Once Kashmir was known for its natural beauty and called a veritable heaven on earth. But, regrettably now my Kashmir is known for being highly militarized; it creates fear psychosis in the minds of people and mostly remains in news for protests, innocent killings, unrest and encounters. All this has a searing resonance on the life, trajectory and death of my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Mohd. Rafi Bhat. He was one of the noblest souls I have ever met in my life. Dr. Bhat was the one who always provide a helping hand in academic matters or for anything else to everyone without any bias or prejudice who would ask or needed help. His sober personality and polite tone voice always won hearts of people around him. The question what influenced Dr.hat to join the rebellion and lay his life despite having high qualifications and teaching in the highest seat of learning in the state of J&K becomes all the more intriguing and, to use a cliché, a billion dollar question.
Dr. Bhat had a PhD, an SRF, a JRF, a SET; he presented papers in national as well as international conferences vis-à-vis his papers are published in well reputed journals and he was well versed about religious knowledge too. More importantly he was a mature man who had great, outstanding and stellar moral qualities (even though he was emotional at times). What also distinguished Dr. Bhat was his honesty, dedication, knowledge, composed and commitment to his studies. He was not paid by any country or person to join the rebellion nor was he ignorant and brain washed by someone. But, in reality and actually, the Kashmir conflict influenced Dr. Bhat to take the extreme step.
The agony, innocent killings, oppressive and repressive laws, destruction, incidents like Kunan-Poshpora, Shopian case, Kathua rape and murder, brutal killing and burnings during encounters in Kashmir due to the long standing conflict, indoctrinated the mind of such a highly qualified and intellectual persons. He left his dreams and ambitions for a successful career; he also left his family, luxurious life and wife. The irony is that our society has lost people with golden minds and intellectuals because of the conflict. People like Dr. Rafi and Manan Wani had achieved such high qualifications and distinction in their academic endeavors which other people can only dream of reaching.
These are only few examples to quote; there are/were many who were/are well qualified and studied reputed institutions at state and national level. Now, the whole point is: who or what is to blame for such conditions in J&K? The corollary to this question is: Are ego and politics more important than human lives? When will leaders who are at the helm of affairs realize that besides ego and politics they have human and moral responsibilities too? When will the leaders across the divide leave their arrogance and ego to settle the Kashmir dispute?
To return to the theme of Dr.Bhat, he was radicalized by the plight of the Kashmiri people but not by past or any agency. The only reason which compels well qualified and intellectuals to take arms in their hands is the Kashmir conflict which is taking a high toll of human lives. There is dire need to resolve the Kashmir issue once
for all. The theories of poverty and lack of opportunity do not hold water as catalytic factors as the case of Dr. Bhat eloquently demonstrates. Which poverty compels the Mother to tell her son who is trapped in encounter that ‘Allah is with you, be steadfast’ and Father tells his son fight and achieve martyrdom than to surrender? Mere false propagation and hollow slogans of Jugular Vein and Integral Part will not stop bloodshed of Kashmiri people nor do these yield results. The catastrophic effects of Kashmir conflict are protests, innocent killings, unrest and encounters, increased number of widows and orphans and in the present encounter in which Dr. Bhat got martyred.
We, as Kashmiris, too have the right to live with peace and dignity as people have in other parts of the world. Kashmir is not an issue of employment or development; the need of the hour is to shelve their egos, save humans and humanity. As the Kashmir conflict is a great burden for India, Pakistan, in general, and on the people of Jammu Kashmir in particular, it is very important to find a resolution of the conflict.
—The author is a Research Scholar at the Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org