The Day ‘Kashmiriyat’ Died
A tourist from Chennai being killed by a rock hurled at him by a Kashmiri is something that should have never happened but unfortunately it did. However, those who claim being surprised by this tragic occurrence or saying that they never imagined that a thing like this could happen are outrightly lying because there were plenty of pointers that were clearly telling us that an incident like this was just waiting to happen.
Initially a symbolic expression of defiance, stone pelting soon became a means to inflict bodily harm on opponents and our boys actually started enjoying hurling stones at the forces during protests. However, this growing fondness for violence exhibited by our youth didn’t seem to bother our elders, probably because the targets were the policemen and paramilitary forces personnel. Unchecked, the scope of stone pelting grew wider and it also became a tool for vigilantes to enforce curfews and punish ‘defaulters’ but surprisingly, no one even objected to this blatant act of highhandedness!
Several incidents of locals being attacked by stone-pelting mobs for allegedly “defying” shutdown calls have been reported in which our own people have been seriously injured and in some cases even killed. However, since our elders didn’t object to this despicable practice it conveyed an erroneous impression to the youth that there is nothing wrong in Kashmiris killing those Kashmiris who they feel are ‘betraying’ the struggle by not paying heed to the protest calendar issued by the separatists. And the tragedy here is that no one spoke up even when the victims weren’t guilty. Take the 2013 case of truck driver Riyaz Ahmad Khanday who was attacked by stone-pelters in Tikibagh Mattan area and suffered serious head injuries which claimed his life a few days later. Khanday was attacked by a group of young boys because he had “defied” the shutdown call given by separatists on that day; but did he really intend to do so?
In Kashmir, it is an accepted practice to observe shutdowns from sunrise till sunset. Khanday’s truck was attacked at 8 PM and thus it would be absolutely incorrect to accuse him of willfully defying the shutdown call. In any case if the protesters did have a doubt then civilised behaviour demanded that they should have detained Khanday instead of brutally attacking him with rocks. Khanday was a poor man and the sole bread winner of his family and being burdened with the responsibility of feeding their families, people like him have no other choice but to do what their masters demand. This gruesome incident enraged residents of Khanday’s village (Ahang Matipora) and they protested against the stone-pelters but unfortunately none of our leaders or elders considered it necessary to either admonish the stone-pelters or offer condolences to his bereaved family members.
The lynching of JK Police DSP Ayub Pandith is another inedible stain on our social fabric. While this may not be the first case of a policeman being attacked and killed by a mob in Kashmir, but this lynching has shamed us like never before for two reasons. Firstly, Pandith was stripped and stoned to death by a mob just outside Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid where Mirwaiz Umar Farook was busy delivering his sermon, secondly, it occurred after ‘Shab-e-qadr’ prayers. Unfortunately, while our leaders and elders did condemn this gory incident their criticism was mostly philosophical in nature. However, as no separatist leader met the bereaved family to express condolences or send a representative to do so, it is clear that condemnation of Pandith’s lynching was done solely to fulfill the requirements of ‘political correctness’
When the district administration imposed restrictions around the Jamia Masid area after Pandith’s lynching, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook expressed his annoyance very strongly by saying “It is for the first time in the living memory of people that they are being barred from offering ‘Juma-tul-vida prayers’ at Jamia Masjid by the authorities.” While he was right in doing so, but then wasn’t Pandith’s killing also the first time in living memory that a Kashmiri was lynched by brother Kashmiris outside Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid! And thus was it enough for the Mirwaiz to just say, “I am deeply disturbed by this brutal act. Mob violence and public lynching is outside the parameters of our values and religion”?
Similarly, when a school bus carrying children was attacked by stone-pelters in Narpora area of Shopian last week and a class 2 student was seriously injured, all that the Mirwaiz had to say was “The stone-throwing incident in Shopian on a school bus is quite disturbing and one fails to understand why a school bus carrying children was targeted.” The question here is that if the Mirwaiz who is one of the ‘genuine leaders’ of the Kashmiri people “fails to understand why a school bus carrying children was targeted,” then there is something seriously wrong somewhere. Could this habit of our leaders to avoid outright condemnation of such incidents possibly be one of the reasons that emboldened our youth to attack the school bus and the taxi in which R. Thirumani Selvan, the young tourist from Chennai was travelling alongwith his parents and sister?
Thirumani is dead and CM Mehbooba Mufti may “hang her head in shame” while ex CM Omar Abdullah may call the stone-pelters “goons” and disapprove of their “methods or their ideology.” Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani may “not only feel sorry but ashamed as well” and the “deeply saddened” Mirwaiz may condemn such “hooliganism and rowdiness.” Yet, all these feelings cannot erase the ignominy that Thirumani’s death has caused. The Selvan family was our guest. They disregarded reports of lurking threats that could endanger tourists in Kashmir since they had full faith that we would see to it that being visitors they won’t be harmed in any way. However, all our claims of being excellent hosts and our unconditional assurances of tourists being absolutely safe in Kashmir fell flat when Thirumani died due to injuries inflicted by stone-pelters who were our own people.
In 2009, Maulana Showkat Ahmed Shah, president of Jamiat-e-Ahli-Hadees (JeAH) declared that stone-pelting was un-Islamic. He went on to say “If anyone has argument in the light of holy Quran and Sunnah to prove stone pelting as a lawful act in Islam, he should come forward with it, I promise that I will take my words back and tender an apology.” While no one took up the JeAH president’s challenge, Hurriyat (G) chairman justified stone-pelting by saying “those speaking against stone-pelting youth should first study the approach of the armed forces personnel, as there was no comparison between the gun and the stone as the latter could not take human life.” However with a stone claiming Thirumani’s life, Geelani sahib has been proved wrong!
Tailpiece: The 2009 stone-pelting controversy ended abruptly with the assassination of Maulana Showkat. After his murder, Lashker-e-Toiba admitted that “Earlier we thought the Indian army or its agencies killed Maulvi to defame the movement and create misgivings. We had not even imagined that the murderer would turn out to be our own men.” Who killed the JeAH president is immaterial but what is of serious concern is the high probability that Maulvi Showkat was eliminated because he was seen as a threat by those who supported stone-pelting.
Nearly a decade later we are being ‘punished’ for our criminal passivity which has encouraged stone-pelting. We made a serious mistake by taking our religious, cultural and moral values for granted and believing that these would prevent our youth from participating in mindless acts of violence. Our tragedy is that Thirumani wasn’t the only one who died that day- the stone that ended his life also killed ‘Kashmiriyat’. And the greatest irony is that this time the culprit isn’t New Delhi but us!