying him shout for some space to ferry him out quick.
There is a man lying on the road. Two men sit next to him. Both of them have their right hands raised, mouths wide open. The one with a cap presses the body near its neck to stop bleeding. The blood is already on the road flowing smoothly. Others guard them with stones in their hands. This is how the war looks like. It is medieval versus the modern. The violence of liberation versus the violence of aggression; the first one expresses what the second suppresses.
Four bodies, in two pairs, lie close by to the façade of the house razed down to dust by mortars and grenades. A few wooden logs serve them as cushions. They are resting calmly. Their faces covered with soot and blood. Their sleep is disturbed by the breathing men who surround them and the singing women inching closer.
“He is alive” shouts a man holding another body in his lap. There is blood on his face and he his trembling with pain. There is a crack on his forehead. His mouth is filled with blood and pieces of his flesh are visible to him on the ground. He has lost a part of his hand too. People say he will survive to fight another day.
There is a man running fast towards a car. He is holding what is left of his nose with some cloth and is pointing to a man lying on the roadside. There are a few more scattered around, damaged like apples after a hailstorm. A few of them have lost their fingers. Others have lost parts of their legs. One of them has a part of his face missing. There is a hole near his lower lip. One of them has his left eye popping out of its socket and seems to be scanning everything around it with more proximity than before. They look like sacrificial goats kept in order to be cut into pieces later. The first one to be rescued has his jaw cut loose from his face.
Outside the hospital, stretchers look like swimming pools filled with blood. A scarf tries to cover a part of one blood-filled stretcher. The blue mixes with the red and the scarf smells of blood. It is everywhere. It is normal. This is just another routine day in this godforsaken country dying out of freedoms terrible thirst. ♦