Three days ago, I woke up late, bleary eyed after a long day (and night) of fun on day 1 at the NH7 Weekender in Kolkata. I followed up with my morning ritual of tea and glancing through the newspaper, excited and raring to go all out for day 2. That was not to be.
This is the image that hit my eyesÂ the moment I opened the newspaper.
This is the image of a man praying at the freshly laid bed on the grave of his son, Abdul Rahman Padder, a carpenter from a small, scenic village called Larnoo, near Kokernag in South Kashmir.
Abdul Rahman Padder was murdered by his closest friend and first cousin, constable Farooq Ahmed Padder, Larnoo’s most feared man.
Constable Padder’s modus operandi was simple. He would lure people into his net by asking them to pay for government jobs. When the people who had paid the money followed up with him, he would once again snare them on the pretext of an interview for a government job, bundle them up to a prison in the radius of 30 odd kilometres, take them out in the woods in the dead of the night, and riddle them with bullets till their faces were unrecognizable.
And that’s not all. He would later turn this grisly crime into an honourable encounter, where the dead would become militants killed in crossfire with the forces and the police who protect the nation. An FIR later, Constable Padder becomes one of the nation’s numerous ‘heroes’ guarding the motherland and protecting her till his last breath. He also received a reward for his bravery – for the great service he has done to our nation.
So, his first cousin and his closest friend, Abdul Rahman Padder, becomes Abhu Hafiz, the dreaded Pakistani militant from Multan. His other friends suffered the same fate. Ghulam Nabi Wani, a cloth merchant, became Lashkar hitman Zulfikar, Nazir Ahmed Deka, a perfume vendor, became Pakistani militant Abu Zubair and another cousin, Ali Mohammed Padder, was relegated to a nameless foreign militant.
All dead for the purpose of making the constable and his comrade in arms, the guardians of the Ganderbal police station – SSP Hansraj Parihar, DSP Bahadur Ram and ASI Farooq Ahmed Guddoo, look like the true unsung protectors of the nation, and to fill up their coffers with the reward money of bringing down militants. And of course, the statistics on the case files look good at the monthly presentation that the SSP had to attend.
This is Kashmir, ‘paradise on Earth’, of which bards have woven dreamy tales with the needles of their words and the cloth of their emotions, swamped with death, desolation and torture that seem hopelessly perennial.
In 2010, Julian Assange headed whistleblower organization Wikileaks released cables sent by US diplomats in 2005 on Kashmir. In these cables, the diplomats quote the Red Cross saying that the Government of India condones and facilitates torture of detained Kashmiri civilians, without proving them to be militants or posing an active threat to the security of the state.
The International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) also put forward disturbing statistics. Out of the 1,296 detainees interviewed, 681 said they were tortured, 498 said they were electrocuted, 381 confirm being suspended from the ceiling for hours at a stretch, 304 say that the assaults were sexual in nature. 294 said their legs were almost crunched with a bar being placed between their thighs and interrogators sitting on them while 181 said their legs were pulled apart into splits.
None of these detainees were either Islamic insurgents or Pakistani militants, or terrorists of any sorts. They were all local Kashmiri people, who were “thought to be connected with the insurgency or militant organisations.”
The cables also have quotes saying, “The International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) had become frustrated with the Indian government which, they said, had not acted to halt the continued ill treatment of the detainees.” The ICRC also concludes its report by saying that India favours and condones torture and that the torture victims, who were usually civilians, were routinely rounded up as militants and killed.
The same modus operandi that Constable Farooq Ahmed Padder of Larnoo so diligently followed until he was caught in 2007, and sold out his associates.
Constable Padder and the rest of the custodians of the Ganderbal police station are now behind bars. But this is just a tiny drop of forced relief in an ocean full of pain and anguish, of cries of the widow and silent tears of the half widows, of shattered dreams of young men.
All for the good of the nation. Kashmir is our pride, we will not let anyone take it from us, we will treasure it by locking it up in a cage and stifling it and quelling its rebellion for the most basic human rights. So what if we killed tens of thousands of Abdul Rahmans, so what if we torture thousands of civilians, so what if civilian are routinely killed as militants, we must, at all cost, preserve our national pride.
All for the nation’s greater good.