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February 8, 2001
'Asli mujrim ko pesh karo'
Truth has always been a casualty in every major situation cropping up in Kashmir. That is why it is so difficult to accurately pinpoint the guilty behind the latest massacre of six Sikhs in the Valley.
"Asli mujrim ko pesh karo, sazish ko nanga karo (Produce the real culprit and expose the conspiracy)," is a popular slogan in Kashmir which was coined way back in 1963 in the wake of the mysterious theft of the holy relic from the Hazratbal shrine.
Neither of the two demands voiced in the slogan has been met till today, although the holy relic of Prophet Mohammed's hair was restored, equally mysteriously, shortly after its disappearance.
The slogan, meanwhile, continues to surface again and again, particularly whenever incidents like Chattisinghpora and Mehjoor Nagar take place.
Farooq Abdullah's vehement assertion that the killing of six Sikhs in the Mehjoor Nagar colony of Srinagar on February 3 was an avoidable side effect of the Indian government's unilateral cease-fire in Kashmir does not hold water. If one were to accept his theory, how on earth would the chief minister explain the Chattisinghpora massacre in which 36 Sikhs had been brutally killed.
The cease-fire was not even an idea at that time. It is hazardous to jump to a conclusion in Kashmir's murky situation. Abdullah did not take long to discover this fact. Having characteristically given his hasty reaction to the Chattisinghpora massacre, Abdullah retrospectively sought to retrace.
He announced his decision to appoint a judicial probe headed by former Supreme Court judge S R Pandian, casting self-doubt on his own initial assertion that none but the militants were behind the dastardly act. The subsequent killing of five innocent civilians, wrongly dubbed by the security forces as 'hardcore foreign terrorists' responsible for the Chattisinghpora killings saw the chief minister swinging from from one extreme position to other till he publicly announced the judicial probe.
For unknown reasons, however, Judge Pandian who had earlier conducted a probe in Kashmir, declined to accept the chief minister's request. The fact that New Delhi does not share the chief minister's perceptions became clear with the dispatch of a high level central team including a senior official from the National Commission for Minorities.
Added to this is the fact that in the local circles (of the Valley) Mehjoor Nagar killings are being linked to the earlier killing of autorickshaw driver Bilal Ahmed in Srinagar by the state government-controlled special (police) task force. Those who know and understand how the wheels-within-wheels system in Kashmir works recognise the significance of so-called straws in the wind, as it were. And straws been been flying thick and fast since Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced the Centre's unilateral Ramzan cease-fire and extended it on January 26, ignoring very stiff resistance from within the official establishment.
The most mysterious part of this murky game in Kashmir is that the 'unguided' gunmen going by the name of (pro-government) surrendered militants have been engaged by different agencies of the establishment to do, what they call, the dirty work which they themselves avoid to do for the fear of incurring its attendant odium.
Quite a few of the otherwise inexplicable killings are being attributed to this phenomenon in local circles. Such is the mystery behind this phenomenon that at times even the official agencies come to suspect each other's part of the surrendered militants who, in any case, do not consider themselves to be bound by any law in dealing with the local population.
Some of the important functionaries of the ruling National Conference have gone on the record from time to time, alleging that the surrendered militants were behind some recent incidents including notably an explosion in the legislators hostel at Srinagar a few years back.
The nature and the timing of the Mehjoor Nagar killings suggest that it was aimed at the Centre's cease-fire. Coming as it does, soon after the (Parvez) Musharraf-Vajpayee telephonic talk in the wake of the Gujarat earthquake, and against the backdrop of the move to work out the Hurriyat leaders' long-awaited Pakistan visit, the intention behind the perpetuation of the dastardly act is not difficult to see.
That the mercenary elements like the Lashkar-e Tayiba and Jaish Mohammadi openly oppose the cease-fire as well as the projected Pakistan visit of the Hurriyat leaders amplifies the scope for identifying the hand behind the killings which have a highly explosive communal dimension as well.
That the Hurriyat Conference as well as the Hizbul Mujahideen did not lose any time in condemning the Mahjoor Nagar killings and strongly demanded an independent probe indicates their deep discomfiture by this occurrence. In a way, this mindset also reflects the ground reality in the post-cease-fire situation in Kashmir.
Whatever else the Vajpayee initiative might have achieved or failed to achieve, there is no doubt that it has made a singular accomplishment. For the first time one can see the signs of an unprecedented phenomenon -- a prime minister, sitting in Delhi, succeeding in carving a direct place for his vision in the minds of the Kashmiris.
The palpable rapport carries immense political potential. Quite natural that those whose shops do not sell this kind of ware must be feeling uneasy although the local population has almost come to develop a kind of vested interest in the repression-free post-cease-fire situation. And that is what is exactly under attack in Kashmir today, no less internally than externally.
Only time can tell whether the asli mujrim is caught or the sazish is exposed. Then that would be the death of a popular four decade-long slogan. Some things die hard, even in a place like Kashmir where death has ceased to hold any surprise to life anymore.
'We have a fight on our hands. And we have to see it through'
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