Nobody’s ‘Own’ Boys

Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was quoted by a local daily as saying that the police or paramilitary troopers had not killed anyone during street protests in his seven-month rule because the protesters  “are our own boys.” There was a time when Kashmiri militants also were “our own boys” for Mr Sayeed and the PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti. But that was when, after having spent a lifetime serving India’s Grand Old Party, he was trying to make a local connect with endearing words that would not stop at “our own boys,” but, along with those of his daughter, march into seditious territory to ask militants to lay down arms because “we have come to represent them in the assembly.”

Times have changed. Mr Sayeed has thrown in his lot with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which, needless to say, doesn’t like linguistic niceties when it comes to dealing with dissent in Jammu and Kashmir. And therefore, despite the rate at which Kashmiri militants are being killed, and the houses sheltering them blasted, he has wisely chosen silence on militants. As the nominal chairman of the Unified Headquarters, the military grid that leads counterinsurgency operations in the contested region, he is as responsible for the killings and human rights abuses that occur during his rule as the forces who commit them, calling the dead and the maimed “our own boys” notwithstanding. That is why “our own boys” in Mr Sayeed’s speech on Tuesday not only sounded vacuous and clichéd, but was also a monstrous lie.

The chief minister had ordered a “time-bound inquiry” into the murder of a 15-year-old student, Suhail Ahmad, shot at close range by a police officer and his guard at Narbal during a street protest against the arrest of Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam in April this year. Calling him “our own boy” will hardly bury the fact that the findings of the inquiry have not been made public, nor the accused taken to task. Besides, in the chief minister’s own logic, not having killed “our own boys” is a big favour to “our own boys” who are, in lieu, to be maimed by pellet ammunition, tortured in custody for protests, and held in prolonged detention. Claiming that nobody has been killed in the past seven months of rule is not even too clever by half in testing the weak memories of the masses. It is plain laziness on part of Mr Sayeed’s speechwriters, and of course, complicity in Suhail’s murder.