Blogger militant's death underlines the tragedy of Kashmir
I am from the country known as land of peace."
"What is your name?" the question followed. "My name is humanity."
Now I asked, "Who were the people beating me?"
"Men in uniform," the man replied.
Again I asked, "Why were they beating me?"
"They were not beating you. They were just relaxing their muscles."
This dialogue is part of the last blog written by the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Basit Ahmad Dar, 22, who was killed by the security forces in the south Kashmir village of Hadigam this week.
The encounter was brief, lasting less than an hour. Dar had rejected the appeal for surrender. But his rudimentary military training ensured that he couldn't hold off the inevitable for long, unlike his counterparts from across the border. The security forces faced little difficulty neutralising him.
Soon afterwards, a photograph that went viral on social media showed his body sprawled on an open ground and encircled by the security forces. Half his head had been blown off even as the rest of the body and his Kalashnikov was intact.
Dar had joined the militancy just three months ago, at the height of the current agitation. He was a B Tech student at the Islamic University of Science and Technology. He was also a blogger, and wrote short narrative pieces on the situation in Kashmir.
The last blog entry, posted on June 30, was titled 'Yes, This is Kashmir". Its content offers an insight not only into his thinking a month before he took up the gun but reflects in part the prevalent discourse among Kashmiri youth. It relates an incident of his alleged beating by the security personnel for failing to produce his identity card.
"Show me the identity card," he asked with eyes turning red with anger.
"I asked - for enjoying nature we need an identity card? What is the identity card? But there was no response. He then asked me to get up and began to beat me like I was a drum being beaten on someone's marriage."
Dar's tragic end symbolises the tragedy of today's Kashmir, especially of its youth. Here was another educated young man with myriad possibilities of a bright future ahead of him getting consumed by the lingering conflict over the state.
Over the past month alone, ten Kashmiri youth have been killed in various encounters after the security forces resumed Cordon and Search Operations following the suppression of four months of a mass revolt. Two of the youth were charred to death after the house they were holed up in was burned to the ground.
In the first six months of this year, before the current unrest began in the wake of the killing of the popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani on 8 July, 84 militants, mostly local youth, died in gunfights with security personnel.
But it has hardly acted as a deterrent. According to the J&K police, 60-70 youth have gone missing since the current turmoil began, the highest such figure in such a short period since the early 90s. Most of them, if not all, are apprehended to have joined the militant ranks, a fact also borne out by the new militant videos on social media which have shown some new faces. At least 13 of the new militants are said to be from Baramulla, a district in north Kashmir that has seen little local militancy in recent years.
This has led to a conspicuous rise in the violence. As against 174 fatalities in 2015 - 113 militants, 41 security personnel, 20 civilians - J&K has seen 260 killings this year - 163 militants, 84 security personnel and 13 civilians.
The current spell of unrest has given a fillip to local militant recruitment, which is complemented by the infiltration of jihadis from across the border who generally carry out fidayeen attacks on the security forces camps. In the thick of the strife in July, slogans like "Take up the gun again" were shouted by the youth in rallies across Kashmir.
"The lingering conflict, the political uncertainty and the consequent hopelessness has become a toxic brew," says Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist. "There seems to be no way out. Far from subduing youth, the rising number of killings of the militants and recently of civilians during the unrest is only fanning further anger and inspiring more people to take up the gun."
Dar's blogs adumbrate this state of affairs, an acute perception among the youth of an injustice that is common to all. And in terms of this perception, even smaller incidents of the excesses by the security forces assume a much larger dimension. This dialogue from Dar's blog drives this point home.
"What is this place called as?"
"This is called the Paradise on Earth," the man replied.
"What? No, it can't be true." I began to ask everyone present in the room and everyone answered, "Yes this is Kashmir."