June 2016 Magazine
By Junaid Qureshi
Nazir Ahmed was known personally to me. He was killed a week ago. Along with another colleague, Ghulam Mohammed Bhat.
Just after they had finished their duty of regulating traffic throughout the night 9at Jinab Sahib Soura on Shab-e-Baraat) and were having some respite at a nearby tea-stall, both these colleagues of mine became victims to bullets aimed for ‘Azaadi’.
As a simple Selection Grade police constable myself, it made me think. It made me sad and simultaneously angry as well. Most importantly, the killings of my colleagues left me with many unanswered questions.
Unsettling confusing questions!
Was I still considered a Kashmiri? Or was my identity limited to the profession I had? A profession, like all other professions, which catered for my and my family’s livelihood? What was the difference between the thousands of government-teachers in Kashmir and me? What made employees of J&K Bank better than me? Weren’t we all employees of the same government?
Availing opportunities to provide for our families?
Things change so rapidly. It was not always like it has become now. Whether a policeman or a stone-pelter, a Separatist or a Minister, a militant or a civilian, a Kashmiri Muslim or a Kashmiri Pandit, there was a time when we, despite our differences and above everything else and at first, also used to be something else; Kashmiris.
Not divided into Pro-movement or Anti-movement, traitors or patriots, Hindus or Muslims, Shia or Sunni. Nothing but, plain simple Kashmiris. When it all started in the Kashmir Valley in the early nineties, I remember that my colleagues and I turned police-stations and lock-ups into hide-outs for those young boys who were intoxicated by the new passion of ‘Azaadi’.
Irrespective of the virginity of that passion, we did not want our youth to fall prey to the bullets of the Indian Army. We deceived our oaths and saved young boys from getting caught and killed.
We lied. Not because we believed in what you believed, but because you were Kashmiris. Just like us. You were our own. My colleagues and I, also used to observe Hartals in those early days. Some of us voluntarily left our jobs and joined the ‘movement’ as we too, started sharing your passion.
But what did it achieve? Except death and destruction?
After 26 years of killing and bloodshed, which inch of land did you actually liberate? At a particular time there were almost 150 outfits fighting for the same ‘Azaadi’. Soon, you started killing each other. And, because I and my colleagues were much easier targets than the Indian Security Forces, you started killing us. Mercilessly.
Leave us, you did not even spare women and children. Majority of the victims from your and their bullets have only been Kashmiris. Yet, when you got arrested, I did not forget that we both, above anything else, were still neighbours, friends, acquaintances, family.
I smuggled home-cooked food for you into your cell. I shared my cigarettes with you. I lied and deceived so that you could talk to your relatives on the phone. I begged your interrogators for some humanity. I fabricated stories of your close relative being hospitalized, so that you could meet your family in the safe environs at these places for the ill.
I always maintained the belief that you were being used, misused and abused. I always understood that your naïve, youthful, passionate passion was nothing but a small pawn in the big chess-game of national interests.
National interests, oblivious to yours and my insignificant, petty interests. Based on which divinity did you derive the audacity to consider me separate from this society? I live here. My children will grow up here. Grooms for my daughters will come from this very society. This Kashmir is equally mine as it is yours.
Like all Kashmiris, the ills of this society are as much mine as they are yours. I too, face corruption. I too, face abuses and threats. I too, face stones. My parents also need medicines. My wife boards the same bus like your sister. The windshields of my loaned car are not pardoned from stones, pelted by misguided youth. Whether Hartal or Curfew, my children are also deprived of education.
I too, suffer. Like all others who suffer. At times because of you and at times because of them. Wearing a uniform does not give me privileges. Wearing a uniform does not make me King.
A transfer costs me 30,000 Rupees. Irrespective of grade and rank, 1 lakh policemen in the State of Jammu & Kashmir deposit 322 Rupees from their salary into the Police Welfare Fund. 200 Rupees is paid by us for tickets for the Police Welfare Mela. 100 Rupees is deducted from our salary whenever a DSP party needs to be organized. If our ration costs 1000 Rupees a month, the deduction from our salary will be 2000 Rupees. Releasing an amount from our own GP-Fund is only possible if the officer in charge is paid 2000 Rupees or more. According to the seniors, their hands are tied. The shares go up the chain, until they reach the highest offices.
I too am a victim of black sheep. Of corruption which has become the norm in our society. A norm to which I have to adhere. Like everyone else. Wouldn’t you agree that we Kashmiris remain strange and perhaps hypocritical people? We hate the government so much. We detest it and everything that is remotely connected to it, to the core. Yet, we would never want to let go of the perks this hate accompanies.
We will collectively observe Hartal when a militant gets killed, irrespective of whether he belonged to this land or not, but we will not even dare to publicly condemn the killing of the many Nazir Ahmeds and Ghulam Mohammed Bhats of this soil.
Common Kashmiris will readily offer bribes of up to 5 Lakh Rupees for inclusion into the police-force as a simple Constable, yet we will conveniently call every policeman a traitor. We will search and prefer grooms with government jobs for our daughters. While discussing the suitable match, we will shamelessly enquire, ‘pethwen aamdani kuta chus?’ (what does he earn on top of his regular official salary?).
A police recruitment rally for 100 posts will see 20,000 youth throng the gates of the academy. Ironically, equal number of people will also participate in funerals of those who kill the policeman. My funeral, on the other hand, will only be attended by family, close relatives, neighbours and colleagues. The number of colleagues will almost naturally, depend on my rank at the time of death.
If Jammu & Kashmir is a dispute, why do you not consider me part of this dispute? Isn’t this dispute mine as well? Does having a government job, exclude me from this dispute? Does it make me any less Kashmiri?
If it does, what will happen to me if the dispute gets settled in your favour? Will I be allowed to live here? Or will I have to face what other Kashmiris faced because of their faith? Will I, face the same because of what kind of work I did?
Let’s for the sake of argument say that you will kill me and my colleagues for another 26 years and miraculously win this battle. Either you will succeed in making us slaves of another country or you will accomplish in making all of us, your slaves.
Will you not need policemen? Or teachers, bankers, engineers, traffic regulators, contractors, schools, colleges, hospitals? How does the Jammu & Kashmir, which you envision, look like? How will it function without almost half of the population which is employed by the government? Will everyone and everything remotely connected to the government, be classified as a traitor?
All the women who gave birth in Lal Ded Hospital are traitors? All our children who studied in government-schools are traitors? All our doctors are traitors? Everyone who took flood-relief is a traitor? Each and every girl who did the shopping for her marriage from Delhi, is a traitor? Anyone who has a car, motorbike or a scooter financed by J&K Bank, is a traitor? Anyone who has ever set a foot on a government-made road in Kashmir, is a traitor?
Every father in Kashmir, who was treated at Apollo Hospital, is a traitor? Every mother, who went for Hajj through the State Hajj Committee, is a traitor?
We all are Kashmiris. We all have small wishes and dreams for our children. We all want to provide for our families. We all want to live. We have been sufferers of a war for the last 26 years. Which private industry did you expect to flourish in a war-torn place like Kashmir? What did you expect us to do in order to be classified as patriots and not traitors?
Perhaps, rationality and logic is not something you would understand. Indeed, we all are traitors and informers. Come my dear brothers. Let’s fight for Azaadi of Kashmir. And while doing so, let’s kill Kashmiris.
Liberating Kashmir can wait.
Let’s first start with liberating Kashmir from Kashmiris.
You damned patriots!
– The views are of the author and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.