How cheap is Kashmir Blood

Funeral procession of Suhail Sofi in Srinagar, Kashmir
Funeral procession of Suhail Sofi in Srinagar, Kashmir

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




And thus shall You be Satisfied

Afzal Guru taken by Police
Afzal Guru taken by Police

December 13th, 2001 , a white Ambassador car breaks through into the Indian Parliament compound in New Delhi . It was not an ordinary or plush ambassador belonging to any of the Ministers in the Parliament, it was rather laden with explosives of huge magnitude, so much so that according to news reports it could have blown the entire Parliament Building and on that were five men inside it, heavily armed with automatic assault rifles and again according to the news sources so much so that they could have engaged a whole battalion of forces. The car slams into the car of Indian Vice President Krishan Kant and soon the five gunmen barge out of the vehicle and start indiscriminate firing. At the end of firing all the gunmen are dead along with seven security personnel and an unfortunate Gardner. The Indian Nation mourns in oblivion, the police and highly frenzied Indian Media comes with apt reflex and charges LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed with LK Advani pronouncing that ” the dead gunmen looked like Pakistanis “. The Nation across the border is intimidated and provoked and the two nuclear arms come close to a war with thousands of troops relocated on the line of control.

Within 2 days of the incident, on 15th December, 2001 the Delhi Police comes with the statement that “it had cracked the case” and declared Afzal Guru, SAR Geelani (Delhi University Lecturer), Shaukat Guru and his wife Afshan Guru as the prime accused. Afzal Guru & Shaukat Guru are arrested in Srinagar and brought to Delhi while the others are arrested in Delhi . During this time the main conspirator according to the Delhi Police Special cell is SAR Geelani who is being accused of teaching the   terrorism after the college classes   and in his free time. (Don Lectured Terror in Free time, Hindustan Times, Dec 17, 2001 ). In the subsequent years of investigation we saw SAR Geelani and Afshan Guru being acquitted of all the charges by the court while Shaukat Guru was handed a 10 year imprisonment and Afzal Guru a Double Capital punishment on August 4, 2005 . The judgment stating that “though there is no direct evidence linking Afzal Guru to any terrorist organization or to the incident, however, based on the cumulative weight-age of circumstantial evidence he is central to the conspiracy and hence his life should become extinct so that the public conscience of people of India be satisfied”.

Curfew implemented in Kashmir
Curfew implemented in Kashmir

Shaukat Guru is released from the prison 9 months prior to the completion of his term and Afzal Guru is executed on Feb 09, 2013 .The case is closed with colorful appreciation and welcomed in different parts of India , people distributing sweets and chanting slogans of victory, claiming of a blessed satisfaction of their conscience! At the same time curfew is imposed in Kashmir (Afzal Guru’s residence), mobile, internet and cable services are snapped off, armored vehicles buzzing in the wee hours of morning, advising people to stay in-doors or face dire consequences if they came out to protest.

Now the question is why would the Kashmiri population protest against his execution when he is convicted of a heinous crime and the answer lies in a 2006   interview   of Afzal Guru with   Vinod K. Jose   in the Tihar Jail where upon being asked what he would want to be remembered as? Afzal answered “As Afzal, as Mohammad Afzal, I am Afzal for Kashmiris and I am Afzal for Indians as-well but the two groups have an entirely conflicting perception of my being. I would naturally trust the judgment of Kashmiri people, not only because I am one among them, but also because they are well aware of the reality I have been through and,  they cannot be misled into believing any distorted version of either a history or an incident “.

What had Afzal been through?

This question is unanimously being ignored by the Indian public who is celebrating his death, and never tried to seek answers to the flaws in the investigation, the contradiction in the Police versions & evidence and never tried to hear the other side of the story. They are usually ignorant of the fact that Afzal Guru was a Medical (MBBS) student at Jhelum Valley Medical College, Srinagar before he dropped out to join JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) and cross into Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) for arms training in the backdrop of the political upheaval after the execution of JKLF founder Maqbool Butt in Tihar Jail in 1984. Embittered by the political environment of Pakistan he returned back and surrendered before the Magistrate and even got a certificate of clearance from the Army. From now onward like many other surrendered militants Afzal was supposed to present himself before the Army every Sunday and he did so and this is when his ordeal begins. He was forced to work for S.T.F. (State Task Force a branch of Police) by Raja Mohan Rai (JK Policeman) which involved groups of surrendered militants who would give important information about the hideouts of militants to the Army. Afzal would sometimes give small information after threats from Army but never really joined them properly as a member and involved himself in Surgical instrument business with which he started to earn some fortune and thus began the infamous extortion saga that S.T.F. are openly accused of in Kashmir.

At one point Afzal is detained by the S.T.F. personnel for more than 20 days and tortured to pulp, eventually, releasing him after a bribe of 1 Lakh Rupees which his family paid by selling his wife’s jewelry and his newly bought scooter. Afzal is also made a Special Police Officer for a period of 6 months. However, during the custody under S.T.F. Afzal is introduced to another S.T.F. personnel named Tariq who later brings a man called Mohammad to him in Srinagar and asks Afzal to accompany Mohammad to Delhi . (Mohammad is one among the five killed in the incident). Tariq vanishes and Delhi Police Special Cell and courts admit that this important person Tariq has vanished and cannot be tracked down! In his deposition in court Afzal said that Tariq forced me with severe consequences to accompany Mohammad to Delhi saying he has to leave out of India and Tariq was a member of JK Police’s S.T.F. group. Afzal Guru after returning to Srinagar from Delhi was about to board a bus towards his town Sopore when he was arrested and the person who signed his seizure memo was Head constable of Parimpora Police Station, Srinagar, Mohammad Akbar, to whom Afzal had paid a bribe of Five thousand Rupees a year earlier as he had raided his Surgical Instrument shop and claimed the instruments to be fake. Mohammad Akbar later testified about the seizure memo in Delhi court and their in court in his native language Kashmiri he threatened Afzal Guru indirectly saying “that his family was in safe hands” ( at that time it is known that Afzal Guru’s younger brother Hilal Guru was under the illegal detention of SOG (Special Operations Group).

Within days Afzal Guru comes in front of the media at the Tihar Jail and confesses, the interview is broadcast throughout the nation and thus an opinion in the general public is set. The court dismissed the confession stating that it could have been drawn under torture and coercion but at that time the general public had already accepted it as final accord without even questioning the fact that it was given inside jail premises. The Triall court had set the proceedings and the lawyer appointed for him(as Afzal had no money to hire his lawyers) on her own signed certain important documents without consulting Afzal which would later indict him on certain charges before she demanded that she be released as she was hired to be on the team representing SAR Geelani. Triall Court appointed her subordinate as amicus curiae in the case to represent Afzal’s story. However, he never met with Afzal and never really cross-examined the witnesses due to which Afzal protested and demanded to be given any of the four Lawyers that he had enlisted. The broadcast of the confession interview and the media propaganda against him had such influence that no lawyer agreed to represent him and finally court allowed him to cross-examine the witnesses himself at times.

A man with no legal expertise and his in-efficient Lawyer had his case under-represented in the trial court where the charges are stemmed. This had a big impact on Afzal Guru’s fate as he could not counter the Police versions all by himself and eventually got him a Capital Punishment. The Court observed the phone call details as the main evidence which showed that the accused and the slain where in contact before the incident. However, these call details were uncertified computer printouts that could have been manipulated. For instance, the details showed that two calls were being made at exactly the same time from the same SIM from two different mobile phones with different IMEI numbers. Is that possible, well no, not in practical, however, in paper after indoctrination.

Even the mobile phone number 9811489429 that Police claimed to be owned by Afzal and sold to him by another witness named Kamal Kishore on Dec 4, 2001 . This Phone number had been active by Nov 6 even before it was sold to Afzal, a Paradox. The court judgment says that necessarily the SIM card would have been sold before Dec 4 to Afzal contradicting the statement of the witness.

Furthermore, the important arrest memos that are signed while someone is arrested by the witnesses during arrests are highly contradictory. According to police version Afzal and Shaukat were arrested in Srinagar , however, their arrest memos are signed by Bismillah, SAR Geelani’s younger brother who was detained in Delhi at the time. Fishy, the seizure memos (specifying what was seized from a person while being arrested) are signed by Mohammad Akbar in Srinagar while arrest memos are signed in Delhi , another paradox.

According to Police version, the Gurus’ (Afzal & Shaukat) were arrested by the tip-off given by SAR Geelani after Geelani was arrested. However, police records show that Guru cousins were arrested at 5;45 am on Dec.15 while SAR Geelani was arrested at 10Am . A paradox again.

There are many such disturbing contradictions in the Police versions which are vehemently ignored by the Courts and the general public and have been put forth in a book called 13 th December: A Reader (a collection of Articles by different respected Journalists, Writers and Human Rights Activists who were following the case closely and attending the Court hearings). The Delhi Police was found concocting the charges against SAR Geelani and Afshan Guru, however, no body questioned the integrity and credibility of Delhi Police. It is important to remember that this incidence had occurred in the backdrop of 9/11. There was pressure from all direction on the Police to arrest the suspects and produce the charges. Besides, the Indian general Public had feared the worst after such dreadful attack and wanted the perpetrators to be punished as soon as possible. However, that pressure lead to gallows a man who was indirectly related to the incident and if acted, only did so in the periphery while the real directors seem to have escaped the noose. This case left those questions unanswered for everybody to ponder over. The smooth carpet that we see now after 12 years seems to cover the rot underneath and unless the carpet is not turned upside down, I believe the general conscience will wake us in the midst of nights, for a man’s life has been put to gallows for the surface to appear smooth.

Kashmiri Girl Protesters detained in Delhi
Kashmiri Girl Protesters detained in Delhi

On Feb 9, 2013 the Indian Public rejoiced the event and called it a day of Justice. On the same day Afzal Guru’s family and entire Kashmiri population mourned the politically motivated execution and wondered whether Justice will ever be delivered even after his death, at least by returning his remains (Indian government decided to bury Afzal Guru’s body inside the Tihar Jail). Kashmiri students here in Delhi protested at Jantar Mantar, shouting at the peak of their voices that “Justice had been murdered”. The Bajrang Dal (Right Wing Hindu Activists) took cognizance of the protests and attacked the Protestors demanding bullets for them. As the Police came and acted, strangely though, detaining away all the protestors whisking them in a bus while their cries for Justice could be still heard.

Published By Counter Currents on 15th, February, 2013