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...Tiny ponds used to form in the crevices of kholas then – all dried up now – and young men would clamber up the slippery rocks to take a dip in the cold, clear pools. The boys, on a break from school, had packed sandwiches and tea in a flask. They were excited about their little excursion. Suddenly a vehicle with CRPF jawans screeched to a halt in front of them and all three were bundled in. An officer asked for information on local leaders active during the agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland that had erupted with Subhash Ghisingh in 1986. The jawans were cursing and hitting the boys. One of the kids remembered advice he had been given by elders: if you are caught by CRPF, speak in English. “Sir,” he said in English, “I go to school and live in a hostel. My father is with the SBI. ...TOI on Aug. 1, 2017, 2 a.m.
...He soon gets down to pursuing his goals, with the single-mindedness that sometimes comes from not having enough money, from being disenfranchised and from being what is essentially a village with broken roads, bad schools, crumbling hospitals. He has always dreamt of getting out of there and this is his big chance. One day, just as everything seems to be going right for a change, there is a knock on his door and a group of boys are waiting outside. They are itching for a fight. All of them being young – and we know what that means – the altercation over some issue, trivial by all accounts, blows out of proportion. He is outnumbered. And then, just like that, he disappears. No one knows what happened to him, where he is if he is dead, captive or crippled. ...TOI on Oct. 28, 2016, 5:38 p.m.
...Nobody has cleaned it for months. If you look for metaphors of Kashmir’s tragedy, it’s there everywhere – in the eyes of mothers who have lost their sons, mosques that call for struggle and not peace, fearful policemen who hide their identities, deserted streets fenced by barbed wires that lead nowhere, toddlers who lisp “azadi”, and a stone pelter who says he will use rocks against the Indian government but will be grateful if it gives him a job. Ever since the Kashmir conundrum blew in New Delhi’s face in the 1990s, the movement has become more complex with time, often leaving India – which thinks the army and CRPF can tackle all insurgencies with brute force – scurrying for both cover and answers. Neither will be easy. A police officer told me recently in Srinagar, “This is like the cricket pitch of Sharjah. Everybody loves to play there.” The game itself has metamorphosed into a blood sport, the arena full of angry voices pledging support to disparate teams working at cross purposes. ...TOI on Sept. 6, 2016, 2 a.m.