[Reader-list] Pilgrim's Progress

Hilal Bhat hilalbhatt at yahoo.co.in
Thu Jun 16 19:33:40 IST 2005

Dear friends
            Here is a narrative which tells us how
civilians in Kashmir who survive the bullet and the
bomb become victims in other lesser-known but
infinitely more insidious ways of a protracted
condition of violence. and finally how they snap back
to the indigenous system for the remedy.  

Ghulam Hassan, 39-year-old farmer of a village in
Kupwara was picked up in 2002 by what he hesitantly
calls ‘unidentified gunmen’. He was lucky unlike 12000
other Kashmiris who have undergone similar enforced
disappearences and never returned. But the ordeal of
Hassan began once he was back home.

"I was living a normal life till September 2002 when
gunmen forced their way into our house and took me
in a gypsy."

" For seven days I didn’t see the light of day.
Every day I saw a number of people coming to me for an
assigned task. The first group beat me with gun
butts till I lost consciousness. As I regained my
senses another group was ready to torture me with
electric shocks. They were beasts. They
didn’t spare even my private parts.  In the evening,
they gave me an injection, " he recalls.

He was set free after 7 days.  The arduous routine
ended but not the suffering. It lengthened with each
passing day.

Back home Hassan continued to cry in pain. He was
taken to a chemist in the neighborhood. The unlicensed
chemist-cum-practitioner prescribed  Fort Win
injection, a pentazocine drug of morphine group with a
strong sedative effect.

"On the first day the injection was of great relief.
Next day I felt the pain again and injected another
dose. That is how I started taking injections, " he

When the affect of injections lessened.  Hassan
Increased the dosage. In two years time he was taking
twenty injections per day. It cost him Rs 1000 per

Hassan belonged to a relatively well off family. He
had a decent income form the apple orchards he owned.
But the dependence on Fort Win ruined him physically,
financially, mentally and morally. 

Spending most of his time in the haze of morphine led
him to neglect the orchards resulting in the shrinking
of his income. Despite his several attempts, Hassan
couldn't rid himself of the addiction.

"When one of my friends died in front of me.  It was a
chance for all of us to realize the folly. I forced
myself indoors for seven days. On eighth day when I
stepped out, I went straight to the chemist and
injected another dose. 

Then someone suggested a de-addiction center in
Srinagar and I volunteered to become an inmate.”
The only difference it made in his life was a lull of
10 days and thereafter the craving came back. 

To meet the mounting expenditure he started selling
his portable property. When he had nothing to pay for
the injections he tried to strike a deal for selling
his 16- year-old daughter to a friend. That was the
time when relatives and friends heard. A relative took
him to Dargah Hazratbal, a historical mosque in
Srinagr which houses the holiest relic in Kashmir, a
hair from the beard of the Prophet, which consequently
is both a mosque and a shrine. On the waterside of the
Dal Lake, hundreds of devotees visit the Dargah daily.
Here Hassan was initiated unto the power of the
spiritual to heal and comfort.This was the beginning
of the end of the two-year-old ordeal that had reduced
Hassan from being a productive and prosperous
individual to being a physical and psychological

Hassan terms the mechanism through which one enters
into the realm of healing and vitalization at a sacred
place like Dargah as an esoteric and inexplicable
phenomenon. But does not shy away from counting
certain attributes of a sacred place like dargah which
go into the making of such places as thereaupeutic
especially for the people suffering from pshychiatric
and attitude based disorders. "This is the only place
in the city where you won't find the men with
Klashankoves slinging to their shoulders. All the
people you meet here are victims in one or other way
and interacting with them makes you to identify
yourself with the troubles of others. 

Each Friday Hassan visits the Hazratbal mosque in
Dargah and spends whole day here. I noticed him here
during my two visits to the sacred place in pursuance
of I-fellowship. The composure of his countenance and
the serene look in his eyes tempted me to initiate a
discussion with him.

Hilal Bhat
Srinagar ( Kashmir)

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