Kashmir memories in fictional LoC village

(image) New Delhi: It was a tragic decade unfolding in Kashmir, but for people outside the Valley the tragedy was all about numbers – of infiltrators killed while trying to sneak across the LoC.
      
Beyond these numbers, however, were stories of young boys who disappeared from their villages overnight, never to return again.
      
When Mirza Waheed set about writing his first novel "The Collaborator", set in his native Kashmir, these memories of his teenage life, of whispers of disappearing men and of the raging militancy of the 1990s was still rife in his mind.
      
And what was also alive in his mind was the way these stories were covered by the press – in his own words like a "crime thriller".
      
Living in Srinagar, as I did, you never knew what exactly happened with these boys who had chosen to cross into Pakistan to get arms training to fight the Indian Army. What you only heard were the numbers, that said so many infiltrators killed along the LoC," Waheed says.
      
In the early 90s, the decade of militancy in Kashmir, a lot of young boys and men took to the gun and crossed the LoC to return with arms training to fight the Indian Army.
     
It was a huge cross-border traffic, and Waheed says it was not anonymous people who disappeared all the time.
     
"It was your own people, sometimes your friends or even your relatives or sometimes even the boy on the street you see on and off, who suddenly disappeared leaving behind whispers and stories," he told PTI in an interview.
      
Waheed`s debut novel, published by Penguin, is set in that period in a fictional village near the Line of Control, and tells the story of its residents – boys who have chosen to cross the line, families who have fled fed up with the constant cross border shelling, a family that has chosen to stay back all by itself, and a military unit designated with the task of checking infiltration.
      
While the media discourse in India on the happenings in Kashmir was very limited till a few years back, things have started changing for good in the recent years, believes Waheed, who now works for the BBC in London.
      
There is now a more sympathetic engagement towards the issue, fueled by the work of the Indian civil society, as well as a visible change in the approach of the media.
      
"What has happened over the last 3 or 5 years is that there has been an opening up of space of debate by the civil society in India who are now more willing to talk about it, they are writing about it, there are Indian intellectuals, writers and journalists who are doing more than what was done in the 90s," he says.