Engulfed by the gunpowder, the Kashmiri youth being vulnerable to the armed conflict is not news. The stats of killed militants and the government forces in direct face-off is entirely different from the civilians—trapped in cross-fire, or being targeted by either of the sides with a gun around the shoulder—while the families, in the lack of clarity and a ‘proper-reason’, lives in dilemma henceforth.
In the daylight of 31 January 2019, 23-year-old Ishrat Muneer Bhat was kidnapped on her way to computer classes, later followed by the cold-blood execution of, citing the label of being a Mukhbir (collaborator) to government forces, by unknown gunmen. The cold-blooded killing of the young woman exposed the debate lying under the carpet again.
After not returning home on Thursday, 31 January, the family searched for her everywhere. They contacted Ms. Bhat’s friends, but got no clue of her whereabouts, while her phone also rang blank. At around 11 pm, the viral video in which a woman wearing pheran, and school bag on shoulder, being shot dead, reached Bhats’ place. Next morning, her body was found in Chera Bagh, Sugan, the native village of Ms. Bhat’s cousin, Al-Badr affiliated militant commander, Zeenat-ul-Islam.
While the family awaits the mystery around the allegations of her being an informer to resolve, they urge the truth to be exposed. As per the family, no one has claimed the responsibility of Ms. Bhat’s killing, “If militants have killed her, we demanded the proof of her crime in the local mosque.”
Questioning the execution, and charges against Ms. Bhat, her elder brother, Javed Ahmad said, “I want to know what kind of conduct with a girl, in such circumstances, is permitted by Islam; whom to kill, and whom to forgive?”
As per Mr. Ahmad, his sister was a thorough reader of Islamic literature and was pursuing the Master of Arts in Sociology with a computer course alongside. “Only proof we have of her killing is ten-second video, and we cannot blame anyone,” Mr. Ahmad said. “We are restless and still wonder about what did she do wrong.”
Though Bhats’ isn’t the only one living in dilemma of their child’s murder, the list goes on, making its way through the narrow lanes of Valley—from one house to another—the similar chronology of confusion and anxiety is found in Safarnagar of Shopian.
Nadeem Ahmad Bhat, an 11th-grade student, was kidnapped on 15 November 2018. After being “extremely tortured”, he confessed of informing the army about militants’ presence in a viral video.
Prior to that, local militants raided his house in Safanagar, but couldn’t find him. When Mr. Bhat came downstairs later, his elder uncle asked, “What have you done? Why did they come?” to which he replied, “I have done nothing wrong, but the consumption of charas (hash),” and exclaimed that he will not run away, told his elder brother Sartaj Ahmad Bhat.
Wearing a black jacket and shoes, Nadeem left home in the afternoon of 15 November and was kidnapped afterward.
Supporting the innocence of his younger brother, Mr. Bhat claimed that on the day of the encounter if his brother, as claimed, rang the army around 8 pm, then how come they reached at 1 am, “It is irrelevant, as they hardly take five minutes to cordon off the area.”
Adding a pile of such small details, including watching a movie with him in the meantime, his phone balance, and call details, Mr. Bhat tried establishing that his brother was not involved in the ‘crime’ he was killed for.
Mr. Bhat believes that if he had to face the kind of torture, as seen in the video, “My brother went through, I would have admitted killing of many militants.” Worried about his younger brother, Mr. Bhat even advised him to go into hiding or to Jammu for some days, “But he refused. He told me, ‘I have done nothing wrong.’”
Citing the alleged broken arm of his brother, followed by the tearing of his skin via blades, Mr. Bhat is dissatisfied and rejects to believe the video confession as a proof.
“We have a good relationship with the family of militant who was killed in that encounter, and we do not face any societal alienation. But, we want a piece of clear evidence, on which we can rely.”
From the same district, in Saidapora area, 17-year-old Huzaif Ahmad Kutay, a resident of Manzgam area of Kulgam district was abducted and was later left beheaded in the gardens of the Shopian.
Mr. Kutay left his hometown after 9th standard to help his father Mohammad Ashraf Kutay, a tailor by profession, who had undergone abdominal surgery and was struggling to meet the ends since.
Talking to The Kashmir Walla, his 23-year-old sister, Salma Bano said, “In his 6-month-old bakery shop, he was picked by the gunmen around 8 am, and amid chaos, his shop was closed by a local assistant.” Soon, the word of him being informer spread on 17 November 2018.
Sure of her brother’s innocence, Ms. Bano added, “I know about my brother, and he had no such links,” while the family, collectively, denying him being an informer, believes that he was killed due to the rivalry in the workplace. The family don’t accept his guilt, and said, “We don’t have any proof regarding him being an informer, so how can we believe?”
“I don’t have any child like him. He was a different one, and he used to behave responsibly. I believe in patience.” said Farida Bano, mother of Mr. Kutay.
Above mentioned three families only represents the tip of an iceberg, that goes on to be unchecked. Unverified videos of civilian executions appear on social media, and by the time family shoulders the coffin of their first-blood, society labels them as Mukhbirs; the never-ending dilemma in the conscience thrives a rotting space.
Peer Haseeb is a freelance journalist.