#Remembrance : Maqbool Bhatt and Afzal Guru

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The month of massacres is over. January has passed with remembrances of numerous massacres perpetrated by the “Republic” of India, and before them the Dogra regime, in different years right from the insurgent 1990s. Come February and we have memories again. Memories of two Kashmiris executed to satisfy the “collective conscience” of Indian society. Memories of two other Kashmiri souls sent packing off from this world by a despotic state. Memories of two men who hanged their necks higher than the Indian democracy rather than bow before it. Memories of two victims of a fallible and farcical judicial system. And above all, memories of two sacrifices which aroused generations of Kashmiris towards the path of independence.

There’s an uncanny similarity between the two persons as to how their revolutionary careers shaped up and how they ended up being victims of the so-called “largest democracy” in the world. Maqbool Bhatt and Afzal Guru, both crossed the border infuriated by Indian atrocities in Kashmir and incited by the love for their land. Both were disillusioned by the exaggeration of Pakistan’s perpetual support to the cause of Kashmir freedom. Whereas Maqbool Bhatt was put to death for conspiring against the Indian state, which if alternatively put up, he was fighting for the liberation of his occupied homeland, Afzal Guru was framed and dragged into the dark world of murky state power even when he had denounced violence as a means and chosen to live a simple and peaceful life.

Maqbool Bhatt, popularly known as Baba E Qoum, was a resident of Trehgam village in district Kupwara. The ordeals of Kashmiris moved him from a young age.. He faced arrests on both of the sides of LoC on the charges of being an “agent” for the other nation. This ambiguous identity lead him to forge an independent identity for his people and thus laid the foundation of armed struggle in Kashmir. The special POTA court cognitively upheld his death sentence and finally Maqbool Bhatt was sent to gallows on February 11, 1984 with public opinion considering his execution as a revenge for killing of Ravindra Mahatre, an Indian diplomat in England.

Afzal Guru, a resident of Doabgah village in Sopore, was an MBBS turned trained/surrendered militant who clamoured for livelihood out of pharmaceutical industry. That the Delhi Special Police Cell extracted forced confession from him, regarding the Parliamentary attacks of 2001, has been testified by the recent accusations of fabricated arrests against the unit. His trysts against the criminal charge of an attack he never knew of and against the trial process itself, ended on February 9, 2013 after rejection of his wife’s mercy plea by the President. SAR Geelani, a co-accused in the case who was later acquitted, rightly remarked that Afzal Guru was made a scapegoat in a case the state itself had no clue of.

The executions were not the end of it. The Indian state refused to provide the mortal remains and belongings of both the martyrs to their relatives on the pretext of possible demonstrations in Kashmir. The state did not even provide the families with a last meeting with their heroes. They were kept in dark about the exact date of hanging. This despotic behaviour of India made them the only such cases after the Lahore Conspiracy Case where Bhagat Singh and his comrades were hanged and their bodies destroyed by British government. By doing so, India implemented this British policy vis-a-vis Kashmir and proved that it is the hereditary offspring of a colonial empire.

In both of these executions there is an important connection with the Abdullah family. History will never, for sure, forgive the family for inflicting much pain on Kashmiri people. It was Farooq Abdullah, the incapable doctor-turned-politician, who consented to the hanging of Maqbool Bhatt in 1984. Years down the lane his well-qualified son, “young” and “suave”, was taken in confidence when Afzal Guru was sent to gallows. As a preparatory measure, the youngest Gupkar Czar enforced strict curfew across the valley and also ensured internet blockade. With the hanging of these two men, the centre’s proxy in Kashmir played it’s part willfully, choking people’s voices and hampering their movement. Let the Czars of Kashmir endure the fate of their crimes.

Nonetheless, both Maqbool Bhatt and Afzal Guru have achieved an iconic status in Kashmir where everything related to them is a valuable treasure. Maqbool Bhatt’s mother still remains tagged “mother of the movement”. Afzal Guru’s son passed the recent board exams successfully. Sudden ecstasy filled up the valley so much that people forgot the toppers and bestowed praises upon the young boy. There are empty graves in Mazaar E Shuhadaa, the martyrs graveyard, waiting anxiously for their mortal remains to be buried beneath the land they loved.

The cases of Maqbool Bhatt and Afzal Guru stand out for the simple reason that their execution was influenced by public opinion of the largest democracy in the world. They say the trial process of Afzal Guru was unfair. But truth be told, there was at least a shabby process in his case. Else the Indian state kills and disappears Kashmiris at will without the families knowing their whereabouts. There have been more than 8000 such cases in Kashmir till date.

How did the families suffer and cope up with the loss of their dear ones is beyond imagination. Like Afzal Guru’s wife who sold her jewellery and his scooter to try and secure her husband’s release. Where we succeeded is remembering them for two days every year. And observing hartals on these two days. Where we failed is inheriting what they actually stood for. And owning Maqbool Bhatt, hypocritically, as recently as 2000s.

Every year, these days in February, we are reminded of two persons whose dead bodies scared a mighty military state. They scared the state when alive. They continue to do so after death. They were jailed when alive. They are imprisoned in death too. Every year these days, two empty graves in Srinagar crave for the mortal remains of these two martyrs. The wait continues…

The Massacres by a Republic in Kashmir

January 5, 1993. Sopore massacre. BSF units go berserk in the apple town of Sopore in district Baramulla after armed rebels had killed one of their men and thus ended up killing 55 Kashmiri civilians. The damage was exacerbated when 600 houses were burnt by the BSF personnel. People were crammed into shops and buses, fired upon and then the structures set ablaze.

January 21, 1990. Gawkadal massacre. CRPF, under the instructions of DySP Allah Baksh, resort to indiscriminate firing over protestors. 100 – 280 unarmed civilians were killed. BBC said 77 whileas authorities put the number at 28.
       
January 25, 1990. Handwara massacre. BSF go berserk and kill 26 civilians in Handwara town of district Kupwara.

January 27, 1994. Kupwara massacre by 15 Punjab Sikh Regiment at 10:40 am. 27 people were killed. The market was gutted too. Those killed included even policemen. 38 were injured. The massacre was a collective punishment for boycotting Republic Day functions.

In addition to the above mentioned large scale massacres of civil Kashmiris, many incidents have occurred in the month of January in Indian-occupied Kashmir. On January 8 in the year 1990, five persons were killed at Noorpora in the town of Sopore. On January 12, 1992, two dead bodies were handed over to people by forces in Braipora, Handwara, following which three more persons were arrested and killed in custody some days later. On January 30, 1990, armymen killed an entire family travelling in their personal car at Palhalan in  Sopore town. The flesh of the children was stuck to the car’s interiors while their toys lay in blood.

January seems to be a month of special liking for the Indian “security forces” who turn predators on prowl for human blood in Kashmir. The phenomenon is not entirely new. Back in 1932, on 21st January, the Dogra forces had rolled over people at Rajouri. Under the command of DySP Tirath Singh Wadhar, the forces fired on worshippers on the festive day of Eid. The resulting bloodbath had 25 of them motionless. The present stationed troops in Jammu and Kashmir, 6 lakh to be precise, in the name of securing India’s territorial integrity, have inherited these massacring genes from their preceding gun-wielding monsters.

It comes as a surprise though, to political humans, that the state, which has orchestrated such major massacres in a picturesque valley, celebrates its sanctimonious national holiday in the same month. On 26th of January in the year 1950, the “secular”, “democratic”, “socialist” and “republic” constitution of India came into effect. A matter of celebration, indeed it is, for every state in the world. India is “secular”. Remember the destruction of Babri Masjid by Hindutva fanatics. Or more recently google how Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched for possessing beef in his refrigerator. India is “democratic” too, given the fact that justice, equality and liberty are studied in textbooks right from kindergarten classes. India is “socialist” as well. Observe how the state is waging a war against it’s own people to dispossess them of their lands and handover the same to meaty corporatists. India is a “republic”. Sample the rise of a tea-selling kar sevak to the country’s topmost administrative position despite spearheading a Muslim mass pogrom. The party with 31% vote share rules rest of the 69% voting population. Hail democracy ! What is missing from the “holy book” is an antonym for the term “casteist”. It would have gone well with present scenarios in the country.

But how does India bring the event on, in Kashmir ? First. Right from the onset of the month of January, uniformed men, with that cannibalistic weapon of theirs, man roads and alleys in nook and corner of Kashmir. Identity Cards, attested to by India, become more life-saving than other vital organs of human body. If you are lame or blind or deaf by default but have no ID card to prove your “identity” in your own land, then only miracles can divert your destination from a notorious torture camp. Frisking and checking form new curries on the menu list. Strip-searches find their way into the harassment manual. It was some years ago, when a friend was asked to take off his shirt and sweater and reduced to his undershirt in one of the main towns of the valley. Arrests on mere suspicion occur with much more frequency.

On the day itself, the scene in Kashmir is that of a zoo where animals are caged and their movement limited to interiors. And why are we not animals ? We have been butchered, tortured, raped, humiliated and our political rights violated. We don’t have the right to speak and if we do, there are no ears to hear us. More to it, human rights in Kashmir has been a beautiful phrase that has suffixed organisations those who work for them. People are reduced to inertial organisms in their own homes while the stooges of India in Kashmir make sure to hoist the tricolour in heavily protected grounds. To falsely attain legitimacy for such unpopular actions, the local collaborative politicians pay their audience for chanting a few slogans. The police and armymen are, as obvious, salaried to demonstrate their skills and power for the prestige of their employer.

In the capital of world’s largest “democracy”, fighter jets shall zoom in the air under blue skies. Latest additions to the weaponry shall be unveiled, in front of a cartooned guest, probably to send a message of increasing destructive capabilities to the outer world. Rhythmic foot-tapping soldiers shall salute their premiers. They shall test themselves in front of their leaders essentially to depict how they are going to act while confronted with an actual situation. Far from the national capital of India, in a valley held forcibly, India’s army has been putting all theories into practice to eradicate a population that is hellbent upon forcing them out. Consequently they have ended up perpetrating a large number of massacres in the valley that too in the same month in which they dance the dirty dance of democracy.

Just a few days before, on the anniversary of Gawkadal massacre on 21st January, people paid rich tributes to the civilians who faced bullets of armymen on that black day in 1990. The brutalities of armed forces on that day even angered the J&K policemen who bundled the dead bodies into a police van. Blood out-amounted the water flowing beneath the bridge, the Bridge of No Return. That day, Rouf Wani, a 24 year old, thronged to the street on seeing armymen harassing protesting women. When the forces resorted to indiscriminate firing, Rouf Wani acted, and his action remains imprinted in the hearts of Kashmiris and books of history. He held the LMG towards his chest until it emptied 32 bullets in him. This was not a once-in-a-blue-moon incident. Irfan Wani, a 16 year old teen, did the same and received 18 bullets in all. Decades down the lane, people have been dying, bullets have been utilised but neither has India given up on Kashmir nor has Kashmir given into India.

On India’s Republic Day, we shall hear Jumlas from Narendra Modi. We shall hear his rhetorical and controvertible claims on how India is rapidly evolving as the world’s largest economy. Nobody expects him to speak against his party ideologues who lynched Mohammad Akhlaq or abetted the suicide of Dalit student Rohit Vemula.

As we speak of the contrasting conceptions in the Indian capital and an Indian colony, International Monetary Fund or World Bank may have come up with a new prediction regarding India’s economic growth. Modi will have a new thing to brag about. His kar sevaks must be singling out their next target. Modi will talk of India being a welfare state. Little does he ponder that the welfare of his state flows through barrel of the guns of his forces.

Modi will praise democracy in India, in his well-written speeches. But the world knows how India has been clamping down on dissenters. How Muslims are being forced to prove their nationalism. How “seditious” people are being told to flee to Pakistan. How writers, actors and other artists are returning their prestigious awards in protest against the idea of an intolerant India. Modi will not speak of this. Newsrooms will not carry such analysis.

Beyond the malfunctioning within Indian state, the muzzling of voices in Kashmir is one thing that will go, and has gone, unheard and unsaid in India. Over a caged Kashmir, will India celebrate it’s Republic Day.

Happy Republic Day, India.

Rest in Peace.

This article featured on Raiot. View here.

#GawkadalMassacre

The bridge is tagged as the Bridge of No Return for explicable reasons. Travelling to and fro between home and university the sumo service passes over this bridge daily. Almost everyday, when our vehicle reaches the bridge, not a long one, it foregrounds tragic memories from the past. Memories of a day when blood out-amounted water beneath the bridge.

The sky hasn’t changed much. Water remains the same. The bridge remains the same albeit with tar coal laid upon the blood that washed it. The surroundings have changed a bit in terms of infrastructure. However, if one is purely acquainted with the incidents of our oppressed past, it will not take a long time to transfer oneself to the events that happened on that day. 21st January 1990 it was. A few days after Jagmohan was appointed Governor of the state. The Assembly was dissolved, Farooq Abdullah resigned and state was put under Governor’s rule. What Jagmohan did with much ease was to facilitate the exodus of Pandits from the valley using many dirty tactics. 24 hours after Jagmohan spoke of the card of peace slipping from his hands, the valley endured the most brutal of massacres in its entire history.

Just as a reminder – survivors put the number of dead in that indiscriminate firing at 280, government says 28 while the popular figure lies somewhere at 55. One name stands out from the list of martyrs – Rouf Wani. The 21 ( or 24 ) year old, on seeing women being harassed, thronged to the street and held the LMG towards his chest. He took 32 bullets in all. He laid his life to save at least 31 of them. Irfan Bhat – the youngest martyr that day, was 16 years old, took 18 bullets to his chest in a similar manner. More than two decades down the lane, I wonder how do we react and reply on such occasions. Whenever a protest ensues, parents push us back inside so that death doesn’t come near us. We crowd out social platforms to tweet the sacrifices of those on ground. We don’t seem to care about what beseiges the families of those lay their lives for Kashmir.

Victimhood has taken a toll on us. We have been due victims of this lengthy occupation of our valley. The world bears witness to what we have suffered. Victimhood becomes futile when it deters us from necessary action. It would be beneficial for us if we say goodbye to Haaye Haaye and Waaye Waaye type of reactions and instead vilify our sacrifices. A friend talked of garlanding Gawkadal with flowers to celebrate the martyrdom instead of shutting down and signing off to homes, which to me is a plausible idea. We celebrate martyrs because they continue to live in their death whereas the oppressors are buried in the dark annals of history. Hussain of Karbala has outlived his killers. We shall outlive our oprressors too.

The survivor’s account narrates how policemen seethed with anger on seeing the large number of dead bodies but were driven helpless by the raging CRPF personnel. This depicts the sad state of affairs of police in the valley and how it is India that rules the roost in Kashmir. Police is just a pawn to be used in the larger game. How good it would have been if the Kashmiri population employed in police department understood that. Few years ago, a neighbour police constable was beaten to pulp by CRPF men at Khudwani Kulgam, the reason being that he stopped them from firing at stonepelting protestors. The police is powerless vis-à-vis India but poweful vis-à-vis unarmed Kashmiri people. Where local armed personnel sides with the occupier from a foreign land, Kashmir is that place. Otherwise there have been countless instances of coup d’etats orchestrated by own armies of a state. And also many examples of armymen revolting against their masters if and when they order them to do any wrong. This happens, neither in India nor in Kashmir.

Acquainting ourselves with our tormented past is the way forward. However the reaction should be a conscious and positive one. Rather being limited to grieving on the sufferings, which follow obviously, we need to react strongly and effectively. We need to take action to reform our way forward while remembering our past. This may be whataboutery for some. But as they say, forgetting is a luxury the oppressed can’t afford.

That day Rouf was a Wani. Today Rouf is a Dar. That day Irfan was a Bhat. Today Irfan is a Khan. The surname hasn’t mattered. The identity that denotes Kashmiri is being killed everyday in the nook and corner of Kashmir.

We got to resolve and retaliate.
We got to realise and react.
We got to remember and resist.

Long Live Kashmir

Of Occupation and Resistance : Response

This is in response to the article written by Dr Sadaf Munshi ( read here ) in the daily Rising Kashmir on 11th of December 2015 where the writer has enumerated certain factors responsible for the failure of freedom struggle in Kashmir. The article has been briefly dealt with in the following writeup.

Let me begin by saying that the writer’s terminology is grievously wrong. She uses the word “separatist” frequently throughout her piece. The term is misleading. And actually consenting. The term seeks to imply that Kashmir is a part of India and people here want to separate from India. I don’t want to delve into historical details to prove that India has been holding Kashmir on the basis of a dubious accession agreement and false promises which had been mouthed by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru himself. Considering the resistance movement separatism is erratic on the part of writer here. This perception gives rise to a consent in retrospection. That Kashmir was a part of India and now the people here are demanding to step aside from the country. This places our movement on same lines as Khalistani and other secessionist movements of India who are a de facto part of the Union and want free states for themselves. Consenting to such an ideology is actually handing our minds to the occupiers and letting them dictate our thought. So, at the very outset, we are not helping the “intellectual progress” of our society here.

The writer shares her ideas by saying that religion has dominated our resistance movement. She is not helping her ideas by negating some basic facts. Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim valley. Over the years of colonial subjugation, which dates back to when Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras ruled Kashmir, the main victims of subjugation have been Muslims. This point can be agreed upon. If taxation policies were repressive, Muslim weavers, who worked at the karkhanas of Pandit community, were forced to migrate en masse. They were compelled to cut down their thumbs when they were alienated from their own products and received negligible remuneration for their work. Shalbafs revolt of 1865 should serve as a prime example. If forced labour (begar) was a tyrannical phenomenon, Muslims were the main sufferers who carried Pandits on their backs to transport them across mountains. During Dogra rule, the manual labourer class mainly consisted of Muslims. Muslims were tailors, barbers and cobblers while Pandits enjoyed high posts in the state administration. What happened post independence of India is well known too. Our parental generation serve testimony to the fact that prior to the Pandit migration they dominated our offices. Now, if Muslims, the oppressed lot, revolts against the incumbent rule and demand their rights, the whole movement gets branded as “Islamisation”. This tagging helps none but the occupier. They try to portray our struggle for self-determination as “religious fanaticism” because it helps them to propagate lies that Kashmir is an issue of religious fundamentalism. We can’t afford to give in to such allegations. Religious freedom is a modern day darling. We are free to practice what we want. There is no compulsion whatsoever. If Geelani is an orthodox Muslim, why should that be a problem. And if the writer anyhow feels that the movement is communal, why do Sikhs of Kashmir tend to support freedom struggle time and again. Even the Khalistani movement has. If we look at recent news items, we shall find Sikhs paying tributes to a martyred rebel in Tral. That suffices as an answer, maybe.

The writer talks of women being sidelined. Yes, being a largely Muslim valley, women did not venture into open areas, which however is a myth now with more and more female participation in the movement, but that does not mean they had no role to play with. Playing the card of feminism does no good here. But truth be told, our women have suffered irredeemable losses. They have resurrected from ashes of oppression to keep the sentiment alive. When rape is used as a weapon of war, the victims become direct rebels. We have stories from the countryside where women have directly aided armed rebels. One needs to find them out because such stories hardly make to the news portals because of the amount of risk involved. We have Parveena Ahanger who is now singlehandedly leading the cause of disappeared persons and calming herself along with parents of the latter class. One can sit at their monthly sit-ins in Srinagar’s city centre and observe keenly the women power and participation in Kashmir’s freedom struggle. Therefore, segregating the movement on basis of gender is dangerous. Women are our crowns. We taking the lead in practical terms, though they surpass us in many fields, should not be misconstrued as suppressing women.

The writer further talks of attacking minorities to make them accept our demands. It is genuinely wrong. Yes, during the nineties, Pandits were killed, 650 as mentioned by Sanjay Tickoo in an Al Jazeera report of 2011, but most of the killings were political and not due to communal reasons. The ensuing migration of Pandits, on the basis of fear, was facilitated by none other than the governor Jagmohan. Since then the return of Pandits have been used as a tool of politickling by pro-India political parties. There is no halt from Kashmiris or Kashmiri leadership regarding their return. The resistance leadership (the writer’s separatists) have time and again talked of welcoming Pandits whenever they return. But they don’t. Security is an euphemism. They are better off enjoying their life outside Kashmir where they have latched upon immense privileges the government of India has engrained for them. Moreover they already have sold most of their property in Kashmir which goes on to show their false commitment towards returning to their homeland while using the same to garner sympathetic statements and stoke up communal problems.

An irony in the article appears when the writer dismisses hartals as an exhaustive and fatigued mode of resistance and then later goes on to describe 2008 as a potential turning point in Kashmir’s history. Contradicting own self there. Remember hartals in 2008 actually stalled the move of government to grant hundreds of kanals of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. Quite an achievement there. And then, in 2010, nobody can say that the consecutive shutdowns and protests went astray. India actually got nightmares during the entire period. Of course, the state resorted to more force and learnt many new techniques to control the rapidly rising resistance. Banning cellular services and imposing military curfews were notable additions to the colonial dictionary of Indian occupation. We have seen, off late, people bashing the methodology of hartals and shutdowns. Fair enough, one understands they harm our daily earning classes. But why not suggest an alternative before castigating the prevalent methods. Rather than displacing, why not replace it with a better one. Plus, the state has left no room for us to employ any other means to resist. “Roti”, “Kapda”, “Makaan”, water, electricity and roads are essential to live a decent life. But what about the right to life itself. Here we have to agree that the latter is far more important than amenities that the state always fails to provide us.

The writer talks of absence of creative and artistic activities during our struggle. Creativity stems from young and raw minds. How come one expects us to be creative and artistic when India has employed a strategy of “kill them when they are young”. We lost more than 120 youth in 2010 alone. They were young. They were school-going. They were certainly creative. They could have been our artists. But the state snatched their lives before their art was to be displayed. Rap music, graffiti and cartooning are emerging. Despite all the state prohibiting, creativity in resistance and otherwise is developing gradually. It shall take it’s time but the future is hopefully promising.

The writer finally has stopped on corruption being the real enemy of Kashmir at present. Bizarre as it may sound, but it is like saying : Kashmir can never be free because corruption is common, Kashmir can never be free because traffic jams occur frequently, Kashmir can never be free because people here lie often, bla bla. How absurd ! As if free Kashmir will have zero corruption and people will turn saints overnight. Social values have to be bettered. But how can social waywardness be a justification of any occupation. It is like legitimizing the age-old concept of “white man’s burden” where European imperialist countries annexed poorer countries in order to “civilize” them. Corruption is an evil. But to authenticate it as a legitimate factor for Indian occupation of Kashmir sounds illogical. Other than heavy militarization, the reason why Indian occupation is successful in Kashmir is the establishment of collaborative institutions where the employees are required to ooze loyalty to the state more necessarily than discharging their daily duties. In such institutions, corruption becomes integral. Therefore, corruption has to be eradicated from the society but occupation has to be eradicated first on priority basis.

The writer doesn’t help her own intellectual fandom by calling Geelani’s idea as “handicapped”. Everyone has a right to disagree but brushing aside other’s views, especially of a person who is inarguably the tallest leader in the valley, is doing injustice to the idea of free intellectual discourses itself.

The lack of unity among profreedom leadership is a matter of concern. But when intellectual progress of a society is underway, disagreements are bound to emerge. Disagreements lead to disunity and thus factionalism. This is one area where we need to focus our energies on. Rest, our leaders are open to criticism and analysis based on rationality. However, if a person, before having honey, says that it has no sweetness, then it can be said that the person is surely behaving irrationally. To predict the failure of a movement even before it actually has started is irrational too. Ups and downs are part of processes in life. Failures don’t deter strong people but make them more stronger. The “ding-dong battle” will continue. Till we are free.

CCD : Capitalist Corner in a Poor Man’s University

Café Coffee Day, CCD, India’s largest organized retail café chain has done a marvelous job of creating a distinct brand identity for itself among the elites. CCD was embattled at the fledgling young, or the young at heart, and was campaigned for as an “everyday keep company” that was essentially about good coffee and affordable fun, which actually is further from the truth. Now the predominant question, that has been in the agitated minds for quite a long time now, is ‘what is CCD doing inside a university in a valley, a valley whose average per capita income is less than the cost of an Apple IPhone’ ? How does CCD continue to stay despite the authority realising its annoying complications ?

No doubt it’s a good place to be in but not everybody’s cup of coffee to have. The furniture, air conditioners-cum-heaters, immoderate music, LCD’s, uniformed waiters and all elements of a store’s interior such as right color shades, dark lighting, cappuccino fragrance, are considered crucial in enhancing customer’s experience at the café. Music playing adds to the youthful spirit of fun and enjoyment, making the environment informal, playful and peppy.

Now who goes inside ? If one goes to see it as a part of research, s/he will find some faces which once seen can be remembered forever. Why ? Because those are the only faces who go to CCD on a regular basis. These faces are the highest make-up of elitist capitalism. It has become such a nuisance that this area is always surrounded by luxury cars, aviator-shaded boys and IPhone-wielding girls. The beginnings of the changing consumption habits, and the spread of café culture has gone from bad to worse by demeaning most of the students in the university who come from poorer families.

CCD in Kashmir University is one of the structures that categorically does demarcate students on the basis of economic standing which is absurdly dangerous. University has failed to teach students the central difference between ‘basic requirements of living’ and ‘creating desires’. A vast majority, that is unable to afford even the poorly subsidized cafeteria and a tiny minority who ride drumming bikes and drive SUV cars, are differentiated effectively from one another. Some students who used to go cafeteria for some beverages and snacks don’t go now because the same well-heeled people give an eighty or hundred rupees tip to the waiters despite their salary. It miserably encourages exploitation. One wonders why they should be given a tip when they are paid. Hundred rupees make a poor student’s whole party otherwise. These students hang back to go indoors, so not to feel any embarrassment after having faced this ‘tip’ crisis.

