Vengeance even beyond the graves

Naila Altaf Kayani
On 30 December 2020, three Kashmiris were killed in an alleged gunfight in Lawaypora, outskirts of Srinagar. Their families staged a protest claiming their innocence. The slain trio was identified as Ather from Pulwama, an eleventh standard student in his teen years, another teenager Aijaz Ganaie, a graduate also from Pulwama district, and Zubair Lone, a carpenter from from Shopian. Their families continue to demand the bodies of their kin, who were buried in a discreet graveyard in Central Kashmir’s Sonamarg, about 120 km away from their ancestral home. The bereaved father Mushtaq Wani, after losing his son in an alleged fake encounter, has been slapped with an FIR with seven others, for demanding the dead body of his innocent son, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for “organizing illegal processions under criminal conspiracy”. It is worth to mention here that after facing ever-growing crowds of protesters chanting anti-India slogans and demanding Azadi at the funerals, police in IIOJK has decided to cease handing over the bodies of freedom fighters and civilians killed in fake-encounters to their families. Experts and rights activists maintain that the refusal to return bodies to families is an outright violation of international law, against the Geneva Conventions and height of repress Mushtaq Ahmed Wani, grieved father of martyr, meanwhile dug a grave and demanded for his son’s corpse. This empty grave yearning for the body reminds us of a 3 decades’ old first empty grave of Kashmir, dug up in the corner of Eidgah Srinagar. It was marked for Maqbool Butt, a resident of Trehgam village of Kupwara district. He was the pioneer of Kashmir’s militancy and was hanged on 11 February 1984 in New Delhi’s infamous Tihar jail. Butt’s empty grave was the first to be dug in the graveyard that is now known as Shaheed Malguzar, or the Martyrs’ Graveyard, and it still awaits the remains of Shaheed-e-Kashmir. Winters of 2013 witnessed another empty grave dug up for Afzal Guru, a resident of Sopore in north Kashmir, hanged and buried in the same notorious Tihar jail of Dehli. Both the graves have same inscription written on their epitaph “His body is a debt on the Government of India”. Martyrs’ graveyard or Behishte Shohdaye Kashmir houses around 1500 martyrs, mainly militants but also civilians killed in the name of their mother land Kashmir. It was supposed to be the graveyard for all the martyrs across Kashmir region, but now various districts have their very own graveyards for the same purpose. The newest among these invaluable beads of rosary is the empty grave of young Ather Wani. These empty graves are a sign of remembrance for the families and followers as well as a slap in the face of India’s so-called democracy. India may deny the martyrs a decent funeral, even if their bodies could not be draped in green flags before they could finally laid to rest, yet their sacrifices have become a part of local folklore. Naila Altaf Kayani is a social activist researcher, columnist and anchor. She can be reached at [email protected], She tweets at @NylaKayani.on.

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