For decades, since the gunfire replaced lullabies in Kashmir, mourning has been a political expression. But never have been the fault lines so clearly visible as they are today on the surface of the Valley's social fabric that we even get a clear idea about who will mourn whom in this brutal conflict zone.
On Wednesday, at the funeral procession of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz Parry and even after he was lowered in the grave, apart from the family members and close relatives, a few people mourned his death. It was not just the death of a 22-year-old army officer but it was also death of an only son, a brother and a friend.
There was no stone pelting when Parry's shrouded body was buried and a few shed tears of grief. But something was certainly amiss. No slogans were raised, or perhaps people did not know what kind of slogan they should raise at the funeral of a man, who chose a job which would become a reason for him to be riddled with bullets.
Just like present generation which has engulfed the streets with anti-India protests or the gun wielding militants in the forests, Ummer wasn't born when this armed rebellion started in Kashmir in late 1980s — when the Russian made Kalashnikovs or AK-47s changed the political narrative of Kashmir.
Looking at his grave, people clung to a fence bordering an orchard where soldiers and fellow officers offered floral tributes to their fellow soldier. But given the situation in the Valley, it's hard to guess what could stoke violence. Still many turned up, for it was death of a Kashmiri — a man who also had equal stakes in Kashmir's future like anyone else.
The tragic death of Ummer, a lieutenant of the Rajputana Rifles, may not remain etched in our memories for very long but it has exposed, once again, how even your job can become the reason for your untimely and tortured death. Was he killed for being part of the Indian Army or was he killed because he chose to be on the other side of the narrative? But whatever the intentions of