Despite most of the students not being able to dine in CCD, the structure still exists. Why ? Probably this tiny status-conscious minority feels it below their worth to drink or eat by a roadside tea-stall which exists at many places in the university. So, institutionally, the administration is segregating students and prevents crisscross relations to develop, just because students happen to belong to different stratas of the society –social, economic as well as regional. And one wonders who brought the CCD into the university in first place, a university which really is not a poor man’s adventure. A university is a sacred institution where equality supposedly becomes the primary concern.

Where are other students ? If a student from weaker background is asked to go to CCD for a cup coffee s/he feels accursed & ashamed. And, this shame is a false consciousness created by the CCD people. A friend reminded me of the tag line of café chain’s advertisements, “A Lot Can Happen over a Coffee”. But nothing happens over a coffee except for emptying pockets for just an idea of taste which never exists. To be honest, the cheapest eatable item on CCD menu is more than the bus fare of a student who comes to the university from outskirts of Srinagar city. A student explained how he had been to CCD once but left immediately without having a cup of coffee after having seen the Mughal Darbar-esque ‘prices’. “The prices were so high that I couldn’t even sat and for a cup of coffee I had to think of leaving my classes for one day and earn it”, he said. Meanwhile a scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University who had come to KU once for some research told us that there should have been a collective ardent protest against the CCD for being built inside the university. “It divides students more miserably than it connects them to each other”, he said.

Thus, a university, which caters to a diverse chunk of students from different corners of the state, has to essentially mete out equal treatment to them, be it in the class rooms or in the eating places. To achieve egalitarianism while dealing with diversified classes is the goal a university has to strive for. The sense of equality and humanity has to be nurtured to all intents and purposes or else external factors will put student’s integrity in real danger. University immediately needs to regain the abandoned hope of these dispossessed students to get them into the mainstream. If the students still feel alienated from their fellow mates, then the aim of a university to foster inter-community relations seems fallible.

The manpower associated with the CCD has a gory tale to tell as well. The waiters are required to present an ever-smiling face to sell their boss’ coffee. They earn a paltry sum of money for which their service is exploited. They earn as much as is not enough for them to buy even their own coffee. This is what Karl Marx would term as “alienation of labor” when the producers of a product are not able to afford their own product in the market. The work they do so honestly becomes alien. Their work is not taken in spirit. They are so much estranged that they become the slave of their own labor. The only profiteers in such a business venture are the hungry owners who exploit labor to exhort capital from the wealthy customers.

The cover of menu in CCD reads: “Sit down forever”. Yes, when blood suckers suck, one sits forever, when one’s pocket is emptied, s/he sits forever. It’s a good place to sit. Only that it charges to sit there.

Harun Lone
Rouf Dar

The Encounter That Saw It All : A Firsthand Report

Every occupied nation undergoes different phases in a liberation movement. Kashmir, which became the hotbed of armed militancy in 1990s, is yet again amidst a refreshed phase of armed militancy which has gripped the entire valley. The rise of a teen commander Burhan Wani, from the ashes of 2010 Ragda Ragda, has lent a new direction and the much-needed element of fearlessness among armed rebels. Consequently, people have found a reignited love for the rebels and a sea of people is always present to bid adiós to any martyred rebel. This was a common phenomenon in the 1990s which has found resurrection again in Kashmir.

28th October. Around 5 pm. Khandipora. The village was cordoned off and no movement allowed to and fro, making it second crackdown of the village within a single week, with the CO admitting presence of thousands of soldiers in the previous one. Cordons and crackdowns are again a regular affair nowadays. The surrounding villages, including mine, were also patrolled simultaneously. People signed off to their homes earlier and a friend in my village watched how armymen on the roads thrashed a car driver because his speedy car managed to stop at a distance. That was at 11 pm in the night. Everybody had predicted something to happen. Over the years, we have learnt to decipher situations by just looking at the mood of armymen and tonight they seemed in pursuit of something.

29th October. 2 am. Midnight. A grenade-like heavy shot. Soon followed by firing which continued for less than an hour. I was unknowingly out of my bed, so must have been others. Suspense consumed other part of the night. Once dawn prayers were over, people assembled on roads, and news came in that one rebel had been martyred. Soon, WhatsApp groups posted pictures of Abu Qasim, the noted LeT Commander, who had recently eliminated J&K Police’s top counter-insurgent operative Altaf Laptop, to have been martyred in the nightly encounter. Army spokesperson had already termed it as a huge victory. Scrolling down the web pages, The Times of India, Indian Express, India Today had already put up a happy headline of army’s most wanted man killed in an encounter. While some reported the encounter to have happened at Bandipora, others wrote Khudpora.

11 am. The cordon was still in place and searches going on. More than 16 hours of the people being crammed up in their homes had passed. And it was obviously irritating. Meanwhile two crowds assembled on two diagonally opposite sides of the village. One had come from Qaimoh and as far as Pulwama, the other from adjoining villages. People breaking cordons, using protests, risking their lives are among the peculiarities of current phase of armed militancy, something which didn’t happen before. The crowd from Qaimoh broke inside the cordon, shouting profreedom slogans. Army and police resorted to aerial firing which failed to deter people and eventually the former had to evacuate the place. It is easier to read this but much difficult to actually imagine people breaking into an encounter site.

