The Kalashnikov & Kashmir

Facing strong criticism from all quarters for displaying utmost insensitivity while carrying out the execution of Afzal Guru and refusing to hand over his mortal remains to his family, New Delhi was at the receiving end, not knowing how to get out of the awkward situation it had created for itself. But (like always), New Delhi has been lucky once again, as the killing of Suhail Ahmad Sofi, a 18-year-old youth, who was chased by ‘suspected militants’ and gunned down in hamam of a Mosque in Sopore, has bailed it out of a very messy situation. This is because Human Rights organisations, which until now had only pilloried New Delhi for human right excesses in Kashmir, have once again shifted their focus of attention to excesses being committed by “armed groups.”

The latest Amnesty International (AI) report on killing of innocents in Kashmir reads, “Amnesty International has steadfastly opposed both human rights abuses committed by armed groups and human rights violations committed by security forces and the police in Jammu and Kashmir.” That the AI, which is an august body with impeccable credentials, should cast serious aspersions regarding “human right abuses” on those whom we refer to as the “mujahideens” and “freedom fighters” is unfortunate. However, still worse is the fact that the AI has chosen to equate them with the security forces and the police as regards perpetuating human right violations. But this is not all- the report further goes on to say, “the number of civilian deaths seem to have increased since the beginning of 2013. Armed groups have targeted members of the general population in Jammu and Kashmir on several occasions in 2013.” And since this is not merely a generic observation but a specific and damning indictment of the human right excesses committed by militant groups, it is necessary for the separatist and militant leadership to seriously introspect on the role and requirement of organised violence (militancy) as a means to supplement the peaceful movement for the ‘right to self determination’.

For long, our leaders have blamed the security forces and intelligence agencies for secretly carrying out such killings and attributed the same to a ‘grand conspiracy’ aimed at undermining the movement for the ‘right to self determination’. However, while the public may believe this to be true, the international community and the Human Rights watchdogs are not convinced. And they have reasons to be suspicious, since it makes little sense that New Delhi, which is working overtime to convince the world that things are under its control in Kashmir, should sabotage its own efforts by clandestine killings which project a totally different picture! The separatist leadership should therefore realise that in trying to project the security forces and intelligence agencies as ‘villains’ by claiming that they are the perpetuators of each and every incident of violence in Kashmir, they are losing their own credibility. And this may prove disastrous in the long run!   

 It is no secret that the separatists and the militants have an extensive intelligence network, which has the capability to unearth the truth, and the assassination of Jamait Ahle Hadees Chief Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah is a case in point. Proclaimed to be the handiwork of ‘Indian intelligence agencies’ by separatists, the Lashkar- e- Toiba (LeT) conducted a thorough investigation and revealed the facts. President of Jamait Ahle Hadees Ghulam Rasool quoting the Lashkar report stated, “When Moulana was killed, we (LeT) initially thought it was the handiwork of the Indian agencies to weaken our movement. It was not in the wildest dreams that men in our ranks would be responsible for the assassination of Moulana.” The admission by the LeT that their cadres were involved in this assassination may well have been prompted by the fact that the public already knew the identity of the killers. However, the confession nevertheless deserves to be complimented as it has not only enhanced the credibility of this outfit, but also exorcised it from the guilt of having killed a religious preacher. Perhaps the separatists and our indigenous militant groups can learn a lesson from this and follow suit!

So, even though the separatists may have condemned the recent killing in Sopore, the same appears to be no more than a mere ritual that follows every such act. And it is here that the shadow of the gun eclipses the aura of the ‘right to self determination’ movement. Because by applying different standards of response to violence perpetuated against innocent civilians by the security forces and militants, the separatists unwittingly convey the impression of being indifferent, if not condoning senseless violence by militant groups. It also serves to strengthen New Delhi’s claim that the ongoing movement in Kashmir is nothing but terrorism in which militants themselves are killing innocent civilians and thus portray to the international community that it is the militant faction and not the separatists who are in actual control! Therefore, in order to put things in the correct perspective, there is an urgent need for the separatist and militant leadership to apply their minds and review the role of the Kalashnikov (‘armed resistance’) in the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ as the same is doing the movement more harm than good!

Just as I was writing this piece, the ‘ticker’ on the TV informed me that militants had attacked a Police party in Sopore in which a civilian had been killed. I instinctively ascribed this killing to the ‘retaliatory’ firing by the Police. But when the facts emerged, I found that during this incident which occurred in the crowded Iqbal market of Sopore, the Police did not even fire a single bullet. So, once again, we have yet another case of ‘our own people’ having killed one of their own! This incident soon became a serious topic of discussion within the scribe community here with many questioning the ‘lack of concern’ which the ‘freedom fighters’ had for the safety of their own brethren as well as the muted response of the separatists and I found myself in a tight corner. Had there been an exchange of fire, then an innocent being killed in ‘cross- fire’ between the security forces and militants could have been passed off as a case of ‘collateral damage’ and the incident forgotten. But how does one justify such an act when bullets fired by the ‘freedom fighters’ take the life of an innocent civilian? And with the AI taking notice of such incidents and making a scathing attack on the “armed groups”, can it be denied that the Kalashnikov is doing more harm than good to the Kashmir cause!

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