SOPORE: Doom and the Demon

MOURNING

IN FIGHTING A DEMON, HAVE WE BECOME DEMONS? JUNAID AZIM MATTU RAISES THE LAMENT

I apologize for this article couldn’t come with the sensationalism that can come only with blurry passport size pictures of the dead - pictures of Arifa and Akhtar, the murdered teenaged sisters of Muslim Peer, Sopore. The one-room-living family of a poor daily wage earner could never afford to have their pictures taken, if not for the memories – as it turned out – one for the papers. Living their invisible lives in Muslim Peer Mohalla, a slum of Sopore, the two sisters who hop-scotched through their miseries, poverty and struggles – as sisters do - have been swatted like flies, snatched from their parents.
We have lost Arifa and Akhtar, like hundreds of our sisters – to the bullets of cowards, to this turmoil and as in this case - everything that has and continues to happen in the name of this movement. A movement that started in 1930s – for the political rights of Kashmiris – one wrongly portrayed to have started in 1990 – has been hijacked by the glorified merchants of doom. People have found their identities in the numerous panoramic graveyards that have gradually replaced the irises and crocuses that dotted our meadows. One fine morning in 1987 – a group of patriotic, brave young men – in pursuit of the romanticism of revolution – decided to cross over to Pakistan, get trained and come back to liberate Kashmir – chase the mighty Indian army back up the Banihal pass. Numbers didn’t matter. If Spartans, in the battle of Thermopylae could do it, why couldn’t Kashmiri militants? And, we tried it – for 10 long years – years that saw gut wrenching betrayals, counter-insurgencies, mercenaries and Ikhwanis too.  Ten years that saw the most brutal forms of repression by the Indian State in Kashmir – crackdowns, tortures, extra-judicial killings and arson.
The proponents of the armed struggle wax eloquence in highlighting how the armed struggle has ‘highlighted’ the Kashmiri cause. In other terms what they are clearly saying – in ways that hypocrites speak in – is this – we have paid 80,000 lives for nothing more than a ten year long awareness and advertising campaign for a political issue that was ironically duly highlighted way back in 1952, in ways few issues are – on a global forum. What did we do from 1952 to 1987? Thirty-five long years?
Our nationalism – our pride in being Kashmiris – our pride in the distinctness of our identity, that of our culture and ethos – all of it has been snatched from us ironically by those who don’t believe in nations and identities – those who set moral codes, selectively condemn killings under compulsion and make their own people starve and wither – for the lack of a political strategy. Those who have fooled us into this delusion - that 300 odd militants can force 700,000 Indian troops out of Kashmir, scrambling and scurrying for their lives. Or those who have fooled us into believing that India will leave Kashmir solely because it is the right, just thing to do – while all along poor, invisible children die as their own children are busy adding to their nest-eggs and 401K accounts in the west. Their own daughters blessed with households, husbands and children – while daughters of poor invisible men – like Arifa and Akhtar are ‘blessed’ with gruesome, unsung deaths on allegations of being “promiscuous”. In fighting a demon, have we become demons? Demons who watched as these sisters were dragged to their end, demons who chose not to mourn, demons who through their silence justified and sanctified these killings?
Our basic instinct has been engineered to give these cowards, these non-State actors an almost automatic benefit of doubt, impulsively blaming crimes committed by allegedly ‘our own’ militants on “agencies” and agent provocateurs, even when all accounts, testimonies and eyewitnesses point at our own men. Our hypocrisy, deliberate blindness and selective morality is less out of fear, more out of ignorance and arrogance – a socio-political complex, a perpetually self-reinforced sense of self pity and victimhood – an aversion to introspection. For what the Indian State has done in Kashmir, it deserves nothing but hostility and rebellion but for what we have done to Kashmir, as Kashmiris, we deserve nothing but wrath, cult-figures, exploitation and political manipulations.   
My love for my people is unconditional, not selective or ideological. To me, every single Kashmiri life is sacrosanct, to be protected from these self righteous foot-soldiers who, as it now appears, are breeding and grouping in some pockets of Kashmir– setting up moral courts, passing judgments for summary executions – age, gender, innocence no bar. This last summer, a popular altruistic trade leader of Sopore was shot dead in the Sopore market-square in broad daylight by militants. The reason to this day remains unknown but if hearsay has to be accounted for, his political leanings were “unacceptable” to the high honorable judges who have given themselves the right to judge and execute people into conformity and compliance, cheered on – not just by radical leaders but also by coffee shop revolutionaries in Srinagar and Delhi, secured by monthly mainstream salaries. 
Two young daughters of Kashmir have been dragged out of their modest home, humiliated and shot dead in cold blood. For the two days following the gruesome murders, Sopore remained normal, silent – choosing not to mourn, attributing justifications for the murder, reverse engineering the crime to righteousness and logic, as expected. Silence is often complicity.  Those who don’t stand up for their own kind, cant stand up for political aspirations, principles and human rights. Arifa and Akhtar are with God, nestled in the safety of His domain – looking at us, pensively – wondering why they deserved to die, why they didn’t deserve a day of authentic, emotional mourning – not a mere shutdown – one compelled by brave voices that have spoken up, unequivocally.
What is to say that these murderers, who continue to be at large with their weapons, will not accuse your sisters and daughters of “promiscuousness”, barge into your homes, drag them out and shoot them dead? What is to say that, at the pace and grotesqueness of these events, Kashmiri women are not looking at a day when they are stoned to death in Bakshi Stadium for mere accusations of impropriety? Who is to tell where Kashmir is headed towards – stuck between the devil and the deep sea, between Indian jackboots on one end and radical lunatics on the other? The oppression let lose on Kashmir and Kashmiris by India has perhaps no match in contemporary history. Demons have also sprung up in Delhi with scorecards of condemnations, yet it is not them but our own demons – demons of complicity that we should be concerned about.
Murder is not acceptable – from teargas shells, CRPF bullets or those of militants – and it shall be condemned in equal terms and tenors. Our eyes are now on Sopore – will Sopore be a surrogate womb for a destructive embryo that will grow up to be Kashmir’s Frankenstein, devouring its people in the name of Azadi? A Frankenstein that will pretend to espouse our cause while spreading tentacles of morbid fundamentalism in the rivulets of our blood. Will ‘Chota London’ become ‘Chota Kabul’? Or will Sopore expunge murderers, hold them accountable and call their bluff?

(Feedback at junaid.msu@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST




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