Debate Room: Have Kashmiris really lost their humanity?

When a Kashmir police officer, Ayub Pandith, was lynched at Nowhatta, Srinagar a few months ago, serious questions were raised about the ethos of Kashmiris. There were people who went to the extent of almost casting all Kashmiris as barbarians who need to be civilized. Interestingly, these questions came from quarters that have never raised a finger at the routine violence Kashmiris suffer at the hands of those who in theory are supposed to be their protectors — the men in uniform. That, though, should not lead us to erroneously endorse or justify what happened with Ayub. It was a murder most foul. It happened because Ayub happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time among the wrong people. To add to it, he probably acted wrongly by firing from his revolver resulting in injuries to three boys. It can also be argued that Ayub’s action was self-defense in a difficult situation. But it enraged an already worked up bunch of people who thought Ayub was an undercover cop out spying on civilians.

In Kashmir, these practices of spying are common and often lead to youth ending up in torture cells and then framed in a cycle of serious cases which consumes their entire life.

In this context of unmitigated State violence, sometimes people like Ayub get caught up in the vicious web of events. Just as Ayub’s killing can’t be rationalised, it too can’t be said that Kashmiris have shed humanity, are lurking around with lynch mob mentalities and are baying for blood. In fact, it needs to be put on record that despite relentless and systematic violence being practiced by the State to suppress Kashmiris, they, as a society, have not let go of humanity and human ethos. Rogue incidents like that of Ayub’s killing do happen.

And let’s not forget Ayub’s death was a result of hot-headed mob mentality and not any planned cold-blooded murder. Such mobs usually resort to their base animalistic instincts to unleash unforgiving violence on their prey. And ‘prey’ is the word that is apt for these situations.

Coming back to Ayub, he was on duty as part of the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s security bandobast around the Jamia Masjid area on Shab-e-Qadr. He was from the security wing of the state police whose men carry weapons but, as a part of their service code, do not wear uniforms. In this particular case, it made matters worse for Ayub. Had he been in uniform, nobody would have suspected him of being an undercover spy let alone lay hands on him.

After Ayub’s killing, the police reacted against the Mirwaiz and even talked of questioning him over the incident. The police removed half of Mirwaiz’s security bringing it down from 16 to 8. His trusted DySP in his security detail was also removed. In retaliation, police did not allow Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid for seven weeks running.

The security agencies are known to take revenge for any harm done to their men. In any case, Kashmiris routinely suffer killings, blinding, maiming, sexual violence, torture, incarceration, etc at the hands of men in uniform who enjoy so much impunity that these acts of violence are seen by them as part of their SOP — standard operating procedure.

For Kashmiris, violence has in effect been normalised to the extent that it no more invites any outrage. In such dystopic conditions, save incidents like Ayub’s killing, Kashmiris have wisely chosen to not be like their oppressive masters. One of our participants rightly points out: We should not become what our oppressor wants us to be.

For now, it’s over to the debate.

—Editor

 

 

Ather Zia,

Assistant Professor, Northern Colorado University, USA

Kashmiris, largely are one of the most compassionate and spiritual people. I have no reason to believe that they have lost their humanity but it is evident that they are being dehumanised by the Indian occupation and its consequences day in and day out. Violence, of course, has been normalized, which goes without saying when you have a government fortified with help from 700,000 plus Indian soldiers, a 100,000 strong militarized local police out to suppress a historical and popular will of the people. Incidents like the killing of DSP Ayub Pandith in a state so heavily surveilled and which remains shrouded in mystery still, has jarred people and has become a moment for self-introspection no doubt. Whatever the genesis of that incident, it is an exception. When the State apparatus is deeply militarized, is lethal to life and works with impunity, the burden of corrective measures is not the sole domain of people’s inbuilt ethics, faith and introspection. It lies with the dominant countries and finally in the political solution of Kashmir by respecting their right to self-determination.

 

Zareef Ahmad Zareef

Poet

It is paradoxical of Kashmiri media to discuss an aberration and ask people to debate over it. We have witnessed unbridled massacres by Indian forces here. We need to discuss and debate over these things and not over an isolated killing by a mob. And we don’t know who did it. There are so many agencies working in Kashmir. May be they may have done it to defame Kashmiris and their struggle.The debate on Kashmiris losing their humanity has been triggered by the lynching of DySP Ayub Pandith. This is typical of Indian media to super focus on aberrations while altogether neglecting the wider reality. That is why we say: Hum aah bhi kartay hain tou hotain hain badnaam / Woh qatal bhi kartay hain tou charcha nahi hota.

