Losing Our Boys

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Last Thursday, Kashmir yet once again woke up to the sad news that three militants had been killed by security forces in an encounter which had taken place at Tral the previous night. However, going through the entire news report on this heartrending incident wasn’t necessary because except for the names of the deceased which were different, the tragic story was the same one has been reading week after week! However, instead of deliberating on whether anything tangible is being achieved by the continuing loss of young lives in gunfights, our leaders (like always) have gone about renewing their pledge not to let the sacrifices of the slain militants go waste. Little do they realise that this obdurate approach of theirs actually encourages violence and raises the same old question – how long will this vicious cycle of death and destruction in Kashmir continue?  

Just like before this time too, the deceased militants named Asif Ahmad Mir, Ashiq Hussain Bhat and Ishaq Ahmad Parry were all young Kashmiris who had recently taken to militancy. All the three were educated- while Asif had done his graduation, Ashiq was a trained paramedic and Ishaq, who had secured 98.4 percent in class X was aspiring to become a doctor before he joined militancy in March last year. The three were trapped in a house by security forces and died in the ensuing gunfight. Except for Ashiq who was declared an ‘A++’ category militant after his name came up during investigations of the Udhampur BSF convoy attack,  there seems to be no record of both Asif and Ishaq being physically involved in any militancy related incident.

Three lives in their prime have been lost and it is this disturbing trend of our youth being continuously consumed by the wildfire of violence (which we proudly call ‘armed struggle’) that begs immediate attention. While it is appropriate to eulogise those who willingly embrace death for a cause, it is also the moral responsibility of our leaders to honestly evaluate the concrete contribution of this ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir towards the objectives of the movement for the ‘right to self determination’? Without meaning to offend anyone, when something that involves the lives of our young boys is concerned, there is a need for those who support or encourage militancy to account for each and every life that is being snuffed out. And thus, just conveying condolences and paying tributes on the death of militants mean little. 

For more than a quarter century, Kashmir has been witnessing gunfights and encounters on nearly a daily basis and these have cost us thousands of lives. Unfortunately, despite this our leaders continue to wholeheartedly support the ‘armed struggle’ without even considering it necessary to explain to the people as to what exactly this ‘armed struggle’ has either achieved or is likely to achieve. On the contrary, all they seem to be doing as far as taking the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ forward is to sit back and wait for some young Kashmiri to die. The moment this happens, they all suddenly emerge to make emotional speeches, offer funeral prayers and after conveying their condolences end their ‘ritual’ by calling for a hartal to protest the killings. 

Many say that it is time for someone in Kashmir to stand up and speak out demanding a justification for the ‘armed struggle’ policy in which our youth are being expended in such large numbers. However, this is easier said than done because in Kashmir opposing the cult of violence could have extremely serious consequences and history bears testimony to this fact. Ever since militancy erupted in Kashmir many respected personalities who were leading lights of the movement for ‘right to self determination’ have been assassinated. The common factor that links all such killings is that each of the deceased had expressed some degree of disagreement or opposition to the ‘armed struggle’ and all of them were killed by “unknown gunmen. ” Nevertheless who exactly was behind each such killing and why the killing took place is well known to the public. Therefore, it is but natural that in order to avoid the danger of incurring the wrath of those wielding guns, no one dares to question the logic of the ongoing ‘armed struggle’. This suits the separatist leadership which interprets silence of the people on this issue as wholehearted public endorsement of militancy even though such a conclusion is far from the truth. It therefore becomes all the more necessary for us to face facts even if they are harsh. 

Firstly, whether we like it or not, the fact of the matter is that ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir was not our choice as we already had the peaceful movement for the ‘right to self determination’ in place. The ‘armed struggle’ was thrust upon us and those who originally brought the Kalashnikov into Kashmir themselves voluntarily gave up militancy after just five years. They may have done so for ideological reasons as JKLF chairman Yasin Malik claims. However, didn’t the obvious realisation that their belief of azadi being “just round the corner” was nothing but a monumental fallacy lead to disenchantment and also play an important part in their decision to renounce violence?   

Secondly, some leading separatist leaders need to come out and explain the reasons for their volte face on militancy. 

Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani had himself concluded that militancy had no future in Kashmir. He has gone on record to state that “The armed struggle won’t serve its purpose unless and until it is well coordinated. It needs support of a country which could provide supply of weapons, resources and training camps which we don’t have. It also needs ideologically perfect youth. It needs strategy. The militancy in Kashmir lacks these things.” However, the Hurriyat (G) chairman has subsequently made a completely conflicting statement that “We never denied or ignored the role of gun in our struggle.” Though Geelani sahib is known for expressing extreme views, he is still highly respected since he speaks with conviction and stands by what he says. That is exactly why his complete change of opinion regarding the ‘armed struggle’ is rather surprising.

There was a time when Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had publically acknowledged that militancy in Kashmir had not achieved any results but “created more graveyards.” However,  just a few years later, Mirwaiz sahib suddenly changed track by supporting militancy and lauded militants by stating that “They are fighting the world’s second largest army and we salute their commitment.” That a person who was such a vocal critic of violence should suddenly become a supporter of the ‘gun culture’ is something extremely perplexing!

It is only the United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallahudin who has consistently maintained that the ‘armed struggle’ was the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue.  

However it would be untrue to say that the Hizb supremo hasn’t shared the reasons for his confidence in the ‘armed struggle’. Sallahudin sahib finds such a striking similarity between the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Indian army presence in Kashmir that he believes that just like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the mujahideen in Kashmir would force the Indian army to leave Kashmir. While respecting the views expressed by Sallahudin sahib and appreciating his optimism, there are two vital issues that need to be considered while comparing the situation in Soviet occupied Afghanistan and Indian administered Kashmir (IaK). 

The first is that the Soviets never considered Afghanistan as their own territory and thus except for diplomatic embarrassment, it lost nothing else by withdrawing from there. Secondly, the Taliban were provided military support and financial assistance on such a lavish scale by Washington that they could more than match the Soviet army. However, as far as Kashmir is concerned, since India has declared that J&K is its ‘integral’ part, leaving Kashmir would open the floodgates for the Balkanisation of India and this is something it just can’t afford. Secondly, the military support being provided to the ‘freedom fighters’ by the Pakistan is so primitive and woefully inadequate both in terms of quantity and quality that it hardly poses any serious threat to the Indian army in Kashmir.

At the ground level what is worrying the people more is the high mortality rate amongst newly recruited Hizb militants. What the public is unable to comprehend is why is there such a tearing hurry to pit untrained young boys against the highly experienced security forces? Ishaq Ahmad Parry who was just 19 when he died in the Tral gunfight had joined the HM less than a year ago. Thus, despite having earned the nickname “Newton” for his extraordinary academic performance while at school, poor Ishak’s intelligence could not save him that fateful night as he never got adequate time to learn the art of militancy or  gain proficiency in fighting the security forces. And since there are many Hizb militants like Ishaq who have been killed while they were still in their teens, this is a depressing trend that needs rectification! 

Logically speaking, there is no harm in debating the benefits and disadvantages of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Moreover, since this issue concerns the lives of our youth, societal responsibility demands such a discourse. However, since one is not very sure whether will this ever come about, your guess would be as good as mine! 

 

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