Kashmir, Human Rights and Global Attention

In an interview with Pankaj Mishra in 2010, Basharat Peer spoke of the attention Americans needed to put towards Kashmir. He also spoke of his visit to America in 2006 where he had gone with great expectations that people might talk Kashmir in detail and express their opinion. To his surprise people would not care and some would not even know about it. Similarly, Kashmir’s first hip-hop artist, Roushan Illahi, popularly known by his stage name MC Kash, went to tour Europe in 2016 as a student of peace to raise general awareness around the world about Kashmir. I met him before his visit and he was so ambitious and purposeful about his effort of telling the outside world about the world’s most militarized zone. Contrary to his expectations, he would be shocked by the responses as some people would even ask him, “What is Kashmir?”

Kashmir is again facing a cold war like situation, as I have time and again been likening it to one of the most repressive periods in American history. We are losing lives like cattle and nobody seems to care about it. So many people have already lost their lives in this bloody war that it is hard to count the number and we cannot afford to lose lives anymore. With the ideological shifts that are being observed across the militant struggle and its failure to achieve any desired result, many are keen on highlighting the human perspective of the war that has grown too old now. Guns are guns and it does matter where they come from. Romanticizing the militant struggle will not produce a Che Guevara for us in times like this and all of us should be afraid of the situations it can lead us to.

I went to Delhi this year as a student of human rights. The awareness that I wished to raise had a different level. For example, if I tell someone that I belong to Kashmir, my expectations won’t be hurt. Even if I get a negative response, the assurance is that I will get something to really discuss and deliberate upon.

The saddest part of this discourse is that Kashmir has never been portrayed as a human rights issue. In the eyes of most people it is an India-Pakistan territorial issue. With the negative media attention, that has been working tirelessly to tarnish the image of Kashmiris across India and negate its human side, most people view it through the prism of ‘national interest’.

The politicization of human rights in Kashmir is the saddest reality to observe and think upon. In 2005, a pro-government militia known as ‘Salwa Judum’ was formed to tackle the insurgency in Chhattisgarh. In addition to allegations of murder (500 cases) and arson (103 cases), 99 allegations of rape were submitted to the Supreme Court, with no single FIR (Firstpost: May 30, 2013). Prominent human rights organisation, People’s Union for Civil Liberties raised allegations against Salwa Judum. In 2011 its formation was ruled out by the honourable Supreme Court owing to its illegal and unconstitutional nature. A similar organization called the Ikhwan was formed in Kashmir in 1995. They unleashed a reign of terror across Kashmir killing people in huge numbers. The brigade was supported by the government of the time and diminished slowly until the return of ‘normalcy’. However, its formation and functioning was never criticized in Delhi and the cases of such abuses were investigated in a less number of cases. Denial by different governments to try the cases of human rights abuses led to a renewed kind of struggle in the valley.

When Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013, it was not a punishment to Ghalib (Afzal’s son) alone but a collective punishment to all the Kashmiri children. As Mirza Waheed put it correctly in his famous piece for The Guardian that the “noose (could) extend beyond the gallows”. While people in Kashmir were mourning, leading to more and more deaths, the mood in Delhi was severely harsh.

The first victim of the pellet horror in 2010 was a teenager named Irshad Ahmad. How pellets were indiscriminately pumped into the body of 11-year-old Nasir will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Similarly, how Faizan Bashir, a 12-year-old boy was produced before a Srinagar court to be prosecuted as an adult still remains a major challenge to all those who practise human rights law. Is there anyone to justify it? What holds the families of all these victims together is the faith in criminal justice system. For example, Tufail Mattoo’s (a young boy killed by police in 2010) father has shown exemplary valour and his fight against the state apparatus is an inspiration to all of us.  While we all champion the cause of child rights, let’s remember those in Kashmir who have lost their vision and become unseen targets of the violence.

In the fall of 2015, I met Parveena Ahanger, popularly known in Kashmir as the ‘Iron Lady’. After the disappearance of her son during 90s, she rose as a sensation championing the cause of all those subjected to enforced disappearance. On a note of promise and hope, she held my hand and told me so selflessly, “Bring justice for us, my son. Make sure what happened to us does not happen to the next generation.” While we debate violence against women, let’s remind the state of Kunan-Poshpora and Asiya-Neelofar double rape and murder and the denial of justice thereof. The collective conscience that was on display in the case of Nirbhaya was not seen in the ones that of course shook the collective conscience of Kashmir. A moderate Indian response to a question like this would be: But rapes are common in India, why only raise hue and cry about Kashmir? Little do they realize that by denial of justice to the victims, rapes are legitimized and the language that is being spoken to them is that of power and a military might, which cannot be fought. The message is to terrorise and make rape political in Kashmir.

Politicization of human rights is the saddest thing that has ever happened to Kashmir. To start a peace process in Kashmir, observance of human rights and justice cannot wait. In a world marred by wars and dangerous diplomacies, opportunistic policies of nation-states are never there to resolve longstanding disputes. Their businesses are running as long as the disputes remain unresolved. We cannot expect anything from the outside world. People can have sympathy for us but ultimately you have to battle the state apparatus. The message therefore goes straight to the people of mainland India that they are the main party who can start a renewed peace process in Kashmir. Politics can wait, resolve of the greater issues can wait, and even Azadi can wait; but human rights, their observance and redressal cannot wait.

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When Killings become Political

The Cold War is gone and long-forgotten. The infamous period of 90’s in Kashmir is gone too and the consequences are well before us. Let’s contextualize the two events in history that shaped and dismantled some of the modern world powers and democracies.

The Cold War produced ‘one of the most repressive periods in American history’ (Stone 2004:312). Crimes Against the State: From Treason to Terrorism by Michael Head is a much needed book. The book has a separate chapter entitled The United States: Free Speech in ‘War’ and ‘Peace’ that explores the violent struggle by the United States during the Cold War for its global dominance against communists. It was a period of red-baiting, black-listing and McCarthyism (Stone 2004). In times of political stress such as the Cold War, what is prominently observed is the adverse role of highest institutions of the state such as judiciary, media, police and even semi-independent and independent institutions such as the bar associations or the unions of different professions. Pertinently, ‘the government’s indictment was a virulent form of prior censorship of speech and press’. Decisions in favour of the government had been a result of judges succumbing to ‘pressures, fears and passions’. Even the experienced judges had bowed to the ‘prevailing hysteria’. A sad picture of judiciary is therefore present during what is known to us as the Cold War. There is no appraisal of the ‘liberal’ media. The legal profession is termed as not having proved principled as it is noted that the American Bar Association called for the expulsion of all Communist Party members and many lawyers. In nutshell, the institutions, particularly political systems, have chosen selective complexes having been surrounded by selective entrapments and history is witness to it. Thus, killings and their denouncements too became political.

Nothing is missing when it comes to the torments we are facing. One can consider the subject of Kashmir after the shameful election rigging of 1987. Democratic principles were put into danger by the state itself and Kashmir became a story of distress. Killings, massacres, disappearances, unorganized and organized loot and plundering became the everyday news and there was no custodian of the civil liberties. This, of course, continues. I do not, however, need to elaborate things because the consequences are well before us.

Some days ago, an advocate, Advocate Imtiyaz Ahmad, was shot dead in Pinjoora village of Shopian district. People in Kashmir observed a long siesta when it came to condemning his death. No denouncements followed up. The deceased had been a former public prosecutor. The rhetorical line picked up by people that Public Prosecutor fully represents government and its dictatorial engagements is wrong. Of course he represents state, but his role begins once investigations are completed by the police. He is no figure of contempt. In the art of lawyering, he is just one of the actors. What was disheartening to see was the criminal silence of all the political parties in Kashmir. The High Court Bar Association did not also frame a full-fledged programme to remind the political parties of their misdeeds in Kashmir. How would you explain your criminal silence to his wife and his little child? His little child must have a question for all of us: Why was my father killed? In one of his recent Facebook posts, Imtiyaz Ahmad had vehemently condemned the killings and state of affairs in Kashmir. Little did he know that he would himself fall into the deadly trap. And interestingly, what follows up in cases like this is the ‘unidentified gunman theory’.

The story does not stop here. On September 14, 2015, three youth were found dead in mysterious conditions in Pattan (Altaf Baba, Greater Kashmir). Police was left clueless as to the cause of death of these young men who had left homes to join militancy. There was a delay in giving strike call by the separatist camp due to some doubts as to the ‘ownership’ of these boys. Families had lost their count, all was well and they became posthumous subjects of the ‘unidentified gunman theory’

The question is: For how long will we continue to see the bloodbath and the selective outrages? And what are we going to do about it? Let’s not be so complacent that things run out of hand and there’s no one left to protest for us.

