By Syyed Mansoor Agha
As winter started setting down in northern India, chilling news of killings started pouring in from Kashmir, a region once symbolised as ‘the paradise on earth’. After a short period of lull, gun-shots, bloodshed, and encounters have again vitiated the atmosphere and ushered in fear for migrant workers, who form crucial labour force in the valley. In the last two weeks (till October 20) 11 civilians were killed. Ten security-personnel also laid their lives down, leaving their families in pain and despair. Their families deserve condolences.
The killing spree was briskly replied with detentions of over 700 people and killing 17 ‘suspected extremists’, in 11 encounters. The police claimed four among the shot-down in encounters were responsible for killings the civilians in early October. The ‘instant justice’ to punish suspects by using bullets instead of handcuffs, does not satisfy the parameters of Human Rights and the dogma of “the rule of law” i.e. the punishment after a due legal process. However, it satisfies public sentiments as aroused by TRP-hungry media. Certainly, every life is precious and such killings are always deplored.
These incidents arise some questions. First, what is the objective, and who is the real player behind these murders? Secondly, how badly it will affect the valley’s economy? It is the peak time of apple harvesting and trading. The last two seasons were virtually washed out. Therefore the killings are feared to be a prelude to another wave of despair and devastation, to destroy the economy of Kashmiris, as was unleashed after the dismissal of statehood of J&K on 5 August 2019 followed by the Covid pandemic. The media coverage seems intended to spread distorted stories perhaps to revitalise polarisation before assembly polls. Though there is little mention of the Afghan factor yet geopolitics may also be involved.
Whatever the reason be, failure of intelligence and watering down of the rule of administration is clear. Former Governor of the State Satya Pal Malik said, “Terrorists didn’t dare to enter within the 50-100 km range of Srinagar during my tenure.” Now vendors and teachers are being killed in the heart of the State in broad daylight.
The attacks have clearly debunked the Government’s narrative of ‘complete peace and normalcy’ in the state after the abrogation of Article 370 and getting rid of extremism. As Maj Gen BK Sharma (Retd) AVSM, SM, Director of the United Service Institution of India (USI), said, “The attacks have created a scare and a political problem that the government must solve as J & K is under Governor’s rule.” Yet he thinks that the situation does not merit an alarmist view.” Under Maj. Gen. Sharma, the Sikh Light Infantry fought terrorism in J & K. In an interview, he indicated the ‘clear message’ to the State: “Don’t be utopian and think that things have stabilised,” (as you visualised). He elaborated, “Anybody can ask the government, “You said you will rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits, but you are not able to save the people in the valley!”
THE ‘SUSPECTED’ AND THE ‘SUSPICIOUS’
No outfit has owned the attacks. Dr. Farooq Abdullah, former CM of J&K has firmly put, “The killings are done under a conspiracy. Kashmiris are not involved in these killings.” It is also unusual that no evil outfit has yet owned its responsibility, yet the media is trying to give an anti-Islamist angle. Eminent English daily Hindustan Times explored a new angle, “From Kashmir to Bangladesh, Islamist terror is real.” (Editorial, 18 October). The edit writer overlooked killings in Darrang (Assam) by police and the incidents of lynching and thrashing by majoritarian goons in India.
THE ETCHING POINT
However, the edit put its finger on the itching point also, “It requires state everywhere, to prioritise the rule of law, protect the right to live, liberty and religion of all, and stand up for the religious minorities as a matter of principle.” Taking note of communal incidents in Bangladesh, the paper forcefully underlined the need for India not to overreact (at such incidences in neighbouring countries) and not to allow one type of extremism that becomes fodder for the other type. In short, the ruler should abide by Raj Dharma, as was lectured by former P.M. Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002.
Reporting and headings in some sections of media are quite misleading. Most of the headlines made it a case of ‘minorities killing’. Here is a list of civilian victims:
- Mohammad Shafi Dar: Local/ Muslim, 2nd October/ alleged informer of security forces.
- Majid Ahmad Gojri: Srinagar, 2nd October. Suspected of helper of security forces.
- Makhan Lal Bindroo: Kashmiri Pandit, shot dead in Srinagar/ 5th October. He stayed back with his family in Kashmir even in the 1990s, when militancy was at its peak.
- Virender Paswan: A street food vendor/ Srinagar, 5th October. R/O Bhagalpur (Bihar.)
- Mohammad Shafi Lone: 5th October, president of a taxi stand in Bandipora. His suspected killer Imtiyaz Dar, was gunned down by security forces.
- Supinder Kaur: 7th October, Srinagar, a Sikh, Principal, Government Higher Secondary School, shot dead in daylight at school.
- Deepak Chand: Hindu from Jammu, shot dead same day at same school with Kaur.
- Sagir Ahmed: 16th October, a carpenter from Saharanpur, UP, shot dead in Pulwama.
- Arbind Kumar Shah: 16 October, a gol-gappa seller in Srinagar, from Banka (Bihar)
- Raja Reshi Dev: 17th October, a labourer from Bihar, shot dead in Kulgam.
- Jogindar Reshi Dev: also from Bihar, was killed with Raja at the same shop near the residence of a former MLA.
Out of 11, four are local Muslims, four migrant workers, one local Pandit, one Sikh woman, and one Hindu from Jammu. This picture is different from what is hyped in media, creating communal wedge and grudge.
Sheikh Manzoor Ahmad, former Editor of UNI, told this writer from Srinagar, over 7-8 thousand Kashmiri Pandits are still living in complete homogeneity with the majority community, ever since before surging of extremism. He said Kashmiriat is alive all over. He also feels that these killings have some other design. Kashmiris do not believe the incidents are by local hot-minds.
However, state efforts to change the demography of the valley, equally opposed by all Kashmiris, may be one factor behind. Many non-Kashmiris are now fleeing back. We are of the view that the problem of J&K is a political issue. The Government should take mainstream parties on board and return back to Vajpayee era diplomacy of dialogue. Using J&K issue for harvesting crop in internal politics should be kept aside for larger interests of the country and the region and the safety of lives of poor citizens and our security personnel.
[The writer is Chairman Forum for Civil Rights. email: [email protected]]