A young man was killed in the forests of Tral. The men in uniform repeat the unsurprising refrain of ‘accidental death.’ What is accidental in ‘death by a bullet’ by the way? Khalid Wani, the slain man was heralded to the bosom of the earth with wedding songs replacing the rattle of bullets in air. Next day, streets of Tral throbbed with anger as those who knew Khalid and those who didn’t pronounced his innocence with slogans of Azadi. ‘My son was tortured to death, he didn’t die with a bullet,’ father of Khalid said.
The death of Khalid occurred around the same time that Galeano breathed his last. Thousands of miles away in Uruguay, Eduardo Galeano, whose imaginative and illuminative book Mirrors I recently skimmed through, died of cancer. He was 74. Khalid was 23. First reports suggest that Khalid had gone to see his militant brother in the forests. His brother fights Indian military occupation of Kashmir. Galeano struggled with remembering memories. Khalid is a memory too. Galeano wrote, “I believe in memory not as a place of arrival, but as point of departure—a catapult throwing you into present times, allowing you to imagine the future instead of accepting it.”
There is a lesson in each death. The lesson of remembering that the dead too lived; that we shouldn’t remember them as simply dead people. Galeano further wrote, “It would be absolutely impossible for me to have any connection with history if history were just a collection of dead people, dead names, dead facts.”
Kashmir was not always gray. It was grayed. Galeano would have said.
His book Mirrors is subtitled Stories of Almost Everyone. A chapter on war is presented below
HORROR OF WAR
On the back of a blue ox rode Lao Tse.
He was travelling the paths of contradiction, which led to the secret place where water and fire fuse.
In contradiction all meets nil, life meets death, near meets far, before meets after.
Lao Tse, village philosopher, believed that the richer a nation is, the poorer it becomes. He believed that knowing war teaches peace, because suffering inhabits glory:
Every action provokes reactions.
Violence always returns.
Only thistles and thorns grow where armies encamp.
War summons hunger.
He who delights in conquest, delights in human pain.
Every victory should be celebrated with a funeral.