(Published in Greater Kashmir newspaper:

http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/when-killings-become-political/247356.html

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Selective Condemnations

How does one recapitulate or recollect his childhood memories? Beautiful stories, nice picnics, wonderful dreams, extra care and respect, positive emotional development, and so on? Wow, how fanciful!

My childhood memories are a chronological order of horrors and torments. They live in my eyes like a terrible obsession. In my secret world, characterized by these terrible obsessions, my heart is on a constant battle. That is why I write and will continue doing so.

Few days ago, a video of Kashmiri boys attacking CRPF men in Budgam went viral. In no time, ‘prime time’ shows were set to condemn the assault forgetting the eight murders that had just taken place. It took no time for the jingoistic media to turn adverse and vindictive. Gautam Gambhir, India’s national team cricketer actually declared war on the people of Kashmir. He used the word “jihadis” for Kashmiri boys. Although, there was no express context of the term, but it’s implied that he used the term generally. How shameful and terrible can it get for a man who has no business in Kashmir!

When hundred Kashmiris were killed last year, there was no word of empathy from jingoists like Gambhir. Thousands of young men and women were blinded and disabled. We also crossed a century of curfewed days and it was normal. Therefore, Gautam Gambhir must hang his head in shame and apologize for the venom he has spewed.

The question whether beating of the CRPF men is justified or not is a matter of great debate. Of course, human dignity cannot be challenged at any cost whatsoever. But let’s tell the truth about India’s presence in Kashmir. If I start from my own person, I can extensively deliver firsthand accounts of the violence that I have been an eyewitness to.

During an assembly election in our village a long, long time ago, I was used by the army as a human shield, which is a globally acknowledged war crime. My father and my uncle had fled the village overnight to evade the continuous harassment and my elder brother had also escaped to some other place. I was the only male member at home. I was nine or ten. The army took me to the suspicious and sensitive places and I was left free after an hour long search. In her Independence Day speech last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti herself acknowledged the use of human shields in Kashmir.

Similarly, my father was used to continuous harassment by Ikhwanis, a brigade supported by the government of the time and the Army as well. How do you react when an illiterate, gun-weilding man forcibly asks your father to take off his new pair of shoes so that your father returns home barefooted? I have seen it in front of my eyes.

The stories are the chronicles of our existence. On the first of February every year, my village commemorates the deaths of its civilians who were killed defenceless in front of the whole village during a crackdown in 1992. I have also heard that an elderly man among them was tortured to death after a log was rolled over his body. The saddest part is that this news never made to the mainstream media of India, or even Jammu and Kashmir. I remember how we all kept waiting like kindergarten children for Radio Pakistan news to learn about these sad developments. This makes me a child of war, and a victim of terrorism.

These are some of the many truths that form a part of our existence. Will India’s mainstream media gather courage to tell the truth about Kashmir to its people? If they acknowledge the crimes done in Kashmir and tell the truth to its people, I don’t see anyone not condemning the assault inflicted on CRPF men. Otherwise, Kashmiris will just treat it as a patient reaction to what’s been done in the past.

P.S: “Ajeet hain, abheet hain” written on a hill overlooking Srinagar may be sacred to the mainland India. It’s not the same to Kashmir!

Published in GK:
http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/selective-condemnations/246687.html
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Tamasha-e-Yogi All Over – Developments and Lessons

In the month of March this year, a surprising development took place across the political center of India. Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest was chosen as the  Chief Minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. Not many people knew about Yogi Adityanath. After the news was received across social media sites, many old videos of Yogi began to surface. In one of the videos, a speaker is seen asking Hindus to rape dead Muslim women. This is extremely horrifying. In another video, which has lakhs of views on YouTube (which Yogi would not have expected, of course, except for appearing as an unpleasant surprise), he warns Muslims of ‘Love Jihad’- the word used for interreligious marriages. He warns,”If you take one, we will take hundred; If you kill one, we will kill hundred.” A large crowd claps and answers loudly and merrily to his calls.
Yogi is fast. He is furious and vindictive. He wants to silence people. He knows all the “languages you would like to be answered with”. This rage rarely makes him a statesman.

Yogi and Indian Muslims:

The times are grave for all the Indian Muslims. What do I mean by this? I mean that an extreme right wing is in power. I also mean that democracy is being crippled and threatened. This is documented by Yogi Adityanath himself saying that when India becomes a Hindu Rashtra, Muslims will become second class citizens and that right to vote will be taken away from them. This, according to him, will hamper the communalization of politics in India.
This, however, should not be treated as a novel thing. Congress party has done no better. A slow persecution of minorities has continued for a long time now. Ghettoization of Indian Muslims is a fact. And generally, what has happened in Pakistan is no inspiration to all of us. But at least they are direct in declaring their country as an Islamic State, as Dr. Dibyesh Anand remarked once. They are not riding on the hollow notions of secularism. Pakistan, of course, has to face equal criticism, which is debatable in a separate article. To shorten my point, the great Saadat Hasan Manto comes to help,”Human beings in both countries are slaves, slaves of bigotry, slaves of religious passions…”
Certainly, disappointment is not the answer. Sadness should not take away anyone’s purpose and aspirations. All of us need to believe that we are as much human as anyone. We all carry a voice and our voice matters equally. The participation of Indian Muslims in the administrative system of India is important. Shyness cannot help. In 2012, a meager 3℅ qualified the prestigious IAS. In 2013 again, 3℅ made it to the civil services. In 2016 as well, the percentage remained around 3 percent. (Source: The Milli Gazette- May, June, 2016)
The share of Muslims in Indian politics is prominent. But sadly, the participation is dismal. The political action is not collective, but separate.
Indian Muslims need to identify their true leaders. They have miserably failed to produce someone like a B.R.Ambedkar. Unless life becomes better for the minorities, there can be no peace in India.

Yogi and Kashmir:

Some days ago, famous Pakistani writer Mohammad Hanif said that Modi was God’s gift to Pakistan. I revise his words in the context of Kashmir and say that Yogi is God’s gift to Kashmiri leaders.
There’s no one denying the effect the right wing government in centre can have in Kashmir. Our case, the case of Kashmir has kept the ‘Common Kashmiri'(to use the much hyped phrase) busy, hopeless and suspended for decades now. Prospects of a resolve to the issue are more remote than ever. An ugly right wing is at the helm of affairs in centre. I will not draw history because I would be losing my point. I believe that there are certain things at this juncture for all of us to observe. We all understand that Pakistan has a Muslim identity. India is not for from officially declaring itself as a Hindu Rashtra. How can we, as Kashmiris, be able to restore our identity. Kashmiri identity, I mean to say. Or will our leaders(both Mainstream and Hurriyat) prolong their differences resulting in the erasure of our identity?
The developments are alarming for Kashmiri leaders. At this stage, we should not display “politics of submission”. On the part of Mainstream, there is complete submission to India’s central policies and on part of the Hurriyat, there’s complete submission to Pakistan’s directions. The policies are more obscure and less analytical. When National Conference contends that their motive is to reclaim the position of 1953, how clear they are in their objects is self-evident and self-explanatory. How PDP’s “Self-rule” has become a ridiculous joke is also known to all of us. The Hurriyat has never come up with a significant document that could at least enlighten its own subjects of the models we could live under.
When all of us cry cultural aggression, what does that mean?
It means that we strive to restore our own identity. It means that we stay away from bigotry and religious passions. It means that we seek justice for Wamiq Faooq and Tufail Matoo. It means that we demand dignity, equality and justice for all. It means that we all carry out a march and seek justice for the mothers, wives and children of the disappeared. It also means that we condemn Nadimarg, Gawkadal and Chattisinghpora massacres in the same breath. It also means that we come out of our homes and fearlessly advocate the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

PS: Do we qualify to unite as a people? How much we are able to throw away the disagreements between us will define who we are. It’s easy to be selective, but it’s hard to be just and reasonable. Let’s endure hardships and be just and reasonable.

Excerpts published in GK newspaper :
http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/the-right-wing-roar/245663.html

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Glorifying the Adverse

Simplifying the ‘Collaborators’ debate.
When I was a kid, a group of boys amongst a great lot was selected to present morning prayer in our school. The boys were always reluctant to stand up and recite the prayers but with the eyes of teachers focused on them, they would do it. They would pretend to be cool and energetic, overcome every hint of laziness they carried. Their faces showed it all. To save everyone from the wrath of teachers, they sacrificed their shy and lazy nature. 

