By Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam
30 June 2018
The dispute of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a legacy of partition of the Indian subcontinent. It has been an entity of contested claims both by India and Pakistan. The worst sufferers of this dispute have been the inhabitants of the state of J&K. The stakes of India and Pakistan have led to creation of a class that is loyal to their pay masters for different perks and privileges. This class with vested interests keeps the pot of the conflict boiling and do not want it to be resolved anytime soon as they will lose access to unaccountable money and power that they are enjoying by peddling the Kashmir conflict. The conflict surely has become an industry for these vested interests that sabotage every move aimed at resolution of this long pending issue.
Since 1990s when the mass armed insurgency started in J&K, truth has been rendered a casualty. In the midst of blaring propaganda, prevailing anarchy and confusion the truth has became a casualty. The masses were at the receiving end, too naïve to understand factual realities amidst violence and daily killings. Not only the insurgents, combatants, uniformed men became cannon fodder of the insurgency but the opinion makers, social activists, ideologues and politically affiliated people were also targeted indiscriminately. These high profile killings of apparently apolitical people were owned by none of the insurgent groups or state institutions. In most cases the rival parties i.e. insurgents and the state blamed the assassinations on each other. Both of these rivals would pay glorious tributes to the assassinated individuals. Thus in the end the killings would be blamed on unknown gunmen.
The latest casualty of these unknown gunmen in Kashmir is Shujaat Bukhari. Shujaat was a powerful editor of four multi lingual newspapers published from the valley. Further he was a high profile civil society member who was involved in track two diplomatic efforts on Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. Some blame his killing again on these unknown gunmen and point out to his participation in track two efforts that became a reason for his assassination. The police is still investigating the murder and militants have blamed the Indian security agencies for the killing while demanding a probe through an international agency.
Leaving aside the dichotomy and controversy surrounding the death of Shujaat, the masks of these unknown gunmen still remain to be unveiled. The pertinent question has always been avoided and none is ready to engage with the same? Who are these unknown gunmen? During their lives every public person is controversial; some remain shrouded in mystery even after death. But the bravado created around the personalities after their death, makes the controversies and mysteries surrounding their lives, works and engagements go down in oblivion. We have yet to be mature enough to balance every personality according to merits. We have a persistent problem of compartmentalizing people in boxes of right and wrong. We then either condemn them out rightly or paint them as saints and heroes whose loss is always irreparable.
All those people who were vehemently critical of Shujaat during his life were not behind issuing condemnations against his gruesome assassination. This failure to criticize or introspect any personality after death has leaded us to a deadly morass. It has rendered us blind to our faults. For us a person can be with us or against us, there is no middle ground and those who intend to find one are pressurized to join a camp because both India and Pakistan, mainstream and resistance politicians, armed forces and insurgents do not want any neutral voices to emerge strongly as to create a niche among the ‘stake holders’ on Kashmir. Even most of the civil society members are being sponsored by various clandestine hands and promoted to defend and peddle a certain narrative.
Many right wing ideologues and politicians like Lal Singh while warning other journalists to mend their ways described Shujaat as an apologist for insurgents that simply translates to peddle a given narrative and surrender their independence and freedom to report. This is not the case with right wing ideologues only but other politicians and ideologues of different hues also want neutral, saner and independent voices to fall in line. Now coming back to the question of truth, given the previous experience of probes and investigation turns in high profile killings, the real assassins of Shujaat will remain under veils. We have experienced similar results in the killings of Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq, Prof. Mashir ul Haq, Dr Qazi Nisar, Dr Ghulam Qadir Wani, Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani, Dr Farooq Ashai and Dr Guru. Their killers were never brought to the book. But the time has now come to unveil these forces of darkness who do not want the resolution of Kashmir. Whenever the bridges for dialogue and resolution are made they are ready to burn them.
Someone, some cause, some ideology has to take the blame! Police have now declared a Pakistani militant and two Kashmiri militants as murderers, who happen to belong to Lashkar e Toiba (LeT). LeT had already blamed the killing on Indian security agencies. Anyways whosoever was the culprit but the question needs to be probed is what made his assassins pull the trigger? Did the track two diplomatic efforts became a reason for his killing, did his brave reporting against military atrocities on common civilians was a bone of contention for his assassins or was he being witnessed as a double cross by both India and Pakistan and its spy agencies for the reasons best known to them? What percolated down at the much hyped Dubai conference? Who sponsored it, what was the outcome? What prompted Salahuddin, head of United Jihad Council issue a statement against the same? Whose stakes were threatened by the conference? These questions have to be asked and seriously revisited in the common discourse. Otherwise truth that has been a casualty in Kashmir will continue to be so. This status quo on factual realities and truth will continue to add confusion and anarchy to the discourse as Kashmir. In this prevailing anarchy stray bullets will continue to kill and the reasons will continue to evade us.
M.H.A. Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir