Time to reject fake narratives on martyrs in Kashmir

The entire discourse in Kashmir has been perverted by a single big lie — that all killers are martyrs.

Martyrdom is an integral part of Islamic culture, faith reaffirmed by death in its cause. Militants were quick to adopt martyrdom as a way of indoctrination, fuelling belief in viewing death as a means of achieving paradise. This helped in recruitment, fundraising and action, a unity with religion and ummah, the community. In Kashmir, Pakistan gave this irrational belief a diabolical twist.

The twist was simple — term both the killer and victim as martyrs, as long as they are both Kashmiri Muslims.

The result of this clever ingenuity was explosive — Kashmir became home to one of the largest number of martyrs and it became a cheap and volatile way to keep the fires of militancy ablaze. Tales of such false martyrdom acted as embers for Pakistan to fan militancy in the valley. These duplicit labelling of killers misled the people of the valley and elsewhere.

The killing of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, father of present day Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, presents documented evidence of this fake labelling of martyrs. The elder Mirwaiz was a law abiding citizen and was against the kidnapping and killing of innocent young men and women. He blamed Pakistan for misleading the youth of Kashmir.

The Mirwaiz was a highly respected religious leader in Kashmir and his word mattered to people. He had rebuffed Pakistan’s attempts at fomenting militancy in the valley. Pakistan saw the pious leader as a stumbling block in their plan to cause violence and mayhem in the valley. A media campaign was launched to label the Mirwaiz “a stooge of India” but it failed to garner much support. Although under duress of open threats, the Mirwaiz openly condemned the infamous kidnapping of Rubiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as un-Islamic. In early May, the Mirwaiz, sensing the trouble brewing on the horizon, wrote letters to the then Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and PoK Prime Minister Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan, seeking immediate cessation of killings of innocent people in Kashmir. These actions made him the target of ISI killers.

By then, Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, had created Hizbul Mujahideen to sideline the local militant group, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Mirwaiz was one of the new group’s first targets. On May 21, 1990, three men walked into his residence-office on the banks of Nigeen Lake and shot the 46-year old religious leader. These assassins were sent by Hizbul Mujahideen’s military commander, Abdullah Bangroo.

The pro-Pak militant group hailed the attack and labelled the Mirwaiz as anti-tehreek or against the faith.

The Mirwaiz was laid to rest in Mazar-e-shouda (Martyrs Graveyard) in Idgah, Srinagar in the row meant for seniors and respectable persons of the society. To the people, he was a martyr.

But for Pakistan, he was a traitor. The true martyr for Pakistan was Bangroo when he was killed by security forces in June 1990. His last remains were buried six tombs away from his first victim, Mirwaiz Farooq, in the same graveyard meant for martyrs. The epitaphs on their tombs call them both as ‘martyrs of the freedom, Islam and the Ummat’. This was the beginning of the mischievous narrative of martyrdom created by Pakistan to mislead the people and the world. The killer and his victim were both martyrs.

The Srinagar graveyard was not the only place where such fake narratives were created. Several cemeteries in the valley are dotted with similar tombstones, marking the remains of killers and innocent civilian victims. It is not that people were not aware of the difference — Kashmiri Muslims being a tight knit community knew who were the killers and who were the victims. Yet, not many voices spoke about the machinations created by Pakistan and its supporters fearing the next bullet.

Since then, things have changed dramatically. Pakistan-led militancy has been stopped in its tracks but not dismantled completely. People are more prosperous, educated and seek out a destiny under the Indian Constitution. Fake narratives spawned by Pakistan have no place under the Sun today.

What is needed most is that truth must be told — the truth is killers cannot be martyrs. Killers are killers, they have no religion, no love for people; they are mercenaries playing the tune of Pakistan which wants to keep the people of Kashmir subjugated by violence and fake narratives.

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