Various explanations are forwarded for why thousands of people turn up in funeral processions of militants. The government forces and an army of state apologists masquerading as journalists and analysts seek to explain it away by merely calling it as a ‘matter of concern’. We no more hear what used to be the in the past two decades a stock explanation for various strands of political dissent, namely ‘alienation of Kashmiris’. Wisely so. Because an alienated people do not walk into a gunfight to help militants escape. For the resistance, the phenomenon is, and has been, self-explanatory: that Kashmiris have always regarded those who die for their political struggle as heroes, martyrs. Pro-India politicians have either chosen to not make any comments on these funerals or tried to cash in on them by extracting a few concessions from Delhi. However, it seems that the people, by participating in the massive funeral processions, actually want to convey what is not articulated in the media or political circles.
It appears to be their way of telling all players across the political spectrum that a militant’s death, as also his mere act of picking up arms against a disproportionate force, is the only genuine political sentiment in a place where other forms of politics have been debauched and compromised. The participation in these funerals transcends all differences. The people are often aware of who the militants are and what drove them to arms. They might not agree with their religious or ideological views, but still risk state repression in attending their last rites. While the number of militants has been reduced to a nominal level compared to that of the first decade of militancy, an outnumbered and out-armed militant’s act remains the most abiding and consistent form of selfless dissent. These funerals are also cathartic at the community level in a climate where other forms of political dissent have been crushed. And unlike the short-lived euphoria of election meetings that are organised under the watchful eyes of half-a-million government forces and facilitated by an inexhaustible supply of money, the funerals of militants are a constant reminder of the reality in Kashmir.
For pro-India politicians, these funerals are repeated reminders of the hollowness of their politics because if they revisit their own statements on why Kashmiris picked up arms, they will have to blame themselves for these deaths. Therefore, it seems the resistance leadership can take away lessons from the sentiment behind the funerals by thinking beyond the customary attendance in these sad events.