How one dies in conflict is the distinction according to which people frame their responses. The largest circulating English newspaper of Kashmir has successfully raked up the issue of two deaths in one week. One government employed teacher killed in an attack during his election duty and other a self-employed being murdered by the troops.
Are the two deaths same? Should the ‘response’ be same to both the deaths?“Death in war does not simply happen,” wrote Drew Gilpin Faust on American Civil War, “it requires action and agents.” What were the actions of both the deaths? Who were the agents responsible for their deaths?
Teacher Zia was performing an election duty. Zia was conscious of the fact that he was going to an election duty that would fetch him Rs 1400 a day plus meals. Zia was also conscious of the fact that he would be protected by the military cover. But in the evening he got killed when unknown persons attacked the returning polling party. The government immediately ordered 20 lakh rupees for the deceased. Why? Because he was furthering the cause of Indian State in Kashmir. Elections are used to demoralise the resistance in Kashmiri. Elections are being used to divide the people here. In the name of development farce is sold out. Killings, extra judicial murders, probes, arrests, rapes, disappearance are not made issue in elections but roads, electricity, employment and water are. Latter issues are given so much hype through media that an ordinary observer of Kashmir would think that Kashmir is a normal Indian state and there is no difference between Maoists and Kashmiri pro freedom fighters. In that scenario when an employee goes to the election duty he understands that the Indian State would sell participation of people as a vote for India. The employee knows that by standing to perform the election duty he is collaborating the system that very much oppresses Kashmiris. The employee is conscious that by being a part of election he is facilitating the murderers of justice in Kashmir. The employee knows that standing for election duty is helping those who watch and monitor the killing of Kashmiri youth. In that sense Zia was not a passive victim. He was helping a system that hanged AfzalGura, Maqbool Bhat, raped and continues to rape so many women, continues to jail 10 and 11 year old kids, keeps fathers and relatives of protesting teenager boys or militants in jails to pressurise them for not to protest or surrender.Zia was helping those very pro Indian politicians who only order probes but never bring anyone to justice. Zia’s family got 20 lakh. They didn’t refuse the money. Zia,sarpanchs and panchs stood for occupation.
Compare it with Bashir Bhat. He was murdered when he was strolling on the road with his niece. Police reported that he was trying to snatch the weapons. Troopers denied firing at him. State, as is its wont, ordered probe. That probe would never be finished. Even if the probe report is finalised troopers would not be prosecuted. Bashir’s family refused the blood money of one lakh—the news which the largest circulating English newspaper would never publish. Because printing that news means destroying the castle that their opinion writers have crafted. Bashir stood for liberty.
By trying to put two different deaths in one single frame one is trying to dehumanise the martyrdom of Bashir and glorify the death of passive and active collaborators. How come response be the same for two deaths: One stood for liberty while others give their life for furthering slavery. Those who stand against slavery and get killed in the process people themselves observe strike as a mark of protest or tribute. Why don’t they do the same for the active or passive collaborators? Why don’t the opinion makers of largest selling English newspaper rake that issue also?
While few Kashmiris died as collaborators, the other got killed for his resistance. He was observing strike on election day and that was his resistance while Zia was passively collaborating with the same military grid against whom majority of Kashmiris are fighting. While both the deaths need to be mourned the response cannot be uniform. There are no innocent collaborators. If that is the case then all those who sided with colonisers be it police, spies, renegades, political collaborators strikes must be observed. I mourn more for the collaborator who after seeing his society being plundered, having starved to death, crushed to death, worked to death, whipped to death, run to death, burned to death, kicked to death, cuffed to death, caged to death, lied to death, medicined to death and grieved to death, still sides with the occupiers. This fungus of abandoning conscience in order to mourn for ‘humanity’ is gaining momentum among few circles. It is humanity that lets us to mourn the death of all but conscience pummels us to despise the one who stood for the oppressor.
Inam ul Rehman is a failed journalist