The Mad Aunt who lived with her dogs, in a wooden shack near Eid Gah in Anantnag, would count the Army vehicles each morning, going to or coming from Khundur army depot, in their long serpentine convoys. She made lewd gestures at them without fail, and her dogs would bark too. Sometimes an odd soldier remarked back. Infuriated, she would stand and raise her hands to the heavens and curse the soldiers. Locals were scared for her, but in front of the passing army trucks they just laughed it off, to make her Kashmiri remarks look innocuous.
“If you hurt my children (her dogs), the mountains will close on you. Gulzaras banayiwe khar, su myon Rab’ul Alimeen (My God will turn the flower garden into thorns for you). The hills will explode under you.”
Long before Mufti government could bring in bulldozers to widen Anantnag’s roads, the Mad Aunt had disappeared. So when her shack was torn down, no one put up any serious resistance, apart from a few of her remaining dog-children.
Mad Aunt, also known as “Ishq Cheetin”—the One Crushed in Love—liked children. But children were frightened to go close to her because of her dogs. She often drew a mustache on her face with a charcoal, which was a constant source of fun for us. My parents said she was very close to God. That she was a Sufi. They asked me to be respectful toward her, even if she hurled abuses. She never said bad words to children though.
Yesterday, I heard the hills of Khundru exploded. Tall flames engulfed the hills as the stored bombs flew out in every direction. Thousands of civilians who live nearby in some fifteen, big and small, villages ran for their lives. Many people have died, or received injuries. Thousands of families have lost their homes, trees and livestock. Many have come down to Anantnag, which is fifteen kilometers from Khundur. They live under the open sky, in the Eid Gah, as they look desperately for their missing relatives.
A few weeks back I wrote, in a weekly, about how the army in early nineties took over the hill in Anantnag town. How they placed bunkers on top, and would shoot people walking around in the town. Khundru has existed much longer. I have passed through the huge depot a number of times. The multiple frisking at its many gates has been a big source of humiliation for locals for long.
The locals always feared the day the depot goes up in flames. They would say that if the entire depot, hidden under lush green hills that run for miles, explodes, the whole valley will be destroyed. Kashmir will be flattened. No hills will stand.
When I saw pictures of the explosions, they looked like mushroom-clouds, the kind one sees in pictures of Hiroshima atomic bombing. It was like a mini atom bomb (as if there ever was a ‘mini’ atom bomb); sixty years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, India’s tribute to the goddess of nuclear weapons.
Unexploded shells are spread over dozens of kilometers. A woman far from Khundru died of a flying bomb that fell on her.
Mad Aunt’s prophecy is beginning to come true. She probably was close to God.