“Writing is prayer,” wrote Franz Kafka. The most pejorative element of writing is the haste any thinker puts into operation. Emotions, thoughts, conceit, anger, prejudice- put together may advance the nastiest blow to the field of literature. In literature, we humanize things. We do not judge, we put forward perspectives. A real writer while drawing ink on paper forgets his religion, ego, and even gender. The quest is not for the enforcement and glorification of the writer’s own beliefs but for the resolve of the greater cause of humanity.

After the selection of Kashmiris in the Indian Administrative Service, a hot debate is on table in Kashmir. It is easy to tag anyone a collaborator and unemployed youth in the valley can be seen defining ways for new boys to follow in order to pursue their careers. In the discussions around social media and newspapers in Kashmir, most people are belligerent. The saner voices lose their sanity in the hullabaloo of distracted narcissism.

Personal choice is an utmost fraction of the concept of freedom. We choose our food, we choose our rulers, we choose our dress, and we choose our most cherished goals. But how to choose our profession and what to choose as our profession: Should that be a matter of question? Kashmir is the unkind place on earth. Through the chaos of occupation, state structure, societal structure, a loosely defined morality, there is not as much of opportunity for the youth. The debate, however, is whether choosing administration as profession in Kashmir is an act of collaboration. The ordinary argument is that the IAS/KAS officers are the builders of occupational structures of India in Kashmir. By that count, almost all the population in Kashmir is ‘collaborator’. A teacher working in a government school, a professor working in a university (state or central), an ordinary government officer, and a person working in media, etc; how do we define their status? Do they also qualify to be traitors? Plus, the MLA working in the assembly whom we choose as our ruler, how do we rate him in the scale of traitors? Have we ever bothered to question the integrity of ‘our leaders’ who sell us fake promises while in power and keep us in the paranoia of Kashmiri Nationalism while in opposition. We never question the ‘embodiment of lies’ they have made out of the power structure in Kashmir. Introspect you must. The boys qualifying for different opportunities are not traitors. Traitors are those who sell us fake promises and yet we vote them to power. Therefore, this is to the saner minds: Cracking IAS/KAS is not an act of collaboration. It is simply about choosing a profession.

While the debate was on, Shah Faesal, a Kashmiri medico turned administrator wrote an article ‘Till Azadi Comes’ carried by The Indian Express some days ago. Seemingly, the article was a result of the ‘pejorative element of writing’ I have discussed above in this piece. He writes, “Resistance is not politics. It is not war. It is not about writing poetry…It is about living with grace and dignity, preserving heritage, eliminating corruption, about reporting truth…” But I tell him: Resistance is politics. It is war. It is about writing poetry. It is that chant, the memory that will never fade away- Asi yaar deti na, lakchaar deti na, dildaar deti na, teli kyazi yeni-Azadi. Yes, resistance is about writing poetry. If resistance is about living with grace and dignity, have not we lost that dignity a long ago? Has not our dignity been put to challenge time and again? If resistance is about preserving culture, are not we the worst victims of cultural aggression caught between the ghosts of ‘Indianisation’ and ‘Pakistanisation’? Remind you, corruption has been put into our blood and it may take decades to recover and the organization will never work in Kashmir. They are occupied minds all set to take chances, “caught between the horrors of armed conflict and the unpleasantness of elitism”. The truth has been distorted by the same state structure, time and again; the recent case being that of the Handwara girl. Lastly, it is a matter of great curiosity how the author defends his statement, “Qualifying for the civil services is also an act of resistance.” It will be immature to interpret this statement, but as a matter of sense, he may be talking of the resistance an officer may take on while fighting corruption and nepotism. But is not honesty a basic principle of life, which every person, employed or not, should follow. Why do we need to glorify civil services this way?

P.S: Narratives may differ but reality can never be suppressed. We do not need to alter the Kashmir narrative while defending our position. A person chooses his profession simply as an act of choice.

