Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo
The brutal killing of Mohd. Ibrahim Khan, a salesman in the business house of one Kashmiri Pandit in the Bohri Kadal area of Downtown Srinagar was a very tragic incident of terrorism that took place some days ago. Day after a policeman was shot dead in Srinagar, salesman of a Pandit’s shop was killed. Ibrahim Khan, 45, who worked as a salesman at a grocery shop run by a Kashmiri Pandit in Bohri Kadal, was shot in the chest and abdomen. The two killings have happened within 24 hours despite heightened security across Srinagar. A resident of Ashtingoo village in Bandipore, Khan worked at a shop originally owned by one, Roshan Lal Mawa and run by his son. While Mawa had gone to Delhi at the onset of terrorism in the Valley in the early ’90s, he had returned to Srinagar in May 2019 and reopened his wholesale grocery store in the Old City area with a fanfare.
There are arguments which claim that it was a case of mistaken identity. But the ground realities don’t confirm the argument convincingly. First of all, the bullets were shot at Khan not from the behind but from the front in the chest and abdomen suggesting that the face of the killed target was visible to the assailant. Secondly, the police haven’t confirmed the theory of mistaken identity. Thirdly, the businessman was well known in the vicinity over the last several years and had developed a lot of relationship with the locals of the area. Moreover, he was a well known face among the people and there could be very less probability of him being unknown to the killers. His statements after the gory incident are also inconsistent and contradictory suggesting stories of different nature.
A few of Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and non-Kashmiri Hindus in the valley amongst the miniscule minority community and also some non-locals have developed some working relations with the local Muslims belonging to the majority community in the valley over the last certain years. This is by and large based upon some mutual understanding and necessity. However, it seems that it is not to the liking of certain fundamentalist and the terrorist forces in the Kashmir valley who try to warn the Muslim majority community against this bonhomie off and on. The killing of Ibrahim Khan is also a warning to the Muslim majority community in Kashmir to desist from any sort of relationship with the minority Hindu community in the valley. It is similar to the Talibanisation of Afghanistan where non-Muslims have been completely cleansed or side-lined as outcast. In such a situation, it is for the thinkers, political leaders, religious figures, media personalities and the intellectuals among the majority community to respond to the crisis scenario.
It is very clear that the effects of terrorism haven’t remained limited to a single community in Kashmir. Though the case of Kashmiri Pandit community is a unique one primarily because of ethnic cleansing and mass-exodus, the Muslim majority community has also borne the brunt of the cross-border terrorism. Undoubtedly, terrorism in Kashmir is not home-grown, but the terrorists are. Young age terrorists getting killed in encounters suggest that a new breed of terrorists is coming up in the valley. This is indeed a big cause of concern. We are also aware about the drug menace among the youth of the majority community in Kashmir. The suicide cases are also on the rise among the youth in the valley. These developments speak about the failure not only of the Governments but also of the society at large. Some good people need to take up responsibilities in this connection in order to reverse the trend.
In case, the society and particularly the responsible people in the society don’t take up their duties well in time, Kashmir can lead to a situation like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are some elements within the society in Kashmir who are trying to float a narrative that the terror and separatist enclave in Kashmir was pushed to the wall consequent upon certain decisions of the government. On the basis of some interactions and research regarding this issue, it can be said that even some politicians and influential persons within the majority community of Kashmir are selling these ideas to justify the selective killings of minorities. Though it is a horrendous logic, however, people of one or the other ilk are advancing such theories unabashedly through public debates.
They advance their theory based on the following certain ‘irritating factors’ in the Kashmir valley like, Abrogation of Article 370/35A and connected bifurcation of the state, conducting of Hindu religio-cultural celebrations by the Kashmiri Pandits in the temples, age old shrines, on ghats and through streets and roads in the Kashmir valley during this year, fresh recruitment of KPs under the PM’s Employment package, formation of a portal by the government for claiming land and other immovable properties by the displaced KPs in Kashmir that have been encroached upon therein by the unscrupulous elements, and a large scale neutralization campaign unleashed by the security forces against the terrorists active in the UT.
It is important to understand the intent of this brazen narrative keeping in view that the Kashmiri Pandit community was forced to live in exile for the last 32 years. In fact, it all started in February 1986 when the organised attacks were implemented meticulously on the Hindu temples, shrines and properties by the communal forces active in Kashmir. It was the beginning of the ethnic cleansing in the valley. The forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits was achieved by the enemies of the nation in 1989-90 through genocidal action with a clear message that the Hindu and ancient remnants of the last thousands of years of civilization of Kashmir would also be erased sooner or later with a negligible presence of the minorities in the valley. However, the so-called irritating factors, as enunciated above, are being seen as a reversal of the ethnic cleansing in the valley by certain elements inimical to the interests of Kashmir and the nation. Thus they advance them as the reasons for selective killings of Hindus, Sikhs and non-locals in Kashmir valley.
The killings of local Muslims are also being connected with their relations either with the microscopic Hindu community in the valley or with India’s political and administrative mainstream. There can’t be two opinions that the Muslim majority community has also lost thousands of its men and women over the last three decades because of terror activities and onslaught. This is a situation that needs an appropriate response at the socio-political level. Merely issuing condemnation statements after the event by the political bigwigs won’t work. Society needs to respond to this extraordinary situation in an extraordinary manner. There is need of not only a proper narrative to face the situation but also guts and courage to advance that. It is almost now or never for Kashmir. Cases of ‘mistaken identity’ need to be taken very seriously.
Leadership of a society is tested in a crisis situation. Kashmir and its society are passing through the biggest crisis situation of the century. The existing leadership in the valley hasn’t been addressing the issues of cross-border terrorism, its effects on society and the issue of exile of the indigenous people of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits. It is being viewed that the overall leadership in the valley is fatigued and tired. In such a case, a new leadership ought to have emerged to take up the responsibility, which is not, unfortunately, being seen forthcoming. It is hoped that the dark channel opens with a bright light, sooner or later.
(The author is a senior BJP and KP leader)
Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo