Art work by Mir Suhail

Arif Ayaz Parrey explains the custodial censorship in Kashmir.

First Information Report

When a person is killed in custody, information about their death is an OGW of truth. Before it can turn active, soldiers, following a precise lead, raid its home in the dead of the night. If they do not find it there, they apprehend its father or brother or both and order the family to ask the information to present itself at the local camp by noon or else… One way or the other, the information is at the military camp before zuhar the next day.

The soldiers torture the information, muffling its cries with bales of national security. Usually, the cruelty of the torture is meticulous and measured—unbearable but not life-threatening. After all, the goal of the torture is to carry the information to the brink, where it is just one step away from a decision of preferring a day of dignity over a life of injustice, but not over the brink. And once it has made that decision, of “turning active” in common parlance, the soldiers can prey on it. Grossly underprepared and heavily underarmed, it is as easy to hunt down the information as it is to pluck a ripe fruit from a tree. Killing information earns the soldiers medals and money. It is perfect. Like ripening apples with calcium carbide and selling them at a cost.

But sometimes the soldiers make a mess of it. Maybe they are missing home. Nostalgia can be brutal. Perhaps one of them has been watching too many China-related videos and is in need of validation. Possibly this particular piece of information was too cocky for its own good. Whatever be the case, the soldiers overdo the torture and kill the information. Generally, such accidents are met with disapproval by the command structure. “What a waste!” an officer will remark on such an occasion, “It is like picking raw fruit. Bah! What are we going to do with it now? Make a pickle?”

In order to avoid the pickle, soldiers weave a story of their own. The information was trying to escape. They tried everything. Shut down Internet in the area. Beat up local photojournalists. Sanitized media coverage. Harassed the public. When they managed to trap the information in a CASO and asked it to surrender, not only did it refuse to do so, it sought to attack the soldiers. So they had to shoot at it in self-defence. They did not even hand over the body of the information to the family for a proper burial, because, you know, a grave is living information.

Now the information is dead. But the news of its death is more information.


Life of a lie

A lie only lives for two and a half days.

On the first day, an insatiable hunger for power makes the would-be tyrant lose appetite for the simple pleasures of life. He can no longer taste his food. The colour of an evening and the fragrance of flowers are lost on him. If he hears a brook sing at night, shivering under the moon’s gaze, or old women croon over fussy children during the day, he hates the noise.

He invents a trusted lieutenant. Together, they beget a lie. The lie attracts more lies and becomes a big ball of propaganda. The ball collapses under its own weight, like a blackhole does, and becomes an ideology.

On the second day, they proceed to raise armies and raze cities. The lie marches at the head of these armies. The more they conquer, the less satisfied they become. Eventually, they calculate that they will need to raze a universes-worth of cities in a moment to obtain the same amount of pleasure they used to derive from spending a whole day hunting and killing a dog for sport.

At some point on the third day, time loses interest in the lie and abandons it abruptly. Its half-finished dreams are indistinguishable from the ruins of the greatest empires the world has ever seen. Dogs piss and shit everywhere in these ruins, marking their territory.

In a clean corner, while birds chirp above, old women sit in the shade of the trees. They titter over the tyrannies of yore and with their sharp, elegant pocketknives and toothless mouths, slowly and carefully slice fruit into the greatest pleasures of life.

But in the interlude, the women have lost their children and the tyrant died at the height of his power.

Sleeper cell

Can you be asleep if you are asking yourself the question, “Am I asleep?” You are either awake or something so ridiculous has just occurred that even while dreaming the illusion is broken.

What is a sleeper cell? Who is an OGW? What is the difference between the two? If a bleeding insurgent crawls towards you and asks for help, will you try to save his life? What if it is a bloodied, wriggling soldier? If an insurgent knocks at your door and asks you to hide him quickly because he is being chased, will you welcome him? If he gives you his gun and asks you to hide it and promises to come back for it, will you take it? If he is martyred before returning for the gun, what happens to the weapon? If he is your friend, your brother, your lover, discharging farz-e-kifaya on your behalf, will you feel shame? Guilt?

They say criminality is a matter of convention. Whose convention? Does mens rea emanate from the society or the government? Is your morality a product of justice or of law?

If breathing is outlawed, how will you convince your lungs?


How does one address people who have died in one’s stead? One did not ask them to, but they understood something one fails to grasp. Perhaps it is the knowledge that the multiplicity of souls is an aberration of time and space. That there is a common light flowing through all of us and it matters not which body is broken, the light will sprout forth to shatter darkness, for falsehood by its very nature is bound to perish. Balai laggai. Zu wandai. Rattechep dimai paan. Logsai naavas chaenis maeni shaheeda.♦


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wande Magazine.

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