The scar left on the collective conscience of Kashmir by the hanging of Afzal Guru will never be erased, says Mohammad Zubair-u- din
An eerie calm descended on Kashmir in the wee hours of 9 Feb. last year when the news of the secretive execution of Afzal Guru in India’s Tihar jail started making rounds in the Valley. Life came to a grinding halt as news anchors of Indian news channels announced that the world’s ‘largest democracy’ has executed Guru – the parliament attack convict and a Kashmiri national.
Cutting across the party and ideological lines, the death of Afzal Guru was mourned by one and all. And everyone was aghast at the arrogance of Indian establishment in not even informing Guru’s family in advance so that they could see and talk to him one last time.
Great nations, it is said, never falter and hesitate in exhibiting the gestures of this kind. But a nation that claims to follow the satyagraha brand of Mahatma Gandhi could hardly demonstrate any difference from the Nazi Germany or the Fascist Italy.
Nevertheless, a section of India’s national media debated the circumstances in which the execution of Guru took place and sought answers to the judicial loopholes in this highly controversial case. Not surprising, some experts expressed reservations over the way the whole affair was dealt with.
The inhuman [more because of the way it was carried out] act may have satisfied the “collective conscience” [a special term coined by Indian judiciary to justify the execution] of India but back home in the Valley Guru became a martyr to the cause of Kashmir’s freedom movement.
The decision of the Indian establishment to not return his mortal remains even after kissing the gallows will remain a festering sore for the people of Kashmir.
We received another lesion from our ‘elected leaders’ who played Machiavellian politics when Kashmir in general and Guru’s family needed them the most. The ones banking upon the slogans and flag of the erstwhile Muslim United Front or the MUF proved to be most cunning by choosing to remain absent from legislative assembly the day it was decided to explore the possibilities of transporting back Guru’s mortal remains – a human, legal and religious right.
The resistance leaders too seemed confused and were in disarray, awestruck as they were at this sudden tragedy. Sensing the public mood, they spearheaded the movement aimed at transporting back the mortal remains of Guru. However since the very beginning, the leadership seemed meek in its approach or lacked the clarity of vision.
Perhaps the ‘failure’ of 2010 agitation was still fresh and nobody wanted to risk another prolonged head on collision with the Indian establishment. The outcome of all this seconded the apprehensions and beliefs of the common people.
Notwithstanding their unprecedented scale, the spontaneous protests in the aftermath of the hanging ended, once again, in the meek submission and helplessness of Kashmir.
On the eve of the 12-month anniversary of the hanging, a few questions strike the mind. What have we learnt as a nation over the last 25 years?
Irrespective of our political affinities, affiliations and ideologies, we have jointly suffered the oppression, suppression and humiliation. We have witnessed the massacres of our people in Kupwara, Sopore and Gaw Kadal, to name a few. We have experienced the Kunan Poshpora mass rape at the hands of Indian Army. We have at least 1500 ‘half-widows’ – euphemism used for women who don’t know whether their husbands are dead or alive. Enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and the daily humiliation we are subjected to are known to the world.
One wonders what else it takes to unify a nation for a joint struggle for justice, against exploitation, humiliation and to live the dream of a free nation. People talk of conspiracies. But why do we offer ourselves for the same. About a dozen pro-India political parties lock horns against one another for petty interests and “power”.
And then there are those who claim to be our true representatives. If nothing, they have at least left a common Kashmiri in quandary. Everybody owns Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat – another nationalist Kashmiri hanged in Indian prison – and all those who laid their lives to keep burning the flame of freedom, yet we find these resistance leaders as being inherently slaves. Slaves of inflated egos.
How could they steer the struggling rudder of Kashmir to freedom when they have chosen slavery over defiance. Divided house has left the common man in lurch. It is time for the resistance leadership to shun differences and rally around the proud Kashmiri national symbols to infuse energy, unity and discipline in their ranks.
But then there is a silver lining. The indomitable quest for freedom is still ingrained in the collective conscience of Kashmir. The yearning is there, deeply embedded. It gets reflected often now and then. The social media has become a handy tool to spew out suppressed sentiments.
And a stark reality captures the political observers and onlookers worldwide. That Kashmir observes black days and people stay indoors on Jan 26 and August 15 – India’s Republic and Independence Day – sums up the whole story.