ISSN 2330-717X

Jammu And Kashmir: Targeted Killings And Crocodile Tears – OpEd

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In March 2019, when senior Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farook was summoned by National Investigation Agency [NIA] and a ban was imposed on Jamaat-e-Islami [JeI], Kashmir’s Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam was so disturbed that he gave a call for complete shutdown in Srinagar to register public anger against these decisions. Two years down the line, it seems that he’s once again pained by the killing of two members of J&K’s minority communities as he has termed last week’s gruesome killing of a Kashmiri Sikh lady principal and a Kashmiri pandit [KP] teacher “unfortunate.”

However, since the Grand Mufti hasn’t called for any shutdown to protest these killings, it appears that he doesn’t consider murder of innocent Kashmiris belonging to minority communities to be as serious an issue as that of either as Mirwaiz being summoned by NIA or JeI being proscribed. So, his rhetoric that “No religion allows the killing of innocent civilians,” will not be enough to ameliorate the grief-stricken family members of the deceased. Nor will his assertion that “No one will be allowed to harm the communal fabric of Kashmir,” reassure the terrorised minority communities in J&K, and there are good reasons for this.

Firstly, it’s no secret that like all others who talk about ‘azadi’ [freedom] or ‘self-determination’, the Grand Mufti too brazenly toes Pakistan’s line, which makes him extremely subjective to the suffering of Kashmiris. Secondly, despite his exalted position as Grand Mufti, he doesn’t mind making factually incorrect statements like “Kashmir was neither part of India nor will it remain so.” Thirdly, he doesn’t have any qualms in misleading gullible people by making false promises like “India will have to leave Kashmir.”

That’s why when the Grand Mufti and his ilk talk about “communal harmony”, rather than be reassured, the minority communities in J&K are reminded of his 2018 fissiparous and unsolicited ‘advice’ that “If Muslims [in other parts of India] continue to face persecution and harassment, they should ask for separate country within India.” However, the Grand Mufti isn’t the only one paying lip service when it comes to preservation of “communal fabric of Kashmir.” Au contraire, this refrain is the most common phrase that can be heard in J&K- the pro-Pakistan lobby talks about it and so do civil society members, the intelligentsia and many activists.

So, the question that arises is, if the entire spectrum of society in Kashmir Valley seems to be unanimously committed towards preserving its pluralistic culture that promotes communal harmony, then why are religious minorities continuously being targeted here?

There are no two views that for centuries, Kashmiris of different religions and faiths have coexisted harmoniously. There may have been some aberrations, but it didn’t create an enduring communal divide. Unfortunately, things changed forever on September 14, 1989 when a KP named Tika Lal Taploo was shot dead outside his own house by gunmen belonging to Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front [JKLF]. This wasn’t an aberration but part of a well-conceived plan of delivering a deathblow to communal bonhomie in Kashmir.

An advocate by profession who provided free legal services to the poor irrespective of their religious background, Taploo was respected by both Hindus and Muslims alike. He stood up for the right and had publicly denounced the bomb blast in the Chinkral Mohalla mosque where he stayed, which must have severely embarrassed JKLF. Perhaps it was Taploo’s popularity and uprightness that made him the ideal target for JKLF which was desperately searching for a way that would unambiguously convey the message of its masters across the Line of Control [LoC] that there was no place for Hindus in Kashmir. So, what could be more menacing than murdering a prominent KP in broad daylight outside his home, and that too in full public view?

Taploo’s murder was clearly meant to terrorise Hindus into leaving Kashmir and to generate a heightened sense of insecurity amongst KPs, his killing was followed by a spate of similar killings and unspeakable atrocities to accelerate exodus of the KP community.

Such was the fear of reprisal that the majority community chose stoic silence over remonstrating against the killing of innocent people. So much so that even after former APHC chairman Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat’s 2011 public admission that that J&K Peoples Conference founder Abdul Gani Lone, Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq and JKLF ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani “were not killed by the army or the police” and that “They were targeted by our own people,” not one of the several so-called flag bearers of ‘self-determination’ belonging to the majority community cared to give a shutdown call to protest these killings by terrorists!

Though JKLF and Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] may deny it, but the irrefutable fact is that since Pakistan army knew all along that it couldn’t gain control of J&K through militancy, Rawalpindi’s main aim of starting the so-called ‘freedom struggle’ was to divide the people of Kashmir on communal lines so that J&K remains a festering sore for India. Sadly, JKLF and later HM fell into the trap and HM supremo Syed Salahuddin has himself admitted that his group was “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir”!

Today, we have a situation in Kashmir where locals who have picked up the gun are dying in encounters with security forces, while Kashmiri terrorists are killing their own people. Thus, since Rawalpindi’s aim of bleeding India through a thousand cuts is being achieved, it has no reason to stop fuelling this proxy war, since it has everything to gain and nothing to lose. That Rawalpindi is using Kashmiris as cannon-fodder in its proxy war against India is confirmed by Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s public statement that “Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end.” 

Earlier, no one took responsibility for killing innocent civilians, so Pakistan apologists kept trying to insinuate that these were handiwork of security forces and intelligence agencies. But what’s really intriguing is that despite a terrorist group calling itself ‘The Resistance Front’ [TRF] owning up to having killed the Sikh lady principal and KP teacher, condemnation is still muted. It’s no secret that TRF is a pseudonym that Pakistan based terrorist group Lashkar e Taiba [LeT] uses to avoid being linked to such ghastly acts. Hence, its but natural that the cold-blooded murder of two innocent people associated with the noble profession of education has only evoked perfunctory lip service from the pro-Pakistan lobby that calls the shots in Kashmir!

In its statement, TRF has alleged that “These teachers had on August 15 harassed and warned parents with dire consequences if any student did not attend the August 15 function.” Does this become a good-enough reason to extinguish two lives? The statement goes on to say, “We want to make it crystal clear that outsider domicile holders, stooges and collaborators, whatsoever their religion, won’t be spared.” While justification given by TRF for the killings are abysmally feeble, the underlying message it conveys is loud and clear. Don’t the phrases “outsider domicile holders” and “whatsoever their religion,” offer an unambiguous clue as to the real motive of these attacks?

Tailpiece: One way of looking at such killings is-why invite trouble by protesting? This viewpoint can be conveniently justified to kill one’s conscience, by arguing that when they didn’t spare stalwarts like Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq, Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani and Abdul Ghani Lone, how can I, a common person, dare to oppose ‘mujahideens’ and then hope to survive? Another option to justify one’s cowardly silence by contending that those who were murdered by the so-called ‘freedom-fighters,’ had enraged them and hence, “asked for it!”

Yet, whatever be reasons given by TRF or the excuse one chooses to keep quiet, there’s no escaping Martin Luther King Jr’s stern reminder that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”!

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Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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