The killing of Lt. Ummer Fayaz

By ASHOK HANDOO*

May 10, 2017 will go down in the history of Jammu and Kashmir as yet another dark day. On this day terrorists kidnapped and killed a 22- year- old Lt. Ummer Fayaz Parrey when he had come to Kulgam in Shopian district to attend the marriage of his cousin. Fayaz was commissioned into the Rajputana Rifles of the India army recently and was posted at Akhnoor in Jammu.

Intelligence agencies believe that a group of six-terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) are responsible for his killing. The terrorists have been identified and a hunt has been launched in the entire Shopian district to nab them. Their sketches have also been released to facilitate their arrest.

The killing of Ummer Fayaz has given rise to many questions. Why has this particular killing caused so much of rage in the entire country when many, more senior officers, get killed by the terrorists so often? Was he killed because he was an officer of the Indian Army and the terrorists are routinely targeting the army men in the valley? Or was he killed because a Muslim of Kashmir joined the Army which went against the ideology of the terrorists who preach secession or the establishment of an Islamic state?

To the first question the answer is simple. The country feels enraged at the killing of any army jawan and the officers by the terrorists in the valley. But this time this anger is more palpable because of the manner in which this young officer was killed. He was not on a military mission and had nothing to do with anti- terrorist activities in the valley. He had come to attend a social function- a wedding that too – taking leave from his official duties for the first time long months after joining the military service.

It is quite possible that Ummer Fayaz was targeted because the terrorists wanted to send a signal to the youth of Kashmir not to join the Indian Armed Forces. If that was the intention it may not be served. That is because thousands of young Kashmiris throng the recruitment rallies of the Indian Army in every district of the valley whenever these are held and only the most suitable are taken in. There, of course, may be a temporary impact on this out of fear but the youth of Kashmir have withstood earlier threats by terrorists in this regard and will continue to do so. The latest recruitment drive for 300 posts has seen hundreds stand in line.

More alarming, of course, is the deafening silence by the intelligentsia of the valley on the issue. While the newspapers in Kashmir reported prominently the killing of the army officer, no newspaper wrote an editorial or published an opinion piece. The purpose obviously was to avoid any comment on the issue.

If anything a National Conference MLA Abdul Majeed Bhat refused to even admit that the killing was done by the terrorists. His party president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah firmly distanced himself from Bhat and said he should not have made such a statement.

The people of Kashmir seem to have been caught in a dilemma. If they condemn the killing they would attract the wrath of the terrorists and if they support it, that would be inhuman more so when a son of the soil was involved. To an extent this is a genuine problem but the bigger question is how long can the people of the valley remain silent when something blatantly wrong takes place? Will the valley continue to suffer the way it has been for the last three decades? Do they feel that they are well protected when they rise against the Indian state in any shape or form because of the image New Delhi has created for itself in the valley? As against this do they think that even a word against terrorists would prove costly for them. If that is the case is it time for New Delhi to take positive steps to change this mindset?

Government of India has been liberal in many ways as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned. But there have been mistakes too. Otherwise, why should the people who fought against armed Pakistani raiders in 1947 with sticks or even bare hands, rise against the Indian state? How can we forget the sacrifices of Shaheed Sherwani, Master Abdul Aziz and scores of others who laid down their lives in 1947 but did not allow Pakistani raiders to reach Srinagar city until the Indian Army arrived to fight back the raiders. As late as 1965 when Pakistan made its first bid to infiltrate terrorists into the Valley, Kashmiri people promptly informed the security agencies and got them arrested.

There must be an honest introspection and mistakes identified and corrected in time. There are certain things which the Indian government has to admit as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned. At the same time the people of Kashmir must realize that by supporting the path adopted by the terrorists in any form which includes remaining silent on their misdeeds, leads only to destruction. No sane person would advise anybody to follow such a path.

It is a tragedy that the heaven on earth has been converted into a killing ground. This must stop in the interest of every stakeholder, more so the people of Kashmir. No politics need be played on this issue. But can that happen the way our political parties behave? That is a billion dollar question and contains the seeds of the answer to how to deal with the Kashmir problem.

(* The writer is a former special correspondent of All India Radio)

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