Of 'Greater' & The 'Lesser' Tragedies

When your family dies, that’s a bummer (pity), but that’s life. When my family dies, it’s a tragedy and the world is unbalanced and biased.? - Jarod Kintz

On July 7, a Kashmiri in Mumbai went out to buy a packet of cigarettes and didn’t return. Six days later, another Kashmiri in the Kupwara district of J&K went into the Harduna forest near Vilgam village to collect firewood and he too didn’t return. When their dead bodies were subsequently found, it became evident that both had met an unnatural and violent end – while the body of the Kashmiri who went missing in Mumbai was in a badly bruised condition, that of the Kashmiri missing in Kupwara District was decapitated.

On the killing of the Nawab Bazar (Srinagar) resident Parvez Ahmad Teli in Mumbai, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, A G Mir, quoting Mumbai Police authorities, said that Parvez’s body was recovered from a railway track in Mumbai and the death appeared to be an accident. The Mumbai Police also confirmed that Parvez had died in a train accident and that there was ‘nothing mysterious’ about his death. However, these statements failed to assuage suspicions of foul play as Firdous, the brother of the deceased claimed that Parvez had been “Kept in custody by Mumbai police for four days” and that his body bore torture marks, further strengthened the suspicion that something was amiss.

Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, while expressing shock and grief over the mysterious killing of Parvez, also made public his ‘pet’ apprehension that the deceased was killed either by ‘intelligence officials or by communal elements’. He also regretted that while, “We are trying our level best to take due care of tourists and ‘yatris’ in Kashmir but Kashmiris are being killed under mysterious circumstances outside.” And he was not alone in raising suspicions on the circumstances leading to the death of Parvez. Terming it a ‘cold blood murder’, the Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook said, “Our youth in ‘outside states’ are unsafe.”

Surprisingly, while the others were making their assessments based on the scanty information available, the Awami Ittihaad Party President and Langate MLA Engineer Rashid, seemed to know exactly how and why this happened. Claiming that "(Parvez) Teli was beaten to death in a mysterious incident by miscreants in Mumbai,” he went on to give the reason too- “The incident is a continuation of the process to frighten Kashmiris and push them back to the Valley, which has already turned as a huge jail for them." Apprehensions of foul play were also expressed in various public gatherings by the entire spectrum of the separatist fraternity and this united display of solidarity to grieve and condemn the untimely death of a Kashmiri, is indeed praiseworthy.

Unfortunately, while the death of the Kashmiri in Mumbai received wide attention, the death of another Kashmiri in Kupwara district that occurred on July 13, largely went unnoticed. Sanaullah Zargar, a Head Constable of J&K Police, posted at Srinagar had come on leave to his home in Vilgam and alongwith his wife, gone to collect firewood from the nearby forest. As per the statement of his wife, while the duo was collecting firewood in the forest, some militants intercepted them. After checking her husband’s identity papers, they detained Zargar, but allowed her to go. When her husband did not return, she reported the matter to the Police and during the subsequent search, the decapitated body of her husband was found.

Surprisingly, not one separatist leader has even uttered a single word of condemnation on this gruesome killing of a Kashmiri and coming close on the heels of the Mumbai incident which stirred their conscience, their silence in this case is indeed inexplicable. Is this only because Zargar was a Policeman? Is it that the separatists felt that if they condemned this killing, then they could well invite the wrath of the militants? Or, is it just that, unlike the Mumbai death, which provided an opportunity to publicise how Kashmiris outside the State are being eliminated by ‘intelligence agencies and communal forces’, the death of Zargar on the contrary would expose how unsafe Kashmiris are in their own homeland, at the hands of their own people who claim to be ‘freedom fighters’?

Could it be that Zargar was only pretending to be collecting firewood from the forest, but was actually on a secret mission to locate militants? This would have been quite possible had Zargar ventured out into the woods alone; but knowing the danger and high risks involved, no sane man would ever ask his wife to accompany him on such a mission. Scouring the forests for firewood is common in Kashmir and so are instances of locals and militants unexpectedly running into each other. However, it is common knowledge that there is a tacit understanding under which, militants never harm the locals out in the jungles for foraging forest produce or grazing cattle and in return, the locals never divulge the presence of militants to security forces. So what went so drastically wrong in this case?

Even if the militants suspected Zargar of working as a Police ‘informer’, they could have easily kept him in custody and used their sympathisers within the Police department and intelligence agencies to ascertain his antecedents. There have been numerous instances when militants have detained civilians on suspicion and subsequently released them when nothing against them was found. So, why was Zargar executed in such haste? Could it have something to do with the UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallaudin’s recent announcement that, “We know who our foes are and where from anti-movement policemen get directions. It’s disheartening to see Mujahideen targeting our own Kashmiri policemen but we no option other than this.” So, was Zargar killed merely to ensure that the import of Syed Sallaudin’s warning to policemen is conveyed more emphatically!

These two incidents bring a larger moral and ethical issue into focus. The people of Kashmir consider the separatist leaders no different from their own elders and respect them as they would their parents, not for once questioning their decisions, nor blaming them for any personal tragedies, like death and maiming during protest marches. So, doesn’t it prick the conscience of the separatist leaders when they exhibit dual standards in their response to human tragedies? How can they call for protests, demand ‘impartial’ investigation and participate in the Nimaz-e-Jinaza of a Kashmiri, who may or may not have necessarily been murdered, but don’t feel it necessary to even extend the basic human courtesy of offering condolences to the bereaved family of another Kashmiri who, undoubtedly was murdered! No one minds the separatists playing favourites or politics- but by their varied and fickle responses on the death of Kashmiris, they are certainly bound to offend the sensibilities of their own people and this is not a healthy thing to happen!

Tailpiece: Hurriyat (G) Chairman had recently said, “You cannot murder a person for his political affiliations. Islam doesn’t allow it. We admit that many of them (Kashmiris) work as spies for police and other agencies, but murdering them is totally unjustified (and) we condemn these killings.” Given that the venerable octogenarian is a man of principles who stands by what he says, can one is still hope that the Hurriyat (G) would atleast come out and condole, if not condemn, the barbaric decapitation of Zargar!

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