Last Friday, your men cornered and killed a wanted militant. While you had information of militants, your officers have made it clear that Burhan Wani wasn’t the one you were after; that he was a “bonus”. He died and the valley went up in fire.
Since then 37 have died. A cop drowned when his vehicle was thrown into the Jhelum. Over 1600 are reported to be injured, with about 100 injured from the security forces. Little children have been caught in the middle, lives broken. The social media is abuzz, both with congratulations and condemnation. Across the valley, there is a heavy feeling of tension settling with the ash of the fires which have burnt so many lives, even the house where the Hizb-ul-Mudjahideen commander was killed has not been spared.
I knew that would be his fate. So did he, and so did his father. The day he picked up the gun was the day he also signed his own death warrant. Sadly, it turned out his name was not the only one on Yamraj’s list.
The other names would go on to include that of his elder brother, Khalid Muzaffar Wani, killed in the forests of Tral on April 13th, 2015. It would include Shabir Ahmad, 21, who was shot dead in front of his house, in front of his father. Locals alleged that he was chased by the security forces. Aamir Nazir Latto was home for Eid, studying in his first semester in Delhi University when he reportedly got shot while sitting on the Jhelum river bund.
Afroz Ahmad Lone, 23 died on Monday, near the Sangam Bridge in Kashmir’s Anantnag’s district. A pregnant wife survives him. His child will come into this world to be told his father, a police driver, died when protesters, frustrated by injustice to them, pushed his father along with the vehicle into the river, drowning him. A life yet to be born already scarred.
I don’t live their neither do I serve on a posting there. I don’t know the ground realities like you or the locals do. What I know is from the headlines I come across, the books I read, the interviews which fill the internet. From street demonstrations of families asking about their missing relative, to the stone pelting mobs which run amok and slowly grow indifferent to the bullets which may come their way.
What I know is that the men in uniform are the last bastion of qualities long forgotten by most people in “civil” society. Qualities like duty, courage and honour. Everytime I see your insignias, those are the concepts I associate most; concepts laughed at by far too many in this day and age.
But I don’t see the honour when children as young as five are seen in hospitals, receiving treatment for wounds from your weapons? When a girl, all of 10, who may not be able to see again. A young lad, just on the threshold of adulthood, with punctured lungs you can feel air leaking out of.
I saw the mobs only in videos and pictures. But I see no courage in waving a gun and firing erratically in the air when a mob of civilians stand in front of you. I don’t hear the call of duty which condones such sights or justify the accounts people give.
I thank you for your service. You stand guard at the borders and protect this haven I call home. You give your today for my tomorrow. But I feel ashamed for my tomorrow when I hear a child describe his being hit with pellets as a firecracker being let off by a policeman.
Many stories come from the valley. Whispers of atrocities, which cause one to gasp, are given by way of explanation for the protest. Reports from international bodies talk about Human Rights and its status in the place called heaven on earth.
I try and not give credence to such things, and I pray that at least the men in olive green still have the courage to stand up to orders which would shatter the moral fortitude we see only under the auspices of the lions on your shoulders.
I know what I am asking for means taking more risk. You, who put your lives on the line every day. On the other hand, in the times we live in, our society needs this. Something to look up to, by those who have achieved so much, that duty, courage and honour still exist.
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar