“If I die, please ask Mufti Nazir to perform my funeral“, says a 25-year-old man who was hit by a bullet during a protest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahidin’s young and charismatic commander Burhan Wani in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qasmi is one of the few Islamic scholars who enjoys popularity among youngsters.)
Shabir Ahmad, who hails from south Kashmir’s Pulwama township, has serious injuries on both his legs and abdomen. Before he can speak more, he falls unconscious and doctors have to call for an emergency operation to remove the bullets from his body.
Every hospital in Kashmir has been witnessing scenes of suffering, despair and loss. On average, every 15 minutes, one can hear ambulance sirens carrying injured persons, mostly youth from different parts of the Valley, to different hospitals in Srinagar. As an ambulance enters the hospital grounds, there are hundreds of locals who assemble and carry patients to the emergency ward. It is not the first time this is happening. Over the years the people of Kashmir have been witness to the worst bloodshed.
Kashmir is the only ethnic Muslim majority state occupied by India and is a disputed territory. The problems started in 1947 when India and Pakistan emerged as independent nation-states. Since then the two independent nations have been claiming Kashmir as an integral region. Kashmir has had a highly contentious relationship with New Delhi throughout these decades. The opposition to Indian rule reached its peak in 1989 when tens of thousands of youth crossed over to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir for weapons training. The armed movement in Kashmir witnessed a brutal repression by the Indian state in the 1990s. There were mass killings, gang rapes, and custodial killings, and people were arrested on mere suspicions; there were those who never returned and are now among thousands of disappeared persons. Thousands of families still harbor dreams of their dear ones returning home.
On the evening of July 11, Shabir was brought to the lone government-run orthopedic Bone and Joint Hospital Barzulla. He was a living corpse, who could talk but had no ability to move even an inch. His lips were dried up and his body was pale. His legs were shaking. Doctors there shifted him to Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) for treatment which is comparatively better. After a few hours I learned through my sources that Shabir’s condition had improved, and that he was out of danger and would be discharged in 10 to 20 days or so.
These days in the hospital one can only hear wailings. There are more than two thousand patients and as per the medical records, most of them have received bullets and pellet shots.
As the muezzin started proclaiming the Magrib prayer call, a silence prevailed in the entire hospital. The intact premises were filled with pepper gas which was fired by police towards the young boys who were protesting outside against the killing of Burhan in a nearby area locally referred to Rambagh. Suddenly a sound of a siren broke the silence. Before the driver could stop his vehicle, locals gathered and slogans of “Hum KyaChahtayAzadi” (We want freedom) became loud.
This time, a young girl who looked in her early 20s was the victim. She was accompanied by her sister and brother. Ulfat, who was also from Pulwama, and had a bullet injury in her right thigh. Her sister claims that security forces entered their house and fired a bullet at her sister, who was fetching water from the tap in the garden.
The Indian state has been accused of war crimes. There are incidents on record where security forces have fired rounds of canisters on ambulances and inside the hospital premises too. Like Shabir and Ulfat, there are hundreds of people who have been victims of what the locals allege are brutal crackdowns. Bullets and pellets have left more than 1,300 people injured, and around 100 eye surgeries have been conducted in the last week. There are many victims who have lost vision and this is making the situation more volatile.
Burhan’s death is an eye opener for those who disown the militancy of the Kashmir cause. One of the facts which can’t be ignored is that militancy in Kashmir has always had local patronage and will keep on until Kashmir’s political problem is answered. It is a product of one-sided war against the Muslims of Kashmir who are ruthlessly killed and beaten up.
The recent agitation is not the same as it was previously. One can clearly see the support the militancy is enjoying in the valley only by looking at the massive participation of people in the slain militants’ funeral. A fact one needs to consider is that there were around 200,000 people who participated in the funeral despite restrictions. One can only imagine how big the gathering would have been had there been no restrictions.
Kashmir’s is an indigenous struggle against India’s relentless aggression against Kashmiris. There can be no solution unless this aggression stops and there is a serious credible effort to offer a political solution.
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Junaid Rather is a journalist based in New Delhi. Twitter: @junaidrather11