Martyrdom is a topic that has been a center of many debates since a long time. We can debate who a martyr is but in a war-zone, vocabulary is the first martyr. Peace may mean desolation. A martyr may be a killer, and the villain or a hero. An encounter can be as commonplace as running into your forgotten friend in a busy marketplace or it could be as lethal as death of a guerrilla. Last year the moon saw 200 men and boys falling (Sun never rises in Kashmir). With time the noise of gunfire felt music to our ears. Repeated stimulus, which may be obnoxious too, is either habituated or sensitized. We grew accustomed. The events of encounter became an intensely emotional soap opera. It made us cry, but it played every fortnight. One Sunday it showed charred bodies of three ultras. They had been probably gassed and set on fire. We remember faces mauled like bear pounced on them. One episode broadcast a blood-drenched lifeless body of a ninth class student. We remember crushed skulls and gouged eyes too. The directors, the actors, the producers and the “supporting cast” is no hidden secret. We saw an actor tying a local to the bonnet. The supporting cast is indispensable to the operation of actors. We know supporting cast – the skeleton of predator called occupation- by names. The uniform prevalent view even among the militants is that they picked guns.They kill sometimes. They die soon. And death is to be mourned, not questioned. We can have a million in a funeral but not a question in a single mind. We have built a wall of flawed perspective that separates two killings by the same bullet. While civilian death is condemnable for us, militants are doomed to die. Ironically, for the forces battling a holed militant and tacking a hostile crowd that has voluntarily thrown themselves to the line of fire is no different. For Gen Bipin Rawat stone-throwers are over-ground workers. Forces make no distinction between armed and the unarmed while the armed and the unarmed alike do.
“Mujahid gow shaheed,” we say. What does Shaheed mean for us? The highest place in paradise for a shaheed is not debated here. Subconsciously we define shaheed as one who announced his death a few months ago on facebook. His selfie with a gun was an invitation for the enemy bullet. The guests arrived on time and pounced on the wazwaan. Howsoever trivial the killing of a militant may have become, but a militant killed is a murder for me. I have seen some generous ones call it suicide. But every suicide is murder at the core. I am not defending the indefensible. I am just peeling the tint off your glasses. Now see. A man is slapped PSA dozen times in succession. He is hounded daily. What do you expect of him? Watch Tom and Jerry? Or cook Maggi? When they arrest a boy for a facebook like, what message does it carry? They snuff the life out of every petty space of dissent that their benevolence had allowed. What should one wed to his not-agreeable-to-them ideology do? “They” and “them” can be actors, directors or the native supporting cast. Here “battle of ideas” battles for its life and succumbs soon under the burden of shame from arrests, killings, and torture. Unbearable is the burden of a pool of eyes gouged last year. How will the ramshackle democracy not crumble?
Behind every hard-core militant is a denied space of dissent, a history of torture, a murdered relative, and an experience of undelivered justice. Operation all out feeds militancy rather than weeding it out. As they say, a man is killed not his idea. Next time you hear of an encounter, call it murder; for an encounter is a colonial euphemism. Behind the innocuous curtain of encounter lies a shattered family, killed a dream, and murdered dissent. And when Geelani calls increased frequency of encounters (read murders) a national tragedy, perhaps he is right.
Bilal Yusuf is a student at GMC Srinagar. He writes sometimes.