Last year Kashmir was shaken to hear about the encounter death of Assistant Professor Mohamed Rafi who was killed merely two days after he had taken up arms to fight for what he believed in.
Hailing from Chundina village of district Ganderbal Mohmmad Rafi Bhat was killed some 50 kilometres away in district Shopian. He would go down in the memory lane of many Kashmiris as one for whom humanity and unity always came first than religion. The punchline on his Facebook profile, which now has been deactivated by the authorities, reads: Human being first then a Muslim. This post clearly indicates his first preference was to humanity rather than religion.
My home village located seven kilometres from Ganderbal town shaded with poplar and Chinars, lived quietly even during troubled 1990s. A small graveyard, dedicated to martyrs, which is located in the lawns of local shrine Baba Reshi (ra), has just three marked graves. In last three decades, only seven boys from this village joined militant ranks.The last one to be buried here was Shabir Ahmad Magray, who died fighting in a forest land outside his village in 1999.
A topper throughout, Rafi was enrolled at local Dastageeri Public School (DPS), at the age of four, and studied there till he finished his Class 8 exams. As I myself was also enrolled in the same school, I observed that Rafi was most brilliant student of our school and every year he topped whole school. On that basis he was selected every year as our secretary of school. Being the classmates as well as best friend of my uncle, I received a lot of help in my academics, from Rafir sahab. Whenever I was facing any difficulty I would visit him for the guidance.
In Class 9, like other boys in the neighborhood, he went to New Dreamland School, located in Ganderbal, some 9 kilometers from his home.
After finishing college Rafi took admission in Ganderbal Degree College, for a three-year bachelors course in science. But within a year Rafi changed his mind and opted for arts, as he wanted to qualify KAS. He chose Sociology, his favourite subject. He was keen to know the social aspect of the conflict.
Once he finished his bachelors degree, he took admission in Kashmir University (KU), for post graduation programme in Sociology. Two years later, when Rafi cracked JRF exam in the first attempt as he had his eyes already set on a much higher goal, the KAS. A year later, Rafi was selected for an Phil programme at KU. After almost 18 months of Phil work, Dr Rafi, as he was called now by his friends and colleagues, got a job in the animal husbandry department. There he worked for one and a half year and left job for further studies. In the meantime, he got admission in Central University Pondicherry. He went to Pondicherry, stayed there for a week but came back. He wanted to do research that will help Kashmir come out of the vortex it has been caught into.
Once back home, he got selected for PhD in Sociology from KU. He carefully chose his topic: Globalisation and Emerging Trends in Consumerism, A Comparative Study of Rural and Urban Kashmir. He completed his PhD in 2017.
Earlier last year, he published a paper on Stone Pelting: A New Form of Protest in Kashmir. In all, he has 29 publications to his credit. He has also written opinion pieces for Kashmir based dailies. Dr. Bhat cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) twice, he has been a recipient of the prestigious Junior Research Fellowship (JRF), and also topped the Jammu and Kashmir State Eligibility Test (JKSET).
Now the question which may puzzle outside world is, why persons like Rafi chose gun instead of pen? Why he left his job, easy life, family, education, degree behind? One thing becomes clear that it is not poverty or unemployment, nor even indoctrination always which forces people like him to pick up arms to fight the system. All saner people across India should ponder about it if at all they care about Kashmir. Is it oppression, daily humiliation, innocent killings which are the cause?
As a secular person in matters of State and a humanist in relation to all believers and others, I appeal to the political leaders of India and Pakistan to follow the path of peace, stop sabre rattling, and avoid provoking nationalist and religious passions of the people. Nothing good will ever come out of cheap emotionalism.
Every political realist knows that the Kashmir Conflict is not so easy . The parties have to take into account many factors in finding a workable, equitable and acceptable solution. This can only be done when the rulers of India and Pakistan take concrete steps to seek a solution to the conflict by letting the people of Jammu and Kashmir decide their own future. This way of dealing with the issue has the potential to make India and Pakistan as close partners in trade, education, joint projects for the welfare of the people of the region instead of using enormous resources on building capacities for war.