Naming and shaming killers of Mirwaiz and Lone

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By: Ikhlaq Ahmad

May 21 is the day when two great leaders of Jammu and Kashmir fell to bullets though in different years. Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq was killed by assassins on May 21, 1990 and Abdul Gani Lone fell to their bullets on same day in 2002.  Tragically Lone was killed near the grave of Late Mirwaiz as he had gone there to pay tributes to him (Mirwaiz) on his death anniversary. The two killings are two big questions that will continue to haunt the separatist leadership particularly present Mirwaiz Umar (son of Late Mirwaiz) and Bilal Gani Lone (elder son of Late Lone) until they gather the courage and identify the killers of their respective fathers.

When Lone was killed, his younger son, now a mainstream politician, Sajad Lone  blamed Pakistan’s ISI for the murder. Later in 2011, during a seminar, former Chairman of Hurriyat Conference, Prof. Abdul Qani Bhat publicly admitted that assassination of Mirwaiz and Lone was an ‘insider’s job’, but by and large, the separatist camp has maintained a meaningful silence about the killers. However, they make the noises hinting toward ‘Indian hand’ in the killings, a narrative that makes Pakistan  happy but has no takers, particularly in Kashmir.

Yes, government of India and governments in the state can’t run away from some degree of blame. It is on record that Late Mirwaiz was under threat and had asked the government to provide him security cover. However his request was ignored and therefore the assassins got an easy access to him and gunned him down. Similarly, then government didn’t take seriously the threats to the life of Lone.

The very fact that both the leaders, before their violent deaths had felt threatened and insecure and had approached to the governments of the time for security indicates one thing – loudly and clearly. The threat was not from the government. So claims of ‘Indian hand’ in murders fall flat.

The two leaders represented genuine voice of Kashmir. The two leaders were statesmen like. The two leaders were courageous enough to stand ground against the most popular and tallest leader of Kashmir, late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah for their political beliefs.

How ironic it is that present Mirwaiz, Molvi Umar Farooq, even after nearly three decades, is silent about his father’s murderers. Not only that, he has been, in a way, endorsing the ‘Indian hand’ narrative. Every year he appeals people to observe ‘haft-e-shahadat’ (martyrdom week) to commemorate the death anniversary of his father and the anniversary of his colleague in Hurriyat, Bilal Lone’s father but never ever dares to say publicly who killed the duo.

With Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq’s murder, a new word was deliberately introduced into Kashmir vocabulary and that was ‘unidentified gunmen’ to hide the real identity of killers. It was 1990, the beginning of militancy in Kashmir and in coming days these ‘unidentified gunmen’ were to wreak havoc in Kashmir killing political leaders, intellectuals, journalists and religious leaders. And no one ever dared to identify those ‘unidentified killers’. Most recently, May, 2018 veteran journalist Syed Shujat Bukhari too fell to the bullets of these ‘unidentified’ killers and nobody dared to identify those killers.

Coming back to Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone’s killings, both fell to the bullets of militants and the militants did so, undoubtedly, on the directions of their handlers. Everyone in Kashmir knows the reality but no one speaks out. And they are not to be blamed for not speaking out. When powerful leaders like present Mirwaiz maintain a ‘strategic’ silence over the killings, why should ordinary people risk their lives?

According to Radio Pakistan, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) General Secretary Molvi Bashir Ahmed has appealed to the people to observe complete shutdown on the forthcoming Friday (May 21) to commemorate the martyrdom anniversaries of prominent martyred Hurriyat leaders, Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone as well as the martyrs of Hawal.

Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt, an Urdu daily in Pakistan flags in its report dated May 19: “JK Salvation Movement and Voice of Victims have paid rich tributes to Kashmiri martyrs Maulana Muhammad Farooq, Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone and Hawal martyrs on their martyrdom anniversary and said that their sacrifices will not go in vain….. On the occasion, Qadeer Dar and Rouf Ahmad Khan paid rich tributes to slain leaders and pledged to carry their mission till its logical end.”

Thus, more and more media outlets and Urdu press across the border tend to highlight the 16th martyrdom anniversary of Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone. But none of these media outlets would tell the common people in Jammu & Kashmir about the real culprits who crushed down every voice of reason in the valley. In 2011, almost two decades after the assassination of the Mirwaiz, a prominent Hurriyat leader, Abdul Ghani Bhatt, admitted that the killing of many Kashmiri leaders, including the Mirwaiz, Abdul Ghani Lone, his own brother and Professor Wani was the handiwork of terrorists. “Lone sahib, Mirwaiz Farooq and Prof. Wani were not killed by the army or the police. They were targeted by our own people. The story is a long one, but we have, to tell the truth,” he said. (www.newageislam.com)

Instead of observing ‘Hafta-e-shahadat’, the best tributes to both would have been naming and shaming of their killers. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq would do a great good to the people of Kashmir if he identifies the killers of his father and calls a spade a spade. This one step from him would erase the term ‘unidentified gunmen’ from Kashmir’s vocabulary once for all and would save lives of so many people.

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