A TALE OF TWO MUDASIRS

Updated 06 Aug 2018

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SRINAGAR: Indian soldiers patrol a closed market during a strike on Sunday.—AP
SRINAGAR: Indian soldiers patrol a closed market during a strike on Sunday.—AP

SRINAGAR: An extraordinary video message was forwarded by many Kash­miris via WhatsApp last Friday (July 27).

In the video a Kashmiri mother, both hands folded, was seen making passionate appeals to India-held Kashmir’s armed rebels to release her abducted son, Mudasir Ahmad Lone, who worked with the Jammu and Kashmir police as a cook. Mudasir Lone was home on leave. He had joined local police as SPO (special police officer) last year and was posted at Reshi­pora, in south Kash­mir’s Awantipora. His family hails from Tral, hometown of Burhan Wani, the young and tech-savvy militant commander who was killed in a gunfight with Indian forces in July 2016.

This picturesque town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district is the bastion of renewed rebellion, and a face of Kashmir’s new age of indigenous militancy.

According to Srinagar-based English newspaper Greater Kashmir, a group of Kashmiri armed rebels abducted Mudasir when he was “repairing his bike inside the courtyard” on Friday.

Appeal melts kidnappers

Immediately after her son’s kidnapping, Mudasir’s mother Hareefa addressed media from her home in Tral.

In her video message she made an appeal to the armed rebels fighting Indian rule in Kashmir to release her son and to forgive him.

“He (Mudasir) is my only son. He has three sisters. I apologise on his behalf. If he has transgressed, committed a mistake; please forgive him. He had planned that he will quit his job as policeman this Friday, but some work held him back. He will offer apology to the people. For God’s sake please forgive him, please release him,” the mother said with her moist eyes.

“He will not commit any mistake from here onwards. You are my children and his brothers. If you receive any complaints against him in future you can then kill all of us,” Mudasir’s mother continued in a choked voice.

Hareefa’s message was heart-wrenching. It went viral on social media. And it made an immediate impact.

Only a few hours after the mother’s appeal for release of her son, the abductors released Mudasir.

Many Kashmiris used Facebook and Twitter to write in support of Mudasir’s release and then heaved a sigh of relief once he joined his family again.

There were a few who justified Mudasir’s abduction and wanted him dead because there is little sympathy for local policemen in Kashmir for a variety of reasons.

Militants abduct armed forces personnel from their homes because they perceive local policemen as “collaborators of the Indian state”. Some are killed while others released after a warning.

In turn, a special task force (STF) of the J&K Police participates in anti-militancy operations and kills militants in routine encounters in various parts of the Kashmir Valley. The local police have also earned a reputation for robust intelligence gathering, for good or for bad!

Explaining why armed rebels have intensified their attacks on policemen after Burhan Wani’s killing in 2016, the director general of J&K Police, Shesh Paul Vaid, told The Quint that “the biggest reason is the frustration, that our counterinsurgency strategies and successful operations have created among the people across the border in PoK (Pakistan-administered Kashmir, or Azad Kashmir) and Pakistan. They know it well that this efficiency and frequency of pinpointed crackdowns and operations on terrorist hideouts, is not possible without human intelligence gathering, in which J&K Police is playing an important role. They are desperately out to terrorise and demoralise the police force through brutal killings. But rest assured, it’s all proving to be counterproductive for them.”

Later, in a tweet S P Vaid claimed that “1,655 personnel of @JmuKmrPolice have been killed in thousands of militant attacks in over 28 years of conflict in Kashmir”.

Over the last three years alone, government forces have killed about 600 militants in India-held Kashmir. During the same period militants have killed 225 troopers, including Indian army personnel and local policemen. Since Jan 2015, over 300 civilians have also been killed, most of them in firing by government forces on civilian protesters near encounter sites and in use of brute force during pro-independence protests.

Nevertheless, the good thing was that Mudasir Lone survived. He was relea­sed by abductors to rejoin his family.

Not so lucky

However, as if by way of contrast, a rebel named Mudasir Ahmad Bhat of old Barzulla, Srinagar, was not so lucky. He was killed in a gunfight with government forces in the forests of frontier district Kupwara over a month ago.

On June 29, the Indian forces claimed to have killed “an unidentified militant” in an encounter at Kachama’s Tunga Top forest. The “unidentified” militant’s body was buried near forests in Kupwara.

After coming across pictures of the slain rebel on social media, the Bhat family of Barzulla claimed that the man was their son, Mudasir.

The family was asked to submit an application to the district magistrate of Kupwara for exhumation of the body.

Family members, relatives, friends and neighbours of Mudasir Bhat also registered their protest near Srinagar’s Press Enclave and requested the administration to return the mortal remains.

There was no progress for three weeks.

The family was also asked to submit a separate application at the police station concerned.

The Bhat family provided DNA samples as part of the procedure to establish Mudasir’s identity. Once the local administration received the DNA report and the samples matched those claiming to be his kin, the family was asked to collect the body.

Finally, after more than a month had elapsed since the encounter, Mudasir’s body was exhumed and handed over to the family. His father, brother and some other relatives had to travel from Srinagar to Kupwara, near the Line of Control (LoC), to collect the body.

Hundreds of Kashmiris attended his funeral on July 31 amid pro-independence and pro-Pakistan slogans.

One Mudasir was back with his family while another was buried at his ancestral graveyard in Srinagar.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2018