Source: News Bharati English14 May 2017 12:32:20

Lt Gen Raj Kadyan

The brutal and cowardly murder of Indian Army Lieutenant Umer Fayaz marks a new low in the militancy in the Kashmir Valley. He was abducted while on leave to attend a family wedding. Those who talk of "Kasmiriyat' and 'Insaniyat' should rightly call it 'Haiwaaniyat".

Fayaz was commissioned on 10 Dec 2016 into the famous 2 RAJ RIF, the unit that had got India its first success in the Kargil war by capturing Tolloling. The date of commissioning had its own military significance. It was on 10 Dec 1856 that the same 2 RAJ RIF had captured Bushire, the primary port of entry into Persia at the time. That is one of the Battle Honours of the Battalion.

The entire Indian Army has felt the tragic loss and stands in solidarity with the bereaved family members. For those of us that belong to the Rajputana Rifles Regiment, the loss is felt even more deeply.

Fayaz was not involved in any anti-militancy operations at the time of the sordid event. In fact, he was on leave to attend a family wedding in Shopian in south Kashmir, he was taken away from the wedding venue. His bullet-ridden body was found next morning. He had been shot at close range. It was a cold-blooded murder. Fayaz was just 22 and had his life ahead of him. Like any other young man, he would have had his dreams for future. But his young life was heartlessly snatched away.

Who killed Fayaz and why? That he was killed by terrorists has been blindingly clear. The police have already claimed that he was killed by militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. They have even identified three terrorists from the village. The  Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is an affiliate of Pakistan-based LeT.

The more important question is why was Fayaz killed. The visuals of stone pelting crowds of young men and even girls are commonplace. Some Kashmiri panellists during television debates have been claiming the Valley disturbance as a popular, widespread movement. One even went to the extent of calling it a mutiny, or a civil war. To a casual observer, this may sound true and the situation may seem alarming. But that is not the reality.

India has had long experience of dealing with separatist elements within its borders. Such movements are led by a small core group. This nucleus is invariably small. The vast majority stay uncommitted, even uninvolved. Leaders of the movement always wish to convey the impression of it being a mass uprising. They always collect crowds to indicate the strength of their popularity through numbers. The unwilling are made to join through either allurement or coercion. The situation in the Valley is no different. There are enough indications, even proof by way of intercepted telephone conversations and interviews by some daring reporters. Only a few of the total ten Valley districts have had incidents of stones being pelted on security forces. Not all protesters or stone pelters are ideologically committed. Ironically, many of the youth have begun to see it as an entertaining pass time, since the extreme restraint shown by the security forces mostly rules out death or even serious injury to the protesters. Lack of commitment to the movement also gets manifested through vast crowds braving threats from militants and lining up for recruitment in the Army and police. They must be quite an eye sore for the militants, who find themselves increasingly isolated by such display of enthusiasm by their own.

On failing to convince the people to align with the cause, the militants invariably create a fear psychosis among the population. Their aim is not only to coerce people to display even mock solidarity with the cause they are pursuing, but also to prevent any action that could be construed as supportive of the government. Fayaz had joined the Indian Army thus reaffirming his allegiance to the Indian nation and the policies of its government. The militants could not have digested this and eliminated him.

Fayaz's dream was cruelly killed with him. It was a gruesome end to a bright individual who wanted to make his future and serve the nation. No one can bring him back. It might sound weird but in death, Fayaz may serve even more poignantly the cause that he had dedicated his life to. His tragic end may prove a defining moment for a change of public mood in the turbulent Valley.

It may be assumed that an average Kashmiri, like all of us, wants to live a serene and peaceful life, earn his living and go about his daily chores in the normal manner. The militancy is an obstacle in following that path. If this tragic event can spur the Kashmiris into standing up to the senseless killers masquerading as freedom fighters, Fayaz's soul would surely find some peace. This is, in fact, the best homage the Kashmiris can pay to their slain son.

Author is Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff