Our Silence Is Killing Us

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People carry the coffin containing the dead body of 25 year old Rafia Jan during the funeral ceremony in Hariparigam village of Awantipora in Pulwama district.Unknown gunmen had attacked a policeman Fayaz Ahmad at his residence killing him on spot while his wife and daughter who were critically injured later succumbed to their injuries in hospital. Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi 06-28-2021

The Terrorists Slaughter Kashmiris Like Animals, We Bleed To Death In Silence

 

The killing spree in Kashmir by the terrorists continues. Innocent, unarmed people are being targeted every now and then. Even women are not spared. In Hari Parigam village of Tral, on June 27 terrorists barged into the house of Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, working as a Special Police Officer (SPO) with J&K Police. They showered bullets indiscriminately on Fayaz and his family. Fayaz and his wife were killed on the spot. His 25-year-old daughter succumbed in a Srinagar hospital on June 28.

The terrorists were so barbaric that they kicked aside Fayaz’s 18-month-old grand-daughter before raining bullets upon him and his wife. This was the fourth terror attack in less than a week.

Why are the terrorists killing innocent civilians? The strategy is to create fear and panic in the society.

 What pleases the terrorists is the fear they create, and the resultant silence of the society at large. The brutality and the impunity with which the terrorists indulge in such heinous and cowardly acts have resulted in the moral numbness of the Kashmiri society. There are no condemnations, no protests, no agitations, no strikes, no elaborate funerals, no mourning, no chest beating. There are no cries on Facebook and other social media platforms. No pictures of victims of terrorism lying in pools of blood are uploaded. There are no shares and no likes.

This is the fear of the terrorism which looms large. The fear is pervasive and visible. There are only whispers – of the relatives of the deceased, of the community, of passers-by. Hearts are heavy but you cannot exhale. Eyes are numb but you cannot cry. The mind swarms with questions but the lips remain sealed because of the fear of terrorists.

Instead, many among us exercise our democratic freedom to abuse, accuse and blame the state. Many use their democratic freedom not only to protest but also to instigate and provoke. People love to be critical of the state, its apparatus, its law and enforcing agencies. The reason is clear: because of its limitations and responsibilities, the state cannot be feared.

The Silence Helps The Terrorists

The fear is only from the non-state actors because there is no first information report, no hearing in the court of law, no argument to prove your innocence, no right to defend yourself. They come, hit you and run.

The silence is a win win for terrorists and terror apologists. It counts as your approval and the license to kill you. Fear is the toxin injected into us. Silence is read as our approval. That means that the next door neighbor, the close relative, the friends, the family – all approve of the killings by a terrorists.

The silence is also intentional and deliberate. It implies that we are collaborators in the killings of the innocents.

We are not even ready to identify the killer. Over the last three decades, terror apologists have perfected the use of the phrase, “unidentified gunmen”. A father or a mother before whose eyes their son is killed repeats the same numbly. “Unidentified gunmen” killed their son. We are ready to identify a uniformed man among hundreds of his mates and colleagues for “manhandling, beating up, thrashing”. But we are not willing to identify the terrorist who breaks the windowpane, enters your house and showers bullets.

After the killing of Fayaz Ahmad, a senior police officer said to his neighbours, “Souls when soaked in guilt are the heaviest, and not voicing against brutality is a guilt many of us bear. Let’s stand together for whom we care”. This statement is highly telling of the silence of the Kashmiris even against brutal attacks by terrorists.

We notice the suspicious movement of some Over Ground Workers (OGWs) during the day. We identify them but we cannot name them. This is the fear that the terrorists exercise. Our silence is seen as sanction for the heinous crimes. This is exactly what terrorism and terrorists stand for. It is the universal strategy of the terrorists to create fear among the people who they claim to be fighting for.

Fear Is Terrorist Gameplan

A woman mourns the death of of SPO Fayaz Ahmad and his wife Raja Begum in Hariparigam Awantipora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama.
Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi 06-28-2021

This reminds me of an interesting anecdote revealed by a senior intelligence officer. The officer narrates that during his posting in Afghanistan some years ago, he was taken to a place outside Kabul. The son-in-law of the chief of Haqqani Network had been captured and detained by the Afghan forces. Here goes his account.

“The Indian Ambassador to Kabul was accompanying me. We were taken to the room where the son-in-law of Siraj-ud-din Haqqani had been detained. He was the third most powerful terrorist in the Haqqani Network. Through an interpreter I asked him, Why do you kill people indiscriminately in schools and mosques? What’s the purpose served?

He looked at me and said, The question is genuine. It deserves a truthful response. Terrorists know that they have nothing to offer to people who they claim to be fighting for. They don’t have any roadmap. By killing people indiscriminately, we create fear and disorder in the society. The message is that the state cannot protect its citizens. We create disorder to build the narrative that we only can protect you”.

This is old terrorism strategy. In Bollywood blockbuster Sholay, the villain Gabbar Singh kills a boy and sends him back to the village Ramgarh, his body dumped on the back of a horse. He leaves a letter in the boy’s pocket. It reads, “Ramgad ke wassiyo, Gabar ke kehar se tumhe ek he aadmi bacha sakhta hai, aur wo hai khud Gabbar”. This is the universalized strategy of the terrorists.

No Social Pushback – Terrorists Gain

The success rate of this strategy varies from society to society and from region to region. In societies which are fearful and don’t respond, the strategy works for long. Communities and societies which repel these forces and don’t accept their diktat for long are able to oust terrorism.

In Punjab, it was the people who decided they had had enough. A Punjabi friend once explained to me the reason why Punjabis were able to uproot terrorism from their land. “Punjabis love the good life. They love to laugh and party. They love their lavish weddings and grand functions. Within a few years, they realized that terrorism had robbed them of all joy of life. It had replaced the joy with fear. From then on, the days of terrorism were numbered,” he told me.

Kashmiris like me whose youth was spent in a happy, laughing Valley know that this was our life too. We too loved the good life, laughing and blossoming in our Kashmir.

All that has changed. We Kashmiris have been bearing the brunt of terrorism for more than 30 years. Thousands have been killed by terrorists in broad daylight, Properties have been destroyed.

But Kashmiris don’t speak up. They don’t protest terrorism. Apart from the fear of the terrorists, Kashmir’s terrorism has been religionalized.

 The so-called opinion leaders, the conflict entrepreneurs in media, politics, business and education quickly attribute cowardly terrorist acts to “unresolved conflict”. They justify the miseries and agonies inflicted on the people by the terrorists. They condone what should not have been condoned. And justify what should have been condemned. This is the sag of the terrorism of Kashmir. A strong, collective response to cowardly terrorist acts is missing. Everyone is yearning for individual safety.

We forget Martin Niemoller’s famous words. “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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