J&K House, CM Mum On Soldiers' Deaths1 October 2011
Times of India
Srinagar: Far from the drama in the assembly over Afzal Guru, another story was being written in the hills of Kupwara in blood. For three days, a firefight raged on freezing heights. The final toll was nine killed - four of them securitymen and five militants of the Pakistani group, Jaish-e-Mohammed. But these deaths did not cause even a ripple in Kashmir as MLAs went through convulsions on Guru's clemency hanging. They did not waste a minute on the four securitymen who died. The CM, usually quick on twitter, didn't have time for a 140-character homage. The MLA who sat on dharna's for Guru didn't waste time to move a resolution condoling with the grieving families. In Kashmir, it's sometimes the fate of people to die unsung. Of the four securitymen killed, three were from J&K. Lieutenant Sushil Khajuria of the Army and Shiraz Ahmed and Gulzar Ahmed of the special operations group, state police. Sushil (26) was from Samba in Jammu, while the SOG men were from Kupwara. The fourth dead was a soldier from the hinterland. Why did these four men die? They died 'battling militants'- the militants who are no longer a part of the discourse since militancy has officially 'ended'. 'The basic reason is nobody wants to take sides. Politicians, mainstream or separatist, have become insensitive to sacrifice. They react only if a death has political implications,' said a senior newspaper columnist. The jawans died because their ilk are doing a job that is 'no longer needed'. So Khajuria went on that lonely journey, his consolation, a personal letter from the governor to his parents, the only civilian official in the entire state to notice the event, and a montage of his funeral on a TV channel. The SOG men didn't even get that: no letters, tributes or thanks from the people who sit in the assembly only because people like Gulzar and Shiraz are ready to die for them. 'This is the pattern here. Nobody came to pay respects to Khajuria. It was an all-Army affair, even though he was from Jammu & Kashmir. How many times do leaders here pay homage to dead security personnel? The other day, a policeman was shot dead a few hundred metres from the assembly, but not one politician even mentioned it. It is disheartening,' said a security officer. What about the other five young men who died on the ridge in Kupwara, the young boys who left their families in Pakistan for jihad in Kashmir? Their fate was even worse with their identities erased into a collective 'five militants'. The men and the cause they fight for didn't grieve either. They were buried in hastily dug graves that, maybe, shall one day draw notice. They died without realizing that the 'essentially secular and political nature' of the Kashmir cause has no place for Mujahideen. They crossed the LoC without knowing that the Tehreek has now switched to a peaceful phase because Kashmiris have 'rejected militancy'. They left their madrassas in Pakistan, to liberate Kashmir for Pakistan, whereas in Kashmir, Pakistan is now seen as a failed state full of 'militants'. Yet, this war shall continue, as it has for years now, the armymen who man the LoC will continue to die, the Lashkar and the Jaish will continue to send across young boys from poor families to wage jihad, and the graves and the funeral processions will continue to multiply. And Kashmir will continue to watch impassively, its leaders too scared, too careful to ever let go of their police guards and its people petrified of telling the 'mehmaan' Mujahideen, that they have overstayed their welcome. The nine dead have become statistics, each catalogued into a neat separate section. But across three villages in J&K, in a small house in UP, and in five villages across the border in Pakistan, nine women cry for their sons.