Link: http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/glorifying-the-adverse/220223.html

The Living Kashmir

The Living Kashmir

Aarif Muzafar Rather

A Memory
I was born in a state of cold war in Kashmir: the late nineties. It followed the infamous early nineties, the most turbulent period in the history of Kashmir. When I was a two-year-old baby, as my mother tells me, I became exposed to a curious case of depression. I did not cry, like normal babies do. I hardly made facial movements and was labeled a sensitive, unsocial, depressed boy at such an early age. I was looked after by a doctor in Jammu later and-as my mother tells me-a certain woman, who was related to us by my maternal grandfather’s side, used to accompany us to Jammu. She was the mother of Masarat Alam Bhat, an epitome of struggle for freedom in Kashmir, and a living presence of the state of youth in the conflict-ridden valley. In the Kot Bhalwal jail, where he was kept under detention, we used to look through a hole made across the wall of the prison and catch his glimpse. We used to stay silent while looking at each other, because we understood our grief through this silence. We heard the silence. We adorned it as the limit of our thoughts. The silence that shattered us. We just felt it. Pain it was. A lot of pain.
Almost two decades have passed since and Masarat today is under detention in the same Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu. The legal fraternity in Kashmir has always challenged his “illegal detention” and the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir has called for the quashing of his detention order several times in the past. But every time the High Court does so, he is slapped with a Public Safety Act by the government which prevents his release.

Lost Life and Lost Dreams
As a witness to the cold war, I saw Ikhwanis (pro-government militia) threaten my father every day, take money, and demand whatever they wished for. I heard about the Kargil War being fought somewhere around the hills of Kargil but hardly saw any Kashmiri take concern about it. It was normal: The war was not ours!
Amid all this chaos, I grew up enthusiastic about cricket. I watched my uncle play cricket all day long. He would hammer bowlers and tell me later that he drew inspiration from Saeed Anwar, a Pakistani cricketer, who would destroy the Indian bowling line-up almost every time there was an India-Pakistan contest. In the evening discussions, at the shop fronts in our village, I would hear everyday people saying, “What a great cricketer Zafar Mir (name changed) is!” This took away all my attention and I began to see myself as a cricketer. I wanted to play like a passionate young man whose first love would always be cricket. This all changed when my uncle took me to a Sufi singers’ gathering in Srinagar. On our return, he told me things that find relevance in today’s Kashmir as well. He told me,”My son, there is no future for cricket in Kashmir. Don’t waste yourself.” The words did not carry strength then and it was just a simple ruling that made me morose for the years that followed.

King can do no wrong
Last month in North Kashmir’s Handwara, a schoolgirl was allegedly molested by soldiers of 21 Rashtriya Rifles. People came out of their houses, protesting the alleged molestation and in retaliation, five people were killed in the collective action of Police and Army, including a promising cricketer.
Overnight the girl’s statement was recorded and spread over social networking sites by some anonymous source. In her statement, the girl denied any hint of molestation. After that, the girl remained in police custody and was hardly allowed to meet lawyers and other independent boards. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court later directed the police to report as to what authority the girl was kept under “illegal detention”. While her police custody continued, her mother revealed that the statement of the girl was recorded under coercion. Almost a month has passed since and the girl and her father are still under detention. The minor girl is caught between the ghost of state machinery and the muddle of societal structure. In the middle of all these restrictions on her body and state of mind, she vows to fight for justice.
For Kashmiris, the Handwara incident is now a memory. They won’t ask you to provide justice to the families of people killed in the incident because in the extended timeline of killings, rapes, tortures, loots, and every damn thing through all these years, justice has never been delivered. ‘Justice’ is just an overused word for them and it exists nowhere. As the old saying goes,” King can do no wrong.”

A Cricketer Killed
Nayeem Bhat was on his way to home after giving camera to his brother. He was shot in the abdomen by the police. Nayeem’s life was cricket and he had wished to play competitive cricket throughout his life. He was a close friend of Parvez Rasool, the only Kashmiri cricketer who plays in the Indian Premiere League. His story became parallel to the stories of thousands of Kashmiris. He was killed like them; made into them: A personification of unaccomplished dreams.

Is Nayeem the only one!?
While Kashmir was mourning the death of Nayeem Bhat, Indian politicians and media turned soft on this. They reported Nayeem’s death without bias, which has otherwise been their practice. But it was not enough for a Kashmiri because there are hundreds of such heroes we have lost in the similar circumstances and where media has protected the arbitrary government actions. Mudasir Ahmad Kachroo, a young footballer, was killed in the 2010 uprising when he was hit in the chest by a teargas canister hit by police in Sopore. Mudasir had represented the valley in different football teams. The story for which I decided to write this article and forms its essential part is untold yet. It is the story of Sajad Ahmad Shah, a young cricketer from Maisuma in the Srinagar City who was killed in the uprising against the Indian rule on 4th of April, 1989.

Sajad Ahmad Shah- A story of Unaccomplished Dreams
Reportage is not easy in Kashmir. One gets to face difficulties of every possible nature. And if you are not a journalist like me, then it is way too tough because people won’t believe you. They take Kashmir to be an industry; a money making industry. Being the unseen targets of violence, their understanding is blameless: “One man’s loss is another man’s profit.”
As I headed towards Sajad’s home, I was received by a woman on the front door. There were no men in their house and she gave me address to the shop of Shabir Ahmad Shah (Sajad’s brother). Shabir is a retired bank employee and runs a shop in Maisuma. I was delighted by his virtuous nature. It all went like a one-way conversation and he answered all the questions I could possibly have asked.
“It was Tuesday. 4th of April, 1989. We closed our shop around 11:30 am because of some disturbance in the city. I asked Muna (Sajad’s nickname) to deposit money in a bank near Jahangir Hotel. He came back home and had lunch. Our mother herself made him eat some morsels of rice in the end so that she was satisfied by his having eaten his meals.”
Of course, there can be no greater satisfaction for a mother than to feed her child with her own hands.
“We asked him earlier to not move out as there were apprehensions of larger disturbances in the valley. I was employed at Batamaloo branch of Jammu and Kashmir Bank those days. Around 1:15 pm in the day, Muna was not present at home. My mother asked me to look for him but I could not find him anywhere. I went to KMD bus yard by foot and heard three bullets fired near Budshah Chowk in the city centre. I became frightened and looked through an alley. I could see a silent brigade of soldiers roving across the street. There was a noise on the other side of the road and I found one of my neighbors there. He was perhaps known to the fact that Muna had been hit and asked me to follow him. When I entered the crowd and saw the body, it was gloom. I was no more in my senses and we headed towards SMHS hospital. They denied us any entry and we learnt later that Muna had already been dead. His body was taken by police. I went to Police Control Room, Batamaloo but they did not handover his corpse to us. Later, Watali, who represented the PCR Batamaloo, asked me to wait till the crowd was dispersed.”
As I listened to him patiently, I could see numbness in his eyes. They turned heavy by the thought of a painful, three-decade-old memory. Sajad was just a memory now.
“Sajad was passionate about cricket. He played in the C.K Naidu tournament and helped Jammu and Kashmir win a match by hitting a last ball six over Chetan Sharma. He hit an unbeaten 87 runs that day. Javed Miandad did it some years later to the same bowler. He was a complete all-rounder and one of the strong contenders to make it to the Indian Team. When he was not listed in any teams later and was made to face gross discrimination, he was enraged. Vivek Razdan was taken into the Indian Team in the same year but Sajad’s performance was never rewarded. It left him dejected.”
I asked him if cricket was a new thing to the family as a whole as it must have been a novel thing those days.
“Sajad did it all by himself. We did every possible thing for him to make him realize his dream.”
Shabir also told me about the memories with his late mother.
“As power shortage was a norm those days (today even, it is the same), Sajad had asked for a TV which could run on batteries. As our parents had decided to go to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage the following year, they returned with the TV, only to fulfill a dead son’s wish. The TV is in his old room now where we have kept his trophies.”
Sajad was active about the politics as well and had given full support to the Muslim United Front in the 1987 rigged elections. He was also a JKLF sympathizer. As Shabir told me about the lack of electricity those days, I found it deeply relevant in today’s Kashmir as well- while I am arranging this story and punching the keys of my laptop, it’s 2:30 in the night and there is no electricity in my hostel. I extend the prospect of my eyes and I can see mountains overlooking Srinagar lit by powerful lamps. It’s for army bunkers. They need it more than I need it. It’s occupation.
Sajad’s parents died briefly after performing Hajj. His mother fell to a fatal injury on head which she suffered while mourning at Sajad’s death.
As I thanked Shabir and decided to head towards home, I was faced with thoughts of dejection. I was despondent. Am I still the jugular vein of dead men? Whose integral part am I? The opportunistic countries which never respected our culture and always harmed the mandate of a free and dignified Kashmir. In Kashmir, we call their policies as the ‘cycle of killings’. Some name it the ‘structure of violence’. Through our bloodstained memories, we see ourselves as the victims of cultural aggression. Our dignity and identity have been put to an unfathomable challenge, and after the suffering of almost six decades, the voice is defiant: Resolve Kashmir and stay in peace!

