I am enraged. And, I am sure there are thousands of Kashmiri youth as enraged as me, for another of our youth has been killed while protesting the killing of another one. This is a vicious cycle where “if one from your people is killed in cold blood, you are expected to shut-up and move on, and if you choose to protest you might as well be killed” and the cycle can go on as long as you have the audacity to protest. It can go on and grow to figures like 68 in 2008 and 120 in 2010.
The latest incident began when the news of an encounter in Tral area of Kashmir broke. Soon the Indian media with their ritualistic “melodrama style journalism” praised their soldiers for their bravery. It was announced that a “terrorist’ has been shot dead in the Tral encounter. However, the bigotry and lies that the Indian media perpetuate came crumbling down when it was ascertained that the killed person was in fact a civilian, Khalid Wani, a Master’s student of Economics who happens to be the elder brother of Burhan Wani, a militant commander in Tral. Soon the J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed called Tral encounter unfortunate and like usual promised an investigation. Meanwhile, the Indian media kept flashing the army’s point of view claiming that Khalid Wani was an “over the ground worker” of militants and was hit by bullets from army when Khalid and three others were meeting a militant in Kamala forests of Tral. The hypocrisy and bias of Indian media and their so-called “kashmir experts” was to the extend that none among them questioned the absence of bullet holes in the body of Khalid Wani. Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, father of Khalid Wani is reported to say “I looked at his body from head to toe, I couldn’t find a single bullet hole. All his teeth were broken and even his skull. He was tortured to death and this was a fake encounter”. Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Javid Mujtaba Gilani, while demanding some time said “the cause of the death of Khalid Wani will be ascertained with the post-mortem reports”.
Demanding time to ascertain facts has been a very exhausted policy applied by the government in Kashmir. It serves the purpose to calm the flares down and at the same time keeps people in a limbo for facts. The investigations and the facts soon become a matter of past. As the revelations about the Tral encounter unfolded, pointing to a custodial killing and an attempt to stage a fake encounter, there was a surge of anger among people who saw this as a vivid example of another killing by torture in custody and the high handedness of the Indian troops who are encouraged to kill without having to fear for consequences, thanks to the laws that provide them sweeping impunity.
Kashmiri youth see the space around them narrowing causing a claustrophobic sensation from where we want to liberate ourselves. We see the reductionist Indian media personnel calling us mis-guided youth who have no education, no jobs and hence protest on the streets of Kashmir. When a few Kashmiri people unfurled the Pakistani Flags in Srinagar upon the arrival of SAS Geelani, it was in defiance to the Indian state and in the pent-up of the anger caused by the killing of Khalid Wani. It was in response to the hypocrisy and bigotry of the Indian narrative of the events surrounding Khalid’s death and Masrat Alam’s release few weeks back.
The protests after Masrat Alam’s arrest were in spontaneity to vent the anger that had build-up due to the death of Khalid. So to speak, Protests in Kashmir mean every chance of police shooting at you and the Kashmiri people whose narrative has been so grossly distorted and reduced to “trouble making mischievous youth” by Indian media stand every chance in the line of fire to beat the Indian narrative and its establishment in Kashmir in small battles on ground where a rock hurled at an Indian policeman is an act of defiance and out of desperation for want of justice. It itches the Government establishment and its forces in the heart and often drives them into killing the protesters.
In the protests after the arrest of Masrat Alam, the police killed another boy of class 10 in Narbal area of Budgam district. It has been reported that Suhail Sofi, 15 years, was first detained briefly by the Police and then asked to run before being shot in the back at point-blank. The Assistant sub inspector and the constable involved in the killing have been arrested and a case of murder registered against them. Meanwhile, the Indian Journalists with verified tweeter accounts reduced the killing to this.
A version of this article appeared in The Express Tribune on 21 April, 2015