No sooner had the cordon been destroyed, a sea of people arrived on the scene. A man happened to mouth some bad words regarding the martyr, he was immediately branded a “traitor” and severely thrashed. When emotions dominate minds, you don’t expect people to act rationally. As a result, he was let off almost quarter-dead. It was astonishing to hear when locals said the martyr is not LeT Commander Abu Qasim but a local boy, Muhammad Yaqoob, who had crossed border at the age of 15 and had returned after a long gap. Why his parents didn’t own him in the first place is a mystery still though locals stuck to their version. Now started the struggle to claim the dead body.

Kashmir is a land where armed rebels are adored and patronised. There is probably no such village whose graveyard doesn’t possess a foreign fighter, mostly from Pakistan. Foreign fighters have been loved as much as the locals. Three crowds, fighting for a common cause, stood outside the Police Station Kulgam viz ; Bugam, Pulwama and Khandipora. This was not a struggle for any bounty on someone’s head. This was the demand for a body, whose dead soul echoed resistance against Indian oppression. For the world, he might have been just another person to fill a patch of earth but for these people, he represented an idea. An idea of refusal to accept any damned occupation. An idea of manifestations that each Kashmiri houses in his heart but may fail to express. And an idea of choosing to die fighting than live a falsely normalised life that is way beyond reality. The body was taken by a huge procession during which exteriors of the district’s CRPF camp were demolished. Barricades just disappeared. Concertina wires flew away. The camp seemed like a desolated place. Paramilitary forces might have shrieked inside. Their weapons were of no match, on this day, to the exploding hearts of people carrying their loved one on their shoulders. After a tough fight, Bugam managed to take him to their village for funeral prayers after which he was to be taken to Khandipora for burial.

4 pm. Bugam. Higher Secondary School ( where PDP MP Nazir Laway’s car was burnt down some months before ). You got to trust me here. I have never seen such an ocean of people ever in my life. The term “crowd” for the people present there would be a misnomer. Unless I visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrimage, I don’t think I can again see such a large association of people. I almost feared a Hajj-like stampede. Yes, the rallies in 2010 Ragda Ragda were of similar proportions and for a moment I wandered back to those days. There was no gender difference. Men outnumbered women, women out-valoured men. There was still ambiguity over the final resting place of the martyr. Pulwama fought with Khandipora saying the slain rebel had spent much time in their district while the latter claimed he was their own. Parents changed their claims on their son a few times, maybe due to the long time period passed since he had eloped home, which made identification difficult. He was Abu Qasim for some, Muhammad Yaqoob for others. The procession left the ground towards village square where the martyr was taken inside Jamia Masjid before a unanimous decision could be arrived at. While there, gunshots were heard and nearly a stampede followed. Army ? Police ? No. It were the rebels. What the hell ! Amidst a funeral procession that was at the prominence of whole of India, rebels appeared on the scene. The motor-borne men fired shots in the air and whisked away. People tried to follow but in vain. Minds froze. Legs hung. Eyes stuck. I had tried to run initially. But when I saw them, my legs refused to move further. I was in awe and shock. This was a common phenomenon in 1990s and even 2000s when rebels would pay salute to their martyred comrades but in 2015, this was a first.

The mosque loudspeaker announced that the martyr would be taken to Khandipora for burial. People boarded whichever vehicle they found. There was no fare to be paid. There was no overloading problem today. The announcement proved a hoax when people of Bugam buried him inside their graveyard once majority of people had left for Khandipora. When we returned at dusk, people from Khandipora marched again to Bugam along with the martyr’s supposed mother and two sisters who had identified him. His mother is even reported to have said that he had met her a day before. A consensual decision was to be arrived on the next day.

30 October. 1 pm. Bugam. People from Khandipora and adjoining villages again marched to Bugam, and while the locals were busy in Friday prayers, the former tried to exhume the martyr by themselves. This infuriated the local community and a fight broke out. Soon, two groups fought over custody of the martyr’s body. A meeting between local committees ensued in which it was decided to hand over the body to his worthy parents. Police forces arrived and resorted to shelling and prevented exhumation. The process is now scheduled for 31st October.

The identification of the slain rebel by his parents have strictly punctured “foreign militant” theory of police. But then, LeT’s tributes to the slain commander proved the other version. Also, people from Pulwama claimed he had spent a lot of time amongst them, so they had an inherent right over his body. This, again, proved that the rebel was Abu Qasim. However, looking at all the versions regarding identification, it seems the only plausible version is that Yaqoob Hajam and Abu Qasim are two identities of the same man. He had left home in 1991, spent more than a decade across LoC, returned and operated under nome de guerre of Abu Qasim in order to save his family from army oppression, which is a common feature with rebels’ families in Kashmir . Reportedly, his parents had even offered funeral prayers in absentia before many years after hearing news that their son had been killed somewhere on the border.

Reportedly when he returned to the place of his birth, for what proved to be the last time, he was duped by his own accomplice. “Informer” is not a new identity in Kashmir. The success of counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir is vastly dependent upon the existence of black sheep within our own community who don’t batter an eyelid while helping an alien force to shoot their own brethren down. Without this delicate network of local informers, I doubt India could ever have succeeded in suppressing profreedom activities in the valley.

