More than two years post the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Wani in an encounter with the Government forces, the Kashmir Valley remains shrouded in grief, anger and frustration, As dawn breaks everyday, the news of encounter penetrates into the households, inmates armed with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails emerge from homes to take on the collective might of a flailing administration for the cause of ‘Azadi’.
But beyond the bold headlines and blaring prime time news shows, not much has really emerged from the Ground Zero of protests.
Thousands of passionate women and men gather shouting pro independence and pro Militancy slogans to celebrate death, death has been romanticized here as the concept of Shahadat blooms here which cuts across people from all ages, genders and classes. Shahadat- Martyrdom. Together, they bid adieu to the deceased amid sobs and tears, prayers and slogans, dirges and wedding songs.
The Body of Slain Basit Ahmed Mir reached his native at Pushwara on Friday afternoon, shouting high pro pitch freedom and Pro Militancy slogans thousands of Local boys are celebrating martyrdom, convinced that death is a greater celebration than living as ‘occupied’, with the hopes of a peaceful future, underlined by the coffins reaching the families and disrupting the lives of their families, welcomed the body of the 22 year old Basit Ahmed Mir.
Basit Ahmed Mir had joined Militancy in late July 2018. The 22-year old son of Ishtiyaq Ahmed Mir of Pushwara Locality in South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) District had a hearing in the court on the day he went missing from home on 28 July. “He came home after the court hearing but looked very disturbing, ate food and left without saying a word,” his father told The Kashmiriyat.
He said that Basit was working as a labourer and also preparing for exams. “He told me he will come back in the evening, we kept waiting, but he never did, he said, adding that, “We tried to reach him constantly on his phone, but his phone was switched off.”
A few days later, Ishtiyaq claims, that he got a call from the Local Police saying that Basit had joined Militant ranks. “The Police has been trying their best to reach us and want me to bring my son back,” he told The Kashmiriyat. He said that Police had called him to the Police station thrice asking him to bring Basit back from Militancy.
Basit as per his closest friends was emotionally attached to the Freedom struggle and the death of Yawar (A Local Militant) and other Militants and civilians as well grew him furious. He often used to weep when any Kashmiri would die, his friends claim. They say he was the most brilliant, generous and humble person they have known, who would fit into any group. “He is someone, you would want to talk to for hours and hours together and would never get tired,” one of his friend told The Kashmiriyat.
This is the Kashmir post Burhan Wani where Militants are regarded as heroes and liberators by a large section of Kashmiris. Women shower candies and flowers on the body and apply henna on the hands of the deceased if he is unmarried. The new wave of militancy in Kashmir is witnessing boys pick up arms to fight against the Indian rule on Kashmir. Many of the new recruits are therefore either students in their early- or mid-20s, or teenagers, most of whom are unmarried.
In August 2017, the Government Forces raided the houses of three friends in Islamabad township, one was the house of Yawar Nisar, a resident of Shirpora Islamabad (Anantnag), Majid Khan, a resident of Lazibal in Islamabad (Anantnag) and Basit Mir of Pushwara locality of the same township in South Kashmir.
Yawar Nisar was constantly harassed by the state. He was profiled in the Police stations, then arrested, harassed both physically and mentally. On July 13, last year he went missing from his home, his parents looked for him everywhere till 04 August, when his bullet ridden body reached his wailing mother.
The three friends spent most of their time together, discussing their future, arguing about religion and politics. “I remember them going out for photo shoots to the loveliest places around on a single motorcycle along with their camera,” Shahid, one of their friends told The Kashmiriyat. He said that they were like any normal young men who dreamed, laughed and loved to be fashionable. “Yawar i remember was less inclined towards fashion, however Majid and Basit were very fashionable,” he said.
Majid few months after the death of Yawar Nisar joined the Militant outfit Lashkar e Taiba. However after a rigorous campaign by family and friends, the Militants let Majid go. The Government Forces also did not trouble Majid Khan as a part of the larger rehabilitation plan.
