on Fri, 16 Jul 1999 20:09:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> the war-hysteria in India & Pakistan.


This is a personal account from Bombay, India about the war in Kargil. 
This account situates the war in a larger context and yet remains a deeply
felt testimony against the war-hysteria in India & Pakistan. 

Kargil and Badal

by Anonymous

Now my lunch is ready on the table 'rohu' fish that I had cooked last
night, and rice. And I remember my brother, my cousin, who is now in the
army. For a long time now I have had no contact with him. 

He was then very small. He had just started going to school.  Everybody
used to gaze at him when he ate. Because he ate a lot. He is always
hungry. He looks at anyone eating anything with his eyes protruding, and
saliva drooling down his tongue. His mother, my aunt, scolds him and
catches him by ear, you eating-monger, wouldnt let others eat. Go away. 
Go! Water the plants in the yard or go study. He would cry and leave. 

Ours was a joint family of fifteen members. All of us stayed in the
village except my father who worked in a small distant city. He was the
only earning member of the family. We did not always have much food to
eat. So we never willingly shared our thali with my little cousin, Badal. 
He could eat away everything! 

We all grew together. Till I finished my secondary education we shared our
poverty in that huge joint family. Then I obtained a National Scholarship. 
My father began to see a bright future in me and wanted me to study in the
city. We moved to the city and left behind our uncles, aunts, cousin
brothers and sisters in the village. My eldest cousin brother, by then,
had got a job, a job as a schoolteacher. My eldest uncle takes care of the
paddy fields.  We have a few small paddy fields in the village. My uncle
and brothers work in the fields and grow vegetables in our small yard. 
Harvest does not last round the year and vegetables are never sufficient. 
My brothers often catch fish and my auntie sets crab-traps in the rainy
season. Since my father has now to run a family in the city he is not in a
position to send as much money as he used to send earlier. Once in a year
he sends clothes for the entire family. 

Whenever we go to the village or somebody comes from the village, we talk
of so many things, of paddy fields, vegetables, each others schools, marks
in the half yearly exams, final exams, and many other things. But whenever
we speak of Badal it is the same old story, nowadays he is eating like a
horse. His meal is equal to a meal of three or four people! Nobody can
feed him! Everybody laughs, so does Badal. I have seen him when he was
hardly twelve years old. He was growing up a healthy boy. Unbelievable
even to my eyes, he could work in the sun for hours together without
showing any sign of fatigue. A small child as he was, he never complained
about food. And everybody liked this quality in him. 

He was never good at studies. No one was bothered about his education, and
neither was he. He failed once in the matriculation exam but just managed
to pass in the next attempt. That remained his only qualification in this
world of technology and progress! Now he is eighteen, tall and strongly
built. No one can feed him anymore. No one can clothe him anymore. He is a
man.  He has to look for his own food and clothing. 

Meanwhile I was selected by IIT [Indian Institute of Technology], Bombay
to continue my higher studies. Before leaving for Bombay I visited my
village. I came to know that Badal had left for Bombay to work in a
factory. Wonderful! I will be there as well. I ask for his address. But
nobody knows. Strange! Whats the matter? I inquired. It is for sure that
he will work in a factory.  But which factory and where it is we dont
know.  The contractor says that the boys will be kept in different
locations.  Only when they are given proper accommodation will the address
be communicated, my family members inform me. The story sounds weird. One
of my brothers tries to convince me, We have asked him to write to us
immediately after he reaches Bombay. I have given him some self-addressed
inland letter cards. I want to know the matter in detail. So I am told. 
Badal looked desperately for a job; he moved from place to place but was
disappointed wherever he went. In his desperation he saw a ray of hope. A
contractor from a nearby village was looking for young boys for
recruitment in a factory at Bombay and Badal went to meet him. The
contractor gathered some twelve to fifteen boys in all and took them to
Bombay for a negotiated salary of Rs.1, 000/- per month. 

I realised that too long a time with a half-empty stomach and unending
drudgery had pushed him into this uncertain future. I leave my contact
address with my family members and instruct them to communicate it to
Badal as soon as possible. They should also not delay in sending me his
address.  It was not even a couple of months in Bombay that I received a
letter from home. About Badal. And I went through the contents with utter
dismay.  Badal had managed to come back home half-dead. After my semester
exams I went to the village and heard the rest of his story. 

All these boys were given accommodation in a small single room in a slum. 
They worked in a factory, lifted iron rods and plates from morning till
night. Loading and unloading iron, sometimes they worked at construction
sites. They worked for two and a half months. At the end of the first
month the contractor gave them only half a months salary. The reason given
for not paying the full amount was that they might run away. For the whole
of the second month they did not see the contractor. At the end of the
month they spoke to the operating manager about their salary. He informed
them that their salaries were already given to the contractor. The young
men were at a loss. They felt terrorised. They were new to the city. They
were all from villages. They had never seen a city before. And this was a
huge metropolis.  They could not even talk of their state to anyone, as
they didn't know how to speak in Hindi. They didnt have enough money to
buy the return ticket.  And home - two thousand kilometres away! 

Without money, without ticket they boarded the train. The little money in
their pockets was soon gone. No food to eat. Got caught by the ticket
checker thrice. At Bhusaval they were jailed for two days, and for eight
days at Secunderabad. When Badal reached home he was beyond recognition,
no flesh on his body, sunken eyes; he had lost his speech. What remained
was only a drooping skeletal body. With a faint voice he had gasped, I
have not eaten anything for the past three days. Give me something to eat. 

I do not see Badal around. I inquire after him. I am informed that he has
opened a tailoring shop in a nearby village. He gets enough work. He
remains so busy that he does not find time to come home. 

I go to see him. His shop is a small cottage with mud walls and thatched
roof. It is by the side of a 'kachha' motorable road near a grazing field. 
Not a single person, no one, around. I entered the shop. He was working
with a paddle sewing machine. I managed to control myself when I saw him
he was yet to recover. He stood up to greet me. I could not dare ask How
are you? The whole story was clearly visible on his body. I ask him, How
long do you work? Till late night. There is enough work. Do they pay? I
inquired. No, not really. But I think the business will pick up. Not a
single tailor around. he said. His voice was low, yet convincing. He
inquired about my studies. We talked for sometime. I mildly joked, Are you
eating heavily now? He chuckled.  I asked him to come home for lunch. He
said, No, not now. I will come in the evening. I left the place. I could
hear only the noise of his sewing machine in that lonely sunny deserted

After a year or so I met him once again in the village. Looking healthier,
though he was not at his best. He was never jovial again. His face was dry
and pale. He said, I have to work hard. No rest since I have opened the
shop. People pay very little. I am not able to give even a handful of
coins at home. Very difficult to sustain. I notice that there are many
stitches on the seat of the trousers that he is wearing. 

Later I come to know that he has joined the army. 

It is almost three years now since I saw him last. That was the time when
my brother died in a road accident. He had rushed home after getting the
news. While discussing his job he expressed his unhappiness. He did not
like the life he was leading at the army camp. He spoke with frustration
when he described the hardship he had to undergo and the routine
humiliation he had to face. But on killing in a war, he spoke with passion
and heated blood, If the Pakistanis attack us we will kill them. I ask
him, Who are the Pakistanis that attack you? Are they not like you who
have joined the army in search of a job? For a meal?, And to send money
home? Do they attack you of their own? Or, do you attack them of your own? 
He kept quiet. I told him, The news of the death of your brother has
shattered you. And has brought you instantly from Kashmir to Cuttack. Have
the Pakistani soldiers a different heart?" He looked at me strangely. He
stayed home for as long as a month.  Before he finally left for Kashmir he
told me, When I become eligible for pension I will leave the job. I myself
dont like to kill anybody. 

Now I miss him and I remember him. Once he had returned home half-dead. 
This time? I dont know. I am afraid. War is on. Hundreds are dying. I see
Badal in each and every one of them. They are dying. They are dying
because most of them did not have enough food to eat at home. What a life. 
And now you ask me for donation in the name of Kargil? Enough. You
humiliate them in their daily lives and adore them publicly as patriots. 
You garland them after having killed them and name them martyrs.. You have
used them and are using them still. What is the reason for? You lie when
you say that they are born patriots and love to be martyrs. Stop this. I
cannot take it anymore. Bring them back home. Bring them back alive. There
is enough food on my table I have cooked it last night. 

Bombay, 8 July 1999

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