Misappropriating Martyrs


In a glorious tribute to Kashmir and its sacrifices, the rulers of the day have already announced “restrictions” for most of Old Srinagar where, near the hospice of a revered saint, lie interred the martyrs of July 13, 1931, a day all Kashmiris, of whatever political persuasions, regard as the beginning of their struggle for political realisation.

This recourse to diplomatic terminology is not a result of fear, least of all fear of being misunderstood, or of offending the demigods of doctrinaire politics, but is necessitated by history’s verdict on the subcontinent, an history that is being written not in words but in events. If memories are clouded about who, and on which side of the Radcliffe Line, wrote The Myth of Independence, and why, there is much in the told and untold stories of the past six decades to signify the truth of the four short words should reality be allowed to emerge out of rhetoric.

The object here is not to deconstruct cherished beliefs, but rather to marvel how easily a painfully-accorded and painstakingly-build civility between rivals can be shattered seemingly beyond repair, for the ruins to serve as a mocking monument for a people who deserved better at the hands of those claiming to lead, build and serve for a “better future” – a people who, time and again, have been called upon to suffer and sacrifice, and then to suffer and sacrifice more in silence.

Amid abounding arguments and thundering denunciations, Sunday, July 13, 2014, is a date of many anniversaries, not just of the martyrs of 1931, for many a knell was sounded this day only a few years ago, peals that have been sought to be silenced by compensations, or stifled in the courts of law, even as rhetoric grows louder.

Much water has flown down the Jhelum’s bridges since the tumultuous days of leaders leaving the Martyrs’ Cemetery in unseemly haste, and that particular air of confrontation, to use an inept phrase, has yielded to much-needed, if belated introspection. Would it then have been too much to expect from a dispensation that once appeared to be raring for a ‘battle of ideas’ to set the stage for some healing?

With news saturated with blood and gore pouring in from much of the globe, could rulers not have attempted amends at home by a civilised reaching out to, yes, their antagonists, if for nothing else but the pain they say they feel for what Kashmir has gone through? With courage of conviction, somebody should have walked that talk on Truth and Reconciliation, and accorded respect that “other” deserves as a fellow Kashmiri.

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