Rifleman Aurangzeb: For love of country
The aftermath of the brave jawan's murder showed that not only do Kashmir's ‘silent Muslims' exist in sizeable numbers but they are willing to take the fight to the enemy camp
Two Indians, both Muslims from Jammu & Kashmir, were killed by terrorists on June 15, but only one dominates the political mind-space. The death of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari is often cited by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Bleaders as evidence of Mehbooba Mufti’s inability to control the law and order situation in the State and a justification for quitting the coalition on June 19, 2018. But it was the beheading of Rifleman Aurangzeb of 44 Rashtriya Rifles, abducted on June 14 and found on June 15 in Pulwana district of south Kashmir that actually influenced the Prime Minister’s decision to part ways with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). As a video of his torture went viral over the internet, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat visited the family at Salani village, Poonch district, Jammu, as did Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Mohammad Haneef, Aurangzeb’s father and a retired soldier, seared the nation’s heart with the words, “He was my son only until he was in my lap, now he is a son of India.” Haneef condemned those who call terrorists as ‘mujahids’. Aurangzeb was tortured by Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen for being part of the team that neutralised Hizbul commanders Sameer Tiger and Saddam Paddar. His brother, Mohammad Qasim, serves in the Indian Army and another is preparing to join; an uncle was similarly abducted and killed while fighting terrorists in 2004.
Little wonder that the family questioned the Government’s Kashmir policy and demanded that Aurangzeb’s martyrdom be avenged within 72 hours or they would take up cudgels against the terrorists themselves. This was the first public demonstration by Kashmir’s “silent Muslims” that they exist in sizeable numbers and are willing to take the fight to the enemy camp.
It is not that Muslims have not died for the nation before; they have, in every war. But this was a different genre of grief-anger-nationalism, the first concrete evidence that the Ramzan ceasefire that took the lives of 40 jawans and civilians was not resented by Hindus in Jammu alone. It was hated by nationalist Muslims in Kashmir. The sudden BJP-PDP divorce most likely ends the job of interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, who was widely seen as pandering to the Valley's undesirables, who ignored him.
For three years, the BJP tolerated every whim of the PDP. As Minhas Merchant observes, the BJP scuttled its national manifesto which promised to abrogate Article 370 for the sake of the alliance. On its part, the Mehbooba Mufti Administration let Rohingyas settle in Jammu; allowed encroachment of Jammu forests and didn’t stop the exodus of Hindus from Jammu villages under Rohingya pressure; beat NIT Srinagar students for hoisting the Tricolour; forced the Ramzan ceasefire and demanded talks with Pakistan; and on April 14, forced the resignation of BJP ministers Lal Singh and CP Ganga for supporting the demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the murder of an eight-year-old girl child in Kathua district. On April 30, the BJP changed its members in the State Cabinet. Clearly, Mohammad Haneef forced a rethink.
Shujaat Bukhari was the polar opposite of the Aurangzeb family. This writer met him on September 29, 2010, when the UN Information Centre hosted a disastrous seminar at its official premises in Lodhi Estate, New Delhi, to give a platform to a bunch of India Ragdo (crush India) viragos from Srinagar. The meeting was organised by the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia, National Foundation for India and UNIC, and Bukhari shepherded the blatantly secessionist women. They managed an appointment in Rashtrapati Bhavan, but an angry President Pratibha Patil ordered them out when they raised ‘azadi’ slogans there.
The panellists were the usual secular Left-liberals under whose umbrella these supporters of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani promoted their separatist agenda. They included Dr Sayeda Hameed, then Member, Planning Commission, with Minister of State rank; Dr Mohini Giri, former chairperson, National Women’s Commission and daughter-in-law of late President VV Giri; and activists Jyotsna Chatterjee and former MP Subhasini Ali. A short clip on Geelani was shown and Anjum Zamarud Habib of the Geelani faction railed against India and insisted Kashmir was an issue of self-determination. That was the year stone-pelters first appeared; she ranted: “Boys with stones in their hand can never be defeated.”
Anyone who has read Shujaat Bukhari would have no difficulty in understanding what he stood for. The fact that he was murdered by the separatists/terrorists with whose aims he was in broad agreement is a telling commentary on the levels of intolerance among these trigger-happy lumpens.
Bukhari was a member of the Srinagar elite and a regular of the so-called Track II process, a thin disguise for imposing Islamabad’s interests on the whole of Jammu & Kashmir. His brother, Syed Basharat Bukhari, was then minister for horticulture in the Mehbooba Mufti government. What is also tragic about his premeditated murder is the demise of his two security guards, Abdul Hameed and Mumtaz Ahmad, who fell to the terrorists’ bullets.
Citizens have noted that the Hurriyat did not call for a Kashmir bandh over his murder; perhaps they know the identity of his killers and do not dare to oppose them publicly. With Jammu & Kashmir now under Governor’s rule, it is hoped we will learn more about the terror dynamics behind this murder. Shujaat Bukhari’s death has shocked the Kashmiri political elite which would be feeling insecure and anxious.
One does not wish to appear inhumane, but this seems the most appropriate time to ask why India is investing human resources and public funds to provide security to those who disrespect our territorial integrity, and wish to secede to join Pakistan or to become an independent nation. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah dreamt of a ‘Switzerland of Asia’, a glorified holiday resort for white Europeans. What a fall for the land of Rishi Kashyap!
India needs to re-Sanskritise the Himalayas by taking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s path-breaking initiative on Yoga to the next level. A beginning should be made by scrapping the contentious Article 370 (and its illegitimate tail, Article 35A) by Presidential Order. There must be an honest delimitation of seats on the basis of population so that Jammu gets justice and due weightage, and the tiny Kashmir valley is reduced to its proper size. This alone will pave the way for Gilgit-Baltistan and Occupied Kashmir to move towards reunification with India, something the people of the region earnestly desire.
(The author is Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library; the views expressed are personal)
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