India Makes Another Kashmiri Hero

 By exterminating Guru India has facilitated the making of another Kashmiri freedom hero. He was not a heroic figure like Maqbool Bhat when he entered into Tihar Jail on allegations of facilitating an attack on Indian Parliament, but became a hero when he was buried inside the jail premises.Nobody including his fellow party members was willing to give him a status equal to the founder of armed freedom struggle in Kashmir but India herself did this job.

While Guru’s standing is not parallel to that of Bhat, he can be another Maqbool Bhat in years to come. When Bhat was hanged to death in 1984, nobody in Indian government could envisage a strong reaction and violent protests by people of Kashmir, especially his own party , the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).

Guru was neither the founder of the JKLF nor the top leader of his party; he was a just an activist who had attempted to renounce militancy more than once.  Still, he can be a catalyst for another spell of violent struggle against India’s brutal and tyrannical rule in Jammu & Kashmir. There are suggestions that his figure will raise high not because of a staunch and forceful expression of anger over his death but by the pull factor of the state defensive policies vis-à-vis Jammu & Kashmir.

Guru was a true embodiment of a person who lived all his life struggling hard to reconcile with the nature of conflict that has shaped since the revival of insurgency in Kashmir. The insurgency which Guru lived all through his life was not available to Bhat, rather later himself became a founder of violent struggle against oppressing rule. Bhat is revered not only for his patriotism and heroic stature but also for his unfettered allegiance to a cause. There is a clear deviation in characters of Guru and Bhat, but they truly represent the nature of freedom struggle in their own times.

The political struggle in Guru’s time is not confined within the charter and framework of a single revolutionary political party; it has been more vigorously expressed by other segments of Kashmiri society than freedom fighters themselves. It is not just one freedom fighter who with his revolutionary mental approach does not want to blindly follow the authoritarian rule but it is a whole generation that has gone through a first-hand experience of militant struggle and counter-insurgency tactics of a strong government.  They are all passengers of a same boat and they have personal experiences of the whole journey.

India took more than a decade to hang ‘the mastermind of an attack on Indian Parliament’. There is a speculation that ‘the new hero’ of Kashmiri’s freedom movement can attract more people toward militancy than Maqbool Bhat. So, one can imagine where India will be in next two decades, especially in a context of time taken to punish a ‘traitor’.

According to Indian government’s version Guru had provided the major logistical support to the militants who had besieged Indian parliament. Thus, he met his logical end, but, what India will do with another horde of masterminds of future attacks. India did not hand over Guru’s body to his relatives to avoid a possible anger in the region. This decision might have been taken carefully after weighing the possible options. However, Indian security establishment would be proved mistaken if the protest against the execution prolongs.

When Bhat was hanged in 1984, nobody in India had been able to predict that it would be an ignition for a scorching fire of militancy as the decade of 90’s witnessed India burning in that fire.

Noted human rights activist and author Arundhati Roy and many other critics have already described in detail how there were too many loopholes in the Guru’s trial. It will be matter of shame for India’s secular stature when historian will prove that by hanging one person India not only jumped back into decades of anarchy but also pushed its own people toward rebellion and hatred against the centre.

Apparently, the Indian security apparatus believes that Guru’s execution will not have that kind of mass appeal as it was witnessed after Bhat’s hanging. However, major political parties including Congress are worried over this development.  India is not in a position to take it for granted that Guru’s hanging would not give a fresh lease of life to the extremist groups operating in the valley and it will not have negative impact on overall security situation in the northeast of the country.

In fact, the impact has started making its way. When Guru was being hanged in Tihar Jail, Sonia Gandhi’s election campaign in northern states was at full swing. In a blow to the campaign of opposition Congress for the February 14 assembly polls in Tripura, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi have cancelled their trips. The prime minister has also postponed his election campaign tour to Nagaland.

The government decision to bury Guru inside the Tihar Jail is a beginning of a state defensive policy which India will be bound to follow in coming months. Yet, the policy of avoiding a situation of mass outburst on the streets of Srinagar and Sopore can be exercised for a short span of time but not for ever.

(The writer is a peace and human rights activist and member of Press for Peace.)