Abu Qasim lived in Pakistan and also in Kashmir and still didn’t meet his parents. He managed to hoodwink the armed forces very cleverly. In operating under a masked identity, his life was set up for a different character which he played to much success. His life portrayed like that of a suspense thriller. He must have been a resilient person torn between the identities of Abu Qasim and Yaqoob Hajam, between love for his family and love for his country. In being the former, he did justice to the cause he stood for and hit the enemy as hard as possible. In being the latter, his martyrdom revealed how he suppressed his natural affectionate tendencies towards his family, thus saving them from predictable suffering thereby puncturing Indian claims that militancy in Kashmir is entirely a Pakistan-stoked phenomenon. Just when his emotions had taken over, he decided to visit his family. He did but for the last time. He returned from where he had left. He willingly blended himself with the soil he was made of. He was a true son of the soil.

~R

Studying in the Times of Occupation

It starts early in the morning when schoolchildren line at their bus stops. Anything from a chilling AK-47 to an armored vehicle greets them, Indian military-men gazing at their satchels, their smiles, their uniforms, their conversations. It’s a trend so normalized in Occupied Kashmir that we don’t even notice it. The normalization of violence is fatal. Unless we recognize that something is wrong, we cannot strive to amend it.

In other parts of the world, students normally start their days with a homework evasion plan but in occupied nations, our days start with a judgment. A pronouncement that our bags contain some weapon of mass destruction. The Indian military-men, dispersed throughout the roads and localities scrutinize every student with a ferocious gaze. As if saying that we, the occupied, have no right to educate ourselves. They peer into the school and university buses, all in the name of “security”. Isn’t it common sense that peering at a complete stranger amounts to insecurity. An overwhelming number of educational establishments have been fully or partially occupied by the Indian forces, turning them into Kafkaesque structures.

Coming to our seats of highest learning, the universities, their administrative practices reflect a motive of dehumanizing the student. “No Smoking” or “No Kissing”, the signs we normally see around university campuses, is replaced by the neurotic assumption (signs) of students yielding “Ammunition”. However, when it comes to the personal security of “VVIPs”, they roam around freely with their automatic rifles and enter libraries and classrooms with impunity. Same is the case with most of the infrastructural development that happens in our universities. A classroom or a lab isn’t furnished with necessary equipment unless some “inspecting body” arrives from India to rate the institution on a scale that gets manipulated according to the taste of Wazwaan and packets of almonds. Aren’t our students, student-enough to get a computer or a white-board unless its absence can be damaging to ‘reputation’ of the administration ?

On some occasions, our universities look like military garrisons. They predominantly serve as hosting venues of numerous “state-sponsored” events such as Big Marathon, Police Cricket League etc. During such events, the presence of gun-wielding soldiers is a common sight throughout the campuses. Moreover, the arrival of any guest at the university is preceded by deployment of a contingent of armed forces. Some of our universities are essentially the practical manifestations of Bentham’s panopticon -roughly, a structure which keeps round the clock surveillance over the inmates surrounding it. The panopticon of Kashmir University consists of a Chief Proctor, a Deputy Chief Proctor, 10 Proctors, around 125 J&K policemen and more than 50 watchmen. Think over it. Isn’t it more of a penitentiary than an educational institution?

If you happen to visit Kashmir University someday, don’t be surprised to spot men in khaki uniforms roaming through nooks and corners, their immediate function- keeping a tight vigil on the students’ activities within the institution. They have an autocratic power to intervene in every student activity, even discussions and detain any student from the campus. Remind yourself of the recent Muzamil Farooq case when policemen resorted to teargas shelling and aerial firing to disperse protesting students. The university gates were locked up, additional police called and students inside cracked down. The administration has also been cracking down on politically active students, like the members of Kashmir University Students Union.

The other way how the occupier is dehumanizing  students is by imposing pseudo-intellectuals onto our universities. They dole out readymade crap to students in the name of guest lectures, seminars, conferences and debates. Their lectures are full of colonial narratives, which they present in chiseled language, and are laden with prominent usage of integrative pronouns or phrases like “we” are Indians and “our” national anthem. The free will of students to question is scuffled out by the administration. Even if somebody musters the courage to question, he is suddenly branded a traitor or a trouble-monger. And ‘trouble-mongers’ often have to pay with their academic careers.

Our university students are not deemed capable enough to handle a Students Body or a union. The reasons that the administrators cite range anything from “We have got better things to do”; “The unions get into (resistance) politics” and “They arson the campus”. Regarding the first two, is there any better achievement for a university than producing a politically conscious young man and woman ?

The concern regarding damage to property again derives from a dehumanizing assumption that our students are violent or uncivilized. Whenever, the students express their legitimate dissent, they’re labelled as “immoral trouble-mongers” who “wear jeans” and “roam with boys/girls around the campus”. Why do significant amount of teachers identify themselves with the state rather than the students? Is it an attribute of a true teacher to look-down upon his/her own students only because they are fearless in the face of a brutal military occupier ?

Every student of Kashmir has to think and take a stand against this. We cannot ignore our daily criminalization.

Umar Lateef Misgar & Rouf Dar