The death of Lt Ummer Fayaz is more than a trauma

Do we want our beloved Kashmir to become another Syria?

Written by Major General BK Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: May 11, 2017 9:02 pm
Ummer Fayaz, Lt Ummer Fayaz, Ummer Fayaz killing, young army officer killing, army officer killing, shopian army officer killing, national conference, india news, latest news, indian express Slain Army officer Lt Ummer Fayaz

The barbaric killing of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz, a young military officer from Kashmir and a devout Sunni Muslim, by jihadi bloodhounds will stir the conscience of every well-meaning Kashmiri across the ideological spectrum . The incident has triggered in me a horrific memory of the mid-1990s when four close relatives, including two women, were killed in Kishtwar, in the name of religion and so-called “azaadi.” They were innocent and simple Kashmiris who loved their land and people.

Over the years, one has learnt to live with this trauma of seeing loved ones being shot, intimidated and displaced from home and hearth. A feeling of helplessness is constant. Going back “home” evokes unease – so many of us don’t know what that word really means.

The heinous killing of Lt Fayaz has brought back that terrible pain. It reminds us, once again, of our immense incapability, our failure, our inability to forge another way that will allow us to visit families and friends with whom we grew up.

This feeling of victimhood can easily give way to a feeling of revenge. As an infantry battalion commander deployed on the Line of Control in the 1990s, commanding Sikh troops, one could have gone berserk thinking of loved ones shot and maimed…Or settle scores with many Kashmiri youth caught infiltrating and exfiltrating across the LoC…Or hunt those reportedly rendering moral and material support to militants.

A profound sense of personal loss could be a valid rationale for this senseless blood-letting and extermination. An eye for an eye.

Ummer Fayaz, Kashmir, Ummer Fayaz killed, army officer killed, kashmir news, latest news, indian army The bullet-riddled body of  Lt Fayaz was found early Wednesday morning in the Herman area of South Kashmir’s Shopian district, police said. Express Photo

But how could I forget the ethos of the Indian Army and the persuasive spirit of “Kashmiriyat” which guided us to follow the tenets of Dharma, to adhere to the law of the land and handle situations with empathy and compassion?

One cannot, or should not forget that unjustified killings or indiscriminate violence by a disciplined force – for example, incidents like Machil, when some unruly security forces shot dead three Kashmiri men for self glorification — can only tarnish the image and overshadow the good deeds that security forces perform.

The gun I picked up was to join the Army and defend the people, even those who were led astray. Through the years of outrage, I kept the belief that we are the same people, that the passage of time will allow us to reconcile and that we will soon live in peace and harmony in the true spirit of Kashmiriyat — our backbone, our DNA.

Regrettably, recent developments in the Kashmir valley belie that hope. I believe that the young and brave military officer, Lt Ummer Fayaz, as well as other Kashmiri security personnel who have been killed are the victims of “takfeer,” a virulent form of jihadism which declares that all those who don’t adhere to the extremist versions of Salafi ideology deserve to be beheaded or brutally killed.

The truth is that we permitted a genuine political moment to degenerate into an extreme radicalism. This is not going to stop, unless we take serious and strong measures. There are thousands of soldiers and paramilitary in the JKLI, Dogra, CRPF, BSF regiments and lakhs of policemen and if they now become targets of the jihadists like Lt Ummer Fayaz, then they too, like Kashmiri Pandits, will one day become strangers in their own land.

The spread of this radical ideology, if unchecked, will escalate brute violence against common Kashmiris and target the followers of Sufi and Shia Islam. Ordinary people will bear the brunt of the crackdown between the state and these jihadi terrorists. Kashmir could become another Syria.

Do we want our beloved Kashmir to become another Syria? Can we allow our great heritage buildings and Sufi shrines and temples to be at the mercy of Salafi jihadis like Mast Gul and other psychopaths?

Wake up Kashmiris. Be on guard. Protect your people and your invaluable heritage or else you will fail both your ancestors and your future generations.

For a moment let us detach ourselves from this whirlpool of cultivated hatred and think. Is this the same Kashmir where no communal riots took place during Partition when neighbouring Punjab was burning? Is this the same Kashmir where both Hindus and Muslims celebrated each other’s festivals and shared moments of joy and sorrow together? Should we allow a great civilisational state to regress into a primitive Sharia-based Caliphate that will never by in sync with the modern world? Moreover, how can such a culturally diverse state which shares frontiers with China, Afghanistan and Central Asia be defined by a bunch of self-serving radicals?

The people of Kashmir will have to decide which Kashmir they want. We have to stop being mute witnesses to our own doom and destruction. Kashmir is teetering on the cusp of a fragile moment with far-reaching consequences for the future. Allah has bestowed upon us a heaven. We cannot permit it to become a living hell.


The writer commanded a battalion in J&K and has live operational experience of counter terrorism. He heads the Centre for Strategic Studies at the United Services of India, a Delhi-based think tank.

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  1. G
    Ghanshyam Katoch
    May 12, 2017 at 11:05 pm
    A hard hitting call which appears to have come from the heart of the writer. That is not surprising in view of the fact that the writer has been on both sides of the gun. The kil of the young officer has stirred passions in the Nation. There has been a call for a candlelight vigil by his coursemates from the National Defence Academy. Such vigils are normally held to draw attention to outrages against innocents. So was Lt Fayaz. However, to think that he did not know the risk would be naive. He knew the risk and took it. Let the message from the candlelight vigil be that Kashmir will always be a part of India. If Nigeria could retain secessionist Biafra, if Congo could retain secessionist Katanga, there is no question of loosing Kashmir. Yes, a solution needs to be found. Congo found it after 55 years in 2015 when Katanga was broken up into four states. Should we wait for 55 years before we agree to the demands of the people of Jammu and Ladakh to be separate administrative units.
    1. Rathi Raj
      May 12, 2017 at 3:17 pm
      No words of sanity is likely to change situation unless the masterminds are caught and punished severely. It's amazing that such people are moving freely, immune to law. Why not catch and punish the Geelanis, Shabbir Shahs and Mirwaizs immediately? Why to tie hands of the security forces and listen to the equally corrupt and incompetent judiciary?
      1. M
        May 12, 2017 at 11:12 am
        Shame on them who kill innocent people.It must be strongly condemned. India has a lot of challenges and one of them is terrorism which should be addressed first. It's very painful when someone dies who was an innocent citizen. We must develop a strong system in our country,if needed take help from USA and Israel to nab these type of so called jihadis and punish them.A young Kashmiri army Doc was killed for nothing,recently so many CRPF jawans were killed by naxalites,I mean this is really a big f--k ,where are we heading,we are in a big mess. When can we Indians have a peaceful atmosphere.I think if our politicians can't handle ,they must let the army to run the country at least for 10 years to clean the mess.Unless our politicians become good human beings these things will keep happening in our country.Our politicians must always think about the country,people,hungry children rather than their big luxury cars and bank balance.If anyone kills innocent people,he/she must be punished.
        1. Anil Kumar Nigam
          May 12, 2017 at 8:08 am
          इनके मजहब के मूल में घृणा है, जिसे इन्हें मदरसों में कूट कूट कर भरा जाता है, जहाँ अन्य धर्मों के प्रति अ िष्णुता सिखाई जाती है, इनका मानना है कि इस जीवन में कोई सुख सच्चा आनंद नहीं दे सकता, मरने के बाद जन्नत मिलने का सबसे आसान मार्ग यही बताया गया है कि आप धर्म के लिए लड़ते हुए शहीद हो जाओ, हिन्दु जब संसार से दुखी हो जाता है तो वैराग्य अपना लेता है, मुसलमान बंदूक उठा लेता है, और यही कारण है कि सीरीया, इराक, यमन, लेबनान, फिलस्तीन आदि देशों में इतना विध्वंस हो रहा है, इसका कोई इलाज नहीं है, जैसे ही ये लोग बहुसंख्यक हो जाते हैं इनका विध्वंस शुरु हो जाता है, कश्मीर भी उसी राह पर है, इसका एक ही उपाय है धारा 370 हटा कर हिन्दुओं को वहाँ बसाया जाए, भाड़ में गई कश्मीरीयत।
          1. A
            Anuj Malik
            May 12, 2017 at 12:47 am
            Why doesn't our armed forces do something what are we waiting for more bloodshead more human loss more soldiers and jawans to loose their life. India should bambard stan and kill their soldiers in the same way as they did to us. This is hot blood of armed forces son speaking
            1. Mohammad Dar
              May 12, 2017 at 12:54 am
              a hindu stupid wish of a hog of hinduism racism by faith , a hindu in human form, Army of hindus hijras are doing their best, to please solders of stan under difficult cir stances, and historic hindu hijra Army, used to please invaders. "NOT FIGHT' has no way to change her tactical moves, but keep on trying their best, with different moves of y dance, and the tunes.
              1. L
                May 12, 2017 at 11:55 am
                16 Dec 1971...Dhaka
                1. P
                  May 13, 2017 at 5:26 am
                  Most of those hijra hindus got converted to islam and landed in stan.. and even now they are tring their best to not to read history of their ancestors and wishing to become slaves of islamist propa a
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