Wednesday July 06, 2022

Why have all these young men picked the gun? — II

June 07, 2018

Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the protagonist of present generation of youth also faced same apathy. He along with many others in their adolescence joined peaceful resistance in 2008 and 2010. Police as usual smothered space on them, tortured and humiliated these young boys and pushed them to armed resistance. The story did not stop here. Year 2016 saw repetition of the same process. Torture and humiliation kept pushing Kashmiri youth to the path of ultimate sacrifice and now world is debating on its causes.

Sometimes I wonder on the nature and need of this debate. I wonder how young educated and in some cases well-settled young men choose a path where tunnel of life has no headway for them. In words of one such young scholar Azhar Nazir Khan’s father when a man is tortured and barred from running a Darasgah in local Masjid and humiliated on daily basis, what will he opt for? Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his elder brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani along with hundreds of others in their areas joined peaceful protests in 2008 and 2010. Young Burhan who had not even completed 15 years of his life, saw police, STF, army and CRPF raiding their house on regular basis, looking for his elder brother, arresting him, torturing him in police cells. His grandfather recalled an occasion when Khalid was arrested because American president was visiting Delhi; hundreds of kilometers away from Kashmir. One day as a custom in Kashmiri villages, his family was duty bound to prepare meals for one of their neighbours as someone had died. Father asked both his sons, Khalid and Burhan to go to the nearby Dadsara village and bring some grocery for the purpose. Both boarded a scooter and were stopped by SOG and army on return. After taking them for forced labour, both were ruthlessly beaten and managed to return back home with fractured bones and ruptured ego. This changed a shy boy into Burhan the commander.

Another bright star, Mufti Hilal from Palhalan, an Islamic scholar and jurist who had completed his degree from Gujarat and was not in favour of armed struggle, joined peaceful resistance under the banner of Hurriyat Conference. In 2010, he was seen active on political front in his area. This boy was delivering speeches, asking people to adhere to peaceful movement. Soon Indian democracy came into action. His house started getting raided.

One day SOG raided his residence, and almost vandalized and broke all his house hold. He was arrested and tortured by police to the extent that his mother, father and uncle could not hug him at a local court because whole his body was bruised and bone broken. After his arrest this peace loving person was dragged for kilometers and his beard was pulled by police men. He was tied to a tree and for hours, police threw stones on him. Slapped with PSA he was sent to Kathua, released on court orders after two years but again arrested and slapped with another PSA. Now what way was left for this boy except to hold a gun and sacrifice his life which he did.

Another classic case of this state oppression forcing young Kashmiris to pick gun is of a young boy Zubair Turray from Shopian. I met with this boy often in Srinagar Central Jail during last three years as I have been a frequent visitor to the place as a prisoner. A humble soul tortured and tormented by police holding different political view. Zubair was a political activist of Hurriyat but was being treated like a dreaded terrorist. He often questioned me about his fault for he was being panelized. I personally issued many statements on his plight which fell to deaf ears of the rulers.

Born in 1999, this kid was first arrested by BSF in 2004, when he was only five. He was tortured to the extent that for two months he was not able to take meals by his own hands. In 2009, he was again arrested, slapped with PSA and shifted to Udhampur Jail. After court quashed his PSA, he was kept illegally in a police station for months. In 2013, he was again arrested and slapped with another PSA. On November 7, 2014, as his elderly resilient father recalls, he was in police custody, as Indian Prime Minster Modi had arrived in Kashmir. Police charged Zubair who was in police custody of organizing million march and slapped another PSA on him. He was shifted to Udhampur jail again. In own words of Zubair, he was slapped with eight PSA’s during four years of incarceration. Imagine an adolescent who according to human rights commission was under aged and wrongly detained under PSA by the nexus of police and civil administration and jailed for four long years for being in political movement. What should have he done, what way was left for him to choose except what he did on May 1, 2017. He ran away from police station Shopian and joined armed struggle and sacrificed his life.

In fact this is not the end of the story, from Altaf Baba to Sameer Tiger, from Shakir Showkat who was being forced to work as an informer of army and was ruthlessly beaten up by a police DSP in front of his father to Sabzaar Ahmad of Tral, the story of state repression remains the same.

And one more thing to note here is that among these new generation armed resistance lovers, no one has crossed Line of Control (the ceasefire line), no one has got any training, and no one brought a gun from the other side of the divide. This is all home grown and in 2016, during a press conference, I had asked Indians to thank Pakistan because if the young boys of Kashmir were provided arms by the former, numbers here could have grown immensely.

America’s former president Bill Clinton has mentioned Nelson Mandela saying in response to a question about why he and his African national congress started armed struggle against apartheid: “A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a point, one can only fight fire with fire”.

This Mandela saying is exactly true for Kashmiri resistance. As I have previously said that prior to 1988, choking of political space, torturing political dissent, humiliating fathers, mothers, sisters and other relatives of those in political struggle in police stations, third degree torture which in my case was as fatal as it damaged my heart valve was common. A friend of legendry Muhammad Maqbool Butt is on record saying that same was done in decades of 1960’s and 70’s. He recalls an occasion when in infamous Bagh i Mehtab interrogation center, Maqbool the legend was stripped naked and paraded before other inmates with only purpose to humiliate him. All this Indian torture and apathy in the words of great Mandela taught Kashmiri freedom fighters the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle. This was true then and this is true now. Kashmiris have no history of violence, no history of being a marshal race, but no history of being cowards too.

Author is the Chairman JKLF. Ideas expressed in the write-up are personal

To be continued