By Javid Majeed Pandith
The custodial death of a school principal, Rizwan Asad Pandith (29), of Awantipora last week and the killing of Atif Mir (12) held as a human shield by militants in Hajin Bandipora are similar cases, if dug deep. The Indian army narrative of safeguarding peace and the militant narrative of Jihad as a supreme sacrifice for Allah proved to be cases of Jahiliyat (ignorance).
Rizwan Pandith’s death in police custody opens a Pandora’s Box of human rights violations and the immunity and protection men in uniform enjoy because of the draconian laws like AFSPA. Though India signed the United Nations convention against torture in 1997, it is yet to ratify it, despite recommendations from the law commission. Custodial deaths are not new in Kashmir; they were a new normal in the early 1990s. In 2011, the State Human Rights Commission of JK found 2730 bodies dumped in unmarked graves in North Kashmir. Among them 574 were identified as bodies of locals (Human Rights Watch 2012).
The initial autopsy report of Rizwan confirmed death by excessive bleeding, deep wounds on both hips, thighs and abdomen by a sharp object, and shock. Before the news of Rizwan cooled, another death shook most people in Kashmir. During an encounter with the security forces, the LeT militants captured Atif Mir as a human shield in order to escape. This act not only delegitimizes their narrative about Jihad but highlights their Jahiliyat about Jihad. Jihad is actually a movement and pious struggle to rid the humanity of the yokes of tyranny and injustice and create an atmosphere of peace and love in their concerned society. Both Rizwan and Atif fell to the same Jahialyat. On one hand, the men in uniform displayed their ignorance and barbaric behavior toward Rizwan; on the other, the militants sacrificed an innocent child just to escape, no matter what it takes.
Both Rizwan and Atif would have gone through the same trauma, fear, vulnerability, helplessness and despair before their killers. They would have pleaded; they would have cried; they would have done what they could to make the deaf hear their voices. While Rizwan suffered deep cuts with a sharp object, Atif might have his heart in palm when guns roared. The roller on the knees would have made Rizwan crumble and faint in pain, while Atif would have died a thousand deaths during those nine hours of exchange. Rizwan would have still hoped to win his battle against death; Atif would have lost it long before when militants put their gun to his head. Both Rizwan and Atif would have pleaded in the name of Allah and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to have mercy on them.
A society is measured in the way it feels the pain of its people equally, no matter the ideology, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, economic and social status, and place of birth. Every human life matters and there should be zero tolerance toward the preservation of social ethos and life. Kashmir today is divided between different narratives and those narratives are lethal and heart-wrenching. We unequivocally condemned the custodial death of Rizwan Pandith. We should condemn it in harsh words and seek justice for him. Those who killed him in custody must be booked. But why are we silent over the killing of Atif Mir? Why is this step-motherly attitude towards him? Why has his death not sparked any protest and bandh from joint resistance leadership? Those in mainstream and separatist politics were quick to tweet about Rizwan and demand exemplary punishment for the accused. However, they didn’t bother to condemn the killing of Atif Mir.
When a society starts taking sides and stops to call a spade a spade, it opens itself to anarchy and lawlessness. Time and again we as a society have failed Kashmiriyat by being hypocrites. We claim to be champions of human rights by highlighting the human shield act of Major Gogoi and the pelleting of baby Hiba. But what is holding us back from condemning Atif Mir’s death and observing a shut down on a number of such other cases?
Have we as a society become so ignorant (Jahil) that we don’t want to see the reality? This far right approach of the society will snowball into a catastrophe. Time has come to condemn all kinds of killing weather that of a security personnel, a civilian or an armed rebel. Violence begets violence and it has started bearing fruits in Kashmir. As a society, let’s call an end to this Jahiliyat.
Javid Majeed Pandith, MBA, is a UPSC aspirant.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Hatred and Mass Violence: Lessons from History”, edited by Navras J. Aafreedi, Presidency University, Kolkata, India.