Javaid Beigh

Babar Qadri’s murder raises questions

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In one of the recent TV debates, a Pakistani Punjabi female news anchor asked Babar Qadri, a well-known Kashmiri TV commentator, a heavily loaded question about the condition of “oppressed Muslims” of Kashmir valley post abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A of Indian constitution on August 5, 2019. Babar Qadri very politely reminded her that why was she referring to only “oppressed Muslims”? The state of Jammu & Kashmir is home to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists as well and they all have been impacted by the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of Indian constitution and not just Muslim residents of the former state of J&K. Babar Qadri’s response perfectly captured the dilemma that is faced by many Kashmiri Muslim TV commentators and journalists from Kashmir – “What is publicly politically acceptable to say or not to say about Kashmir” and “what will not put them in ‘trouble; and threaten their security.”

It is, of course, unwritten rule of TV commentary and journalism of Kashmir that only abuse, humiliation and maligning of “enemy” and his non-Muslim faith is allowed publicly in order to further a political ideology that portrays Kashmir as land of only one religious community, who are being suppressed by a nation that professes another religion.

This “over Islamization” of Kashmir is the prism with which Pakistan as well a powerful chunk Kashmiri Muslims tend to look at the Kashmir conflict, which leaves little room to accommodate the cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity of the former state of J&K and accordingly non-Muslim communities like Kashmiri Pundits, Hindu Dogras, Sikhs, Ladakhi Buddhists, Dogri & Kashmiri Christians and Hindu/ Sikh refugees from Mirpur and Muzaffarabad. They find no mention in any “Kashmir related discourse” pushed forward by Kashmiri Muslims – It has to be only and only about Muslims, Muslims and Muslims of J&K.

Viewed in this light, Late Babar Qadri’s response in correcting the female Pakistani Punjabi news anchor was something that defined his fairness, objectivity, commitment to secularism, progressiveness, inclusiveness and justice that views Kashmir as a land that belongs to every-one cutting across their faith, caste and creed. But unfortunately, this forthrightness is something, which has no place in Kashmiri society that has already laid down rules for what can and what cannot be articulated publicly and a Kashmiri Muslim activist talking about an inclusive Kashmir that includes Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists is not something that is “allowed” as per the unwritten commandments of public behavior in Kashmir.

So, why is that the same Kashmiri society is today mourning the brutal murder of Babar Qadri?

Babar Qadri, who rose to fame through his activism both in Kashmir bar association as well as championing the cause of juvenile victims of Kashmir conflict and fighting cases related to human rights abuse of ordinary Kashmiris, was also a prominent Kashmiri Muslim face on TV debates of various news channels both in India and Pakistan, where he would represent the people of Kashmir in the true sense of fairness and justice without taking any sides or without favoring any one particular community or maligning any other religious community. Sadly, his objective and fair analysis did not go well with many elements in Kashmir, who want the world to see the Kashmir only from one prism of “Muslim victimhood”.

Babar Qadri was no stranger to accusations of being “agent of the enemy” and he had been receiving threats to his life from such elements for past many years. In fact after the brutal murder of Shujat Bukhari in 2018, which was attributed to controversial allegations made against Shujat Bukhari by a Pakistan based propaganda blog about Kashmir, Babar Qadri also found his name in the same controversial blog as yet another “agent of the enemy”. He made many public posts at that time citing threats to his life and even went as far to name the Kashmiri head of Muzaffarabad based United Jihad Council as someone who would be responsible for Babari’s death, if something was to happen to him. In fact, just three days before his assassination, he wrote in his social media post about the continuing campaign of vilifying him as an “agent of the enemy” and receiving threats to his life.

What was the reaction of Kashmiri society then?

The same Kashmiri people, who are today “mourning” his death and calling him a martyr, kept quiet, when he repeatedly asked for help from the elements, who were constantly calling him an “agent of the enemy”. Till, the time, he was declared dead Babar Qadri remained a “dubious” person for most Kashmiris, who was secretly “an agent of the enemy”. It only took his death to make him a martyr. He is not alone, most of the high-profile militants were also called “enemies of the agent”, till the news of their death came, after which they were declared “martyr”.

Isn’t this the hypocrisy of the Kashmiri society that they are suddenly owning Babar Qadri after his death and ignoring his pleas for help, while he was alive? And sadly, this ownership of Babar Qadri by Kashmiri society upon his death is not a selfless act of sorrow and grief but a vile propaganda opportunity to link his brutal murder once again to “enemy of Kashmiri people”.

Babar Qadri made it very clear in past few years as to who are the elements, who are threatening him for his objective and secular views and yet today, when he is murdered, the Kashmiri society is not giving any weight to his past desperate pleas of help and rather using his assassination to further push its political agenda of maligning “the enemy” as oppressor, who has killed yet another innocent Kashmiri Muslim.

But the greater question that arises is that, does this indulgence in political propaganda after the “mysterious” death of each Kashmiri Muslim by so called “unknown gunmen” really help Kashmir or the people of Kashmir? We have been indulging in this hypocrisy for last three decades, without anyone in the world, truly empathizing with us despite our immense human sufferings. We, tend to think that our deliberate one sided and biased account of the destructive effects of Kashmir conflict will earn us the attention and sympathy of the world and Muslim Ummah but it has not.

We remain isolated and if anything, such acts of murder of rationalist Kashmiri Muslims will only further buttress our image as violence loving, radical and intolerant people. If we truly want to pay homage to late Babar Qadri, we must speak against those elements, whom Babar Qadri himself pointed as security threats, while he was alive rather than milking his death to once again push our ideological agenda, which has had no takers for last three decades and which has only given us death and destruction.

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