Kashmiris are humane by nature. We would cry our heart out even if a chicken would get trampled underneath a vehicle, not to say about killing a human being.

It is true that the prolonged armed conflict in our Valley has seriously affected us, especially the younger generation. Imagine, an outsider asks you to prove your identity just outside your home in your own land. This thing will surely infuriate any people. Our children are being killed like flies. There is a need to put an end to the violence in this beautiful piece of land and it should be everyone’s concern here. Unfortunately, we have no strong leadership to plead our case at the international front. To stop the violence, we must find a solution to the political problem that is there since last seven decades.

 

Jagmohan Raina

Minority leader

In the 2014 flood and 2016 agitation, Kashmiris showed the way how to serve humanity. During floods, we saw how Kashmiri children went to submerged areas and salvaged the trapped families.We must understand that people here are trapped in a conflict and are desperately seeking a way out of it. It definitely affects your psychology. Yet, I must say proudly that Kashmiris have still maintained their centuries-old tradition of serving humanity irrespective of caste, religion, creed or colour.

If Kashmiris were dehumanized, how would lakhs of tourists and yatris survive amidst them? Surely, the government can’t provide security cover to each and every outsider here. It is out of question to suggest that Kashmiris have been dehumanized by the ongoing conflict.

However, I must admit that there is anger among the youth that gets displayed every now and then on roads. The only solution to end such things is to find a solution to the prolonging dispute.

 

Morifat Qadri

Journalist

If t were the case, then they should have celebrated the recent killing of yatris. Rather, they condemned it, and rightly so.One must not generalize an isolated incident. The lynching of a police officer is an aberration in our society and doesn’t represent the wider reality. In fact, you must see things in a broader perspective. We admit that conflict has affected Kashmiris, but not to the extent that they have been dehumanized by it.

A mob lynches a police officer to death, agreed it is inhumane. But you can’t paint the whole society with the same brush. We have great examples from 2014 deluge how Kashmiris put their lives in danger to save others. That is the real picture of Kashmir.

Indian propaganda machine, which people refer to as media, are hell-bent to present Kashmiris in a bad light. The reality of Kashmir and Kashmiri ethos is quite different than what is shown on Indian TV channels.

 

Shams Irfan

Journalist

I visited Nowhatta for a story almost a fortnight after DySP Ayub Pandith’s brutal killing outside Jamia Masjid. During my conversation with people there, I noticed how the incident has pained people irrespective of their ideologies or affiliations. I recall a detailed conversation with one of the old guards, a 40-something male, who was an OGW for Al-Umar during his prime. Though a staunch advocate of stone-pelting, which he believes is poor man’s way of expressing emotions and anger against the state, he came across as the most pained person over Pandith’s killing. His argument was simple: why should we turn into something that they want us to be! For him, and many others who have witnessed barbarities of the 90s up close, and the dreaded Ikhwan era, any attempt push Kashmir into chaos is an attempt against the concept of Kashmir in itself.

This man’s observation made me recall an elderly person from Hajin, whom I had met months before Pandith’s killing, for a story on Ikhwan era. I still remember how his aged frame shook with anger and, perhaps, an urge to seek revenge, as he talked about Fayaz Mir aka Fayaz Nawabadi, an accomplice of Kuka Parray who literally played God in Sonawari belt during his reign of terror. During the formative years of Ikhwan, for a youngster living in this belt, Fayaz Nawabadi’s mood would make a difference of life and death, literally.

Till he was blown to pieces in a car bomb, Fayaz Nawabadi had already killed around 50 people, most of them for reasons like: I don’t like his smiling face. Or I don’t like his angry face. Or I don’t like his face at all. Fayaz killed three boys just because one of them, Waseem, refused to part with his new scooter. They were shot in the face from close range by Fayaz.

But one incident, that this elderly person believes, set-off a chain of barbarism and dehumanisation in Kashmiri, happened when Fayaz Nawabadi and his men raided a Jamat-e-Islami sympathiser’s house in Sonawari area. As the guy was not there, one of Fayaz’s deputies, caught hold of his infant son and flung him up in the air while almost a dozen gunmen fired at him. The poor kid came down in pieces. “That was the day humanity died in Kashmir,” believes this elderly soul. “And since then it has been dying every single day.”

 

Showkat Katju

Artist


I can’t offer a direct answer to the question whether Kashmiris are losing
sense of humanity and getting dehumanized. There is, of course, political violence present here. However, we must contextualize things without generalizing.

There are no two opinions that the lynching of the police officer was abhorrent. It can’t be justified in any case. However, we must ask who perpetuated the situation to such a level that now Kashmiris have started lynching people on roads?

Before this, we only knew of lynching in police cells. So, what is happening on roads is the replica of what police used to do in their cells. What is now happening in Kashmir is morphing from one form to another.

 

 

 

Bashir Siddiq

Lawyer

We must not draw conclusions before the final verdict comes. We don’t know who killed the police officer. What happens in such mob actions, no one gets convicted. At least in my entire career as a lawyer, no one has been convicted in a case where a mob killed some individual.

It is entirely wrong analysis to suggest that Kashmiris are getting dehumanized by citing an isolated case. Even in the thick of this never-ending conflict, Kashmiris have shown time and again that their humanity will not fade out. We have a glorious history of our human values and there is no reason why it shall not continue.

We must, however, admit that conflict has taken its toll on us. Our men and children are constantly being harassed for expressing their views.

What media, unfortunately, refers to as street violence, I would call it a retaliation. When an entire population is not allowed to express their sentiments in a peaceful way, the result is that the younger generation retaliates. And they do exactly the same here.

 

Inam ul Rehman

Columnist

The lynching of DySP Ayub Pandith on 23 June is a significant tremor whose after affects would be seen later. Why it took police so long to attest that Ayub was their man was probably because he was an undercover cop.

Violence that an oppressed people inflict on the oppressor or its symbols is a liberating force for them. The oppressed while hurting his oppressor realises that the latter is also a human being and as such rediscovers his humanity. Kashmiri society is violently boxed up in a corner and is not going to cower like the Dalits of India.

The weapon that the DySP was carrying was rendered useless when people attacked him with bare hands. Bare hands versus weapons reinforce the feeling among the oppressed people that any war is a war of will between the two contesting parties.

In a society that is witnessing violence from the State every day such things are not aberration or the death of humanity. Humanity like the word terrorism has never been uniformly agreed upon. When an oppressed person kills his tormentor or the tormentor’s subordinate, it becomes a liberating force for him as he sees the same imploring eyes and hands as he himself once felt. However, there is one important question that one needs to ponder. The joint resistance leadership condemned the incident, so did the civil society, pro-India politicians, and of course the Indian State: If they all are united against the liberating violence of the oppressed who is fighting whom in Kashmir then?

 

Aaliya Ahmed

Assistant Professor, MERC, Kashmir University

Humanity has by far prevailed in Kashmir despite trying circumstances. Ayub Pandith lynching case should be analysed with truthfulness to show that it has nothing to do with Kashmiri society at large. Unanswered questions by police and authorities about his presence in Jamia Masjid Srinagar give at least the angry mob a benefit of doubt. Why a DySP rank police officer was alone in civvies inside a highly vulnerable place like Jamia Masjid? Why police officers disowned him till the morning of other day and said that none of their officers was missing? Let us accept the fact he had come to pray. Why had he come with a service revolver inside the mosque? When he was questioned by the angry youth about his identity why did he open fire injuring three boys? In the heat of the event, people always lose control over their minds and rationality. It was a mad criminal act but the circumstances have proved that it was an aberration and not a rule. Otherwise, how could the same youth of Kashmir rescue yatris and donate blood to save their lives.

At the peak of unrest, many times in the narrow lanes of downtown Srinagar, CRPF men were trapped among stone-pelting crowds. After some brief heckling by the crowd, all of them were allowed to go safely back to their colleagues. The biggest virtue of Kashmir has been that despite grave provocations, our society has remained embedded in human values. But it is the collective duty of the society not to allow criminality to creep in any form. We should not justify violence in any manner on any unarmed or even an armed person. The way Kashmiri society denounced lynching of the Ayub is an answer to all those arm-chair analysts screaming from New Delhi that Kashmir society has been Talibanized.

There is a lurking danger that criminality can seep in as the violence is most visible on the streets of Kashmir. To stem such dangers, onus is on New Delhi to take steps which will ease tensions and pave way for reconciliation and resolution of conflict. As long as Kashmir will remain unresolved, it is the responsibility of entire society to keep a watchful eye on our teenagers who are most vulnerable to become tools for senseless violence in the hands of any vested quarter. As long as we will collectively make efforts to save our society from getting dehumanized and shield our youth from becoming tools of senseless violence in the hands of any vested quarter, Jamia Masjid lynching case was and will remain an isolated incident in the pages of Kashmir history.

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