When the coffin of Basit and Yawar reached their families, Local boys celebrated their ‘martyrdom’ when one can argue that they should have been celebrating their careers and professions. In whatever little or large numbers such “celebrating martyrs” does exist here, unless and until the Narendra Modi-led central government is convinced that Kashmiri boys deserve to see life as a greater celebration than death, hopes of a peaceful future would continue to elude, underlined by the coffins reaching the families and disrupting their lives.
In recent years crowds have significantly increased at the funerals for Militants, Those who cannot find a place on ground, climb trees, walls and rooftops to catch a glimpse of the fallen ‘heroes’. Women often stand by windows, wailing, thumping their chests and pulling their hair, while men shoulder the coffin and raise slogans of freedom and sing songs of valour. The shrouded body is then lowered into a grave in a separate graveyard for martyrs.
Kashmir, perhaps, is trying to narrate a tale untold for years, report the facts from ground Zero, while It seeks answers to unpleasant questions of showering bullets and pellets at people rather than addressing the victim hood, depression, Post Trauma Stress Disorder and similar mental burnouts, that are most common amongst locals.
Despite the Government forces intensifying the Anti Militancy Operations and constant Civilian Killings, the only thing that keeps the flame of hope for justice ablaze in the hearts and minds of Kashmir today, is Martyrdom. In fact, the idea has been one of the many factors that got guns in the hands of more than 350 young people, 80 in 2016 picked up arms challenging more than half a million Indian Troopers, 120 in 2017 and in 2018, the number of youth joining Militants has crossed the highest in the last 10 years- 155.
Azad Ahmed Malik was one among those who picked up arms post the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016, Hailing from an unprivileged family in Arwani area of South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) District, Azad Dad as per Police was identified was wanted in a number of serious cases involving killing of civilians. Dada was promoted as the District commander of Lashkar e Taiba after the killing of Bashir Lashkar- the former commander of the Militant outfit for the District.
Listed as category A ++ militant, Malik carried a bounty of Rs 12 lakh on his head. Married, with a child, 31-year-old Malik was arrested several times by the police after 2014 for his connections with militants, before he joined the militancy himself.
In April this year, he escaped along with two other LeT militants in a 20-hour-long gunfight in Khudwani, Kulgam. Four civilians were killed during the clashes between the security forces and protestors that had erupted near the gunfight site.
Malik worked in close coordination with Naveed Jatt to revive the Lashkar e Taiba in south Kashmir.
With every passing day, militancy is finding its adobe in Kashmir and young boys are joining militant ranks. There are many reported incidents where teachers, college toppers, and government employees have joined militancy. What compels these men to leave their careers behind and join hands with a certain death?
Six Militants were killed on Sunday in an encounter. ”The Militants were cornered in a shed, they were in deep sleep and the encounter was finished within half an hour as the troopers inched closer to the shed after receiving confirmed inputs about the presence of Lashkar Militants in the house,” a Police official said. He said that the interrogation of two overground workers (OGWs) led to the encounter around 3 am in Shahlgund-Satkipora of Bijbehara.
“The Forces had confirmed inputs of them sleeping in a tin shed, inside an apple orchard located on the boundary of this South Kashmir village,” he said.
“The information about the hideout was secured after hours of interrogation of two OGWs who were picked up from the area late evening,” said a police official privy to details of the operation. “The fact that they were out so late and carrying dinner in suspicious circumstances led us to believe where they could be headed.”
In the wake of outbreak of armed conflict in Kashmir in the late 1980s, the armed forces have resorted to different forms of human rights violations. The Fresh surge in protests has been invoked by a history of extrajudicial killings, custodial tortures and deaths, rapes and enforced disappearances in Kashmir.
The recent popular upsurge in Kashmir led by the youth should be situated in the above perspective. The killing of the young militant leader, Burhan Wani, in July 2016 was a turning-point in the recent history of militancy in the State. Thousands of people, including women and teenagers, congregated to mourn the death of the militant, and joined his funeral procession. In the context of Burhan’s death, the former Chief Minister of the State, Omar Abdullah, stated: “Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media.”
Author: Qazi Shibli
Qazi Shibli is a News Editor with ‘The Kashmiriyat.’ He is a Journalism graduate from Bangalore University.