Similarly to many anti-colonial struggles, Kashmiri activists can count on a acute knowledge of their spatial environment to cope with the asymmetric dimension that characterizes their confrontations with the Indian occupation police and military. Mohamad Junaid helps us understand how.
In 1992, Indian soldiers stationed inside a bunker in my hometown in Kashmir shot dead a teenage boy from my school. I did not witness the event, but I vividly remember how his death was described. Bilal was a year or two older to me and had been suffering from mental illness. His condition sometimes caused him visual hallucinations and other forms of sensory misperception, not to mention acute pain. During moments when his pain would become unbearable, he would run out of his parents’ home and wander the streets. The evening he was shot, Bilal had walked deliriously and come close to the perimeter of the bunker. Later that night, a few townspeople gathered and quietly carried his limp body back to his home. The next morning at school, we heard several accounts of the killing. People were angry with the callous way soldiers had shot Bilal, but beyond privately simmering in impotent rage, no one knew what to do. Many indirectly blamed Bilal’s grieving parents for not restraining him.
Culturally, seeing the mad or the mentally-ill wander the streets was neither unusual nor worrisome. In fact, the mad often evoked reverence and laughter in equal measure, with both built on a core feeling of empathy. But the streets had become perilous spaces. A couple of years previously, Indian soldiers had arrived in their hundreds of thousands to suppress the incipient Kashmiri independence movement. The soldiers housed themselves in hospitals, abandoned houses, and schools. They fanned out in apple orchards and positioned themselves on hilltops. They built sandbag bunkers that jutted out onto the streets and created roadblocks and checkpoints that brought public mobility to a grinding halt.