Kashmir is no place for achievers, especially those who fall on the wrong side of the Kashmir versus India binary.
Kashmir is no place for achievers, especially those who fall on the wrong side of the Kashmir versus India binary. This was highlighted, once again, by the cold-blooded killing of the young army officer, Ummar Fayaz, by militants, who dragged out the unarmed serviceman from a wedding ceremony to carry out the liquidation. Fayaz's killing is a betrayal of the trust he had in his own people. He is a victim of the deepening confusion within his own society and the ever-widening chasm between India and the Valley.
The confusion and the divide provide militants an unmistakable opportunity to deliver the message they have tried to emphasize each time they have killed a government employee or a politician - that is, to work for the Indian State is to work against the movement for Kashmir's freedom. This is not a message that has been taken seriously in the past. In spite of threats and cold-blooded murders of panchayat members, Kashmiris have formed panchayats, Kashmiri youths have signed up in droves to join the police and the army, and the people have lined up to cast their vote to choose their public representatives.
But the middle ground in Kashmir is shrinking fast. Anyone who tries to rise above the siege mentality that has gripped the Valley since last year is seen as betraying the Kashmir cause. The divide and sense of betrayal have grown wider with India choosing its own "role-models" among Kashmiris and the latter choosing their own role-models among those slain by Indian forces. Officers such as Fayaz, Kashmir's meritorious bureaucrats such as Shah Faesal or actors such as Zaira Wasim, have to negotiate a treacherous line between their duty and identity as Kashmiris.
The killing of the young army officer is bound to deepen the fears and insecurities among the people of the Valley, especially given the army's determination to avenge the killing of its personnel and the Indian government's steadfast refusal to enter into any kind of dialogue. Caught in a mood of unrelenting grief, Kashmir has forgotten to celebrate the achievements of its children. Fayaz's case may be no different, as the limited attendance at his funeral has already made obvious. A greater danger lies in the Valley forsaking its youths such as this dedicated young officer. If that happens, the only avenue left for Kashmiris to distinguish themselves will be militancy.
Telegraph, May 12, 2017
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