(Aarif Muzafar Rather is a freelance writer based in Kashmir. He is pursuing bachelors in Law from Central University of Kashmir.)
This story appeared in The Quint
http://www.thequint.com/blogs/2016/05/10/nayeem-bhat-jammu-and-kashmir-strife-army-encounter-pro-government-militia-counter-insurgency

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Breaking The Stereotype

When I was a teenager, I would follow elderly boys of my locality to an afternoon bath in a spring in our village. Our school usually gave us some good time to enjoy the summer as they followed their own schedule called ‘ The Morning Time’. The elderly boys would play cards and smoke behind the bushes and we used to gather apricots and walnuts in the forest. It had become a routine for us and when I think of it today, I satisfactorily feel delight in knowing the fact that I enjoyed my childhood to the fullest. However, an alien rumor disturbed our routine and nobody was allowed to move out alone. I call it alien as it was absolutely new to us. It was believed that some men belonging to the Jana Sangh brethren used to kill children in Kashmir and remove their vital body organs. I did not know the gender of this Jana Sangh, nor did I know its religion. To me, Jana Sangh was a ghost like something. Later, when I became a serious reader of news, I came to know that Jana Sangh was a political party associated with the RSS. Mind you, RSS is taken as a threat group by the very dear Uncle Sam. I am not concerned about this being a rumor, I only know that I was exposed to fear at a very early age and subsequently a victim of terrorism. Both surprising and frightening, this confusion never saw me again bathing in the same spring with the satisfaction I used to get as a kid.

Similarly, my father would read me stories from my Basic English which would always see a Muslim figure as a victim of terrorism. It always drew sympathy. A Hindu represented a disgusting someone because we were ourselves believed to be an oppressed lot. An Englishman was a figure of contempt and a serious heartless person because our socialization was the result of Indian History books and Bollywood movies. Some of my friends were great fans of Amitabh Bachhan’s movie Mard, by the way. Likewise, a Russian represented Afghan carnage and importantly, a Jew was the killer of innocent Palestinians.

In the childhood memories, I try to convey something that cannot be conveyed. I try to declare unequivocally that I am not a terrorist. I try to tell that I do not feel of myself like you feel of me. I fail to overcome the power of this hype with my story because even Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which was translated into over thirty languages and shortlisted for Booker Prize, could not stop Donald Trump and Sarah Palin from declaring an open attack against Muslims.

Terrorism, their terrorism, has its source in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine-all occupied since long. Or to talk of the contemporary conflicts like Syria, Iraq, and other middle-east countries, they have been held hostages by the modern day giants. And Pakistan, facing and managing the Afghan crises, having their interests in Muslim countries would definitely be worried about the conditions of Modern day Muslims. Not to talk of the ISIS.
Now if acts of violence constitute terrorism, I propose to change, with all humility and humbleness, the definition of Self-defence under International Law. I do not mean to legalize the use of gun. If against eighteen persons in Kashmir, as figures suggest, India has kept a gunman, can we claim a demand for Self-defence as civilians because the soldiers enjoy vast immunity from different stages of liability as provided by law. This is not merely because soldiers enjoy immunity but because of the fact that open war has been declared against the Kashmiris through one or the other way. Indian Army in Kashmir guards the land and apparently we do not share the feeling of oneness with them. Even Farooq Abdullah once revealed that his son Omar Abdullah had been stopped by an army major on highway and was about to be shot. I ask the same question as was asked by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, “If this happened with Omar, what do you think an ordinary Kashmiri citizen faces?”

Muslims and Terrorism- the relationship may be old to some but it is a strange something to me as long as my reason is alive. Some people who have made a propaganda out of the term Jihad should know that people have laid down their lives for an ‘idea’ to triumph and history is a witness to the fact that religious clashes are a fact. Islam alone cannot be given this color. However, the post Cold War occurrences have observed shifts in the scenes and terms and conditions favoring modern capitalists have been established. This has changed the whole scenario giving rise to absurd stereotypes.

True that there has been violence in the name of religion, but do we need to set all circumstances aside and harass a populace?

PS: When Paris was attacked in December last year, Kashmiris became a subject of discussion on social networking and were given bad names.
Next time someone calls me a terrorist, I shall call him an ignorant.

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(Find here___ http://kashmirreader.com/if-you-call-me-a-terrorist-i-will-call-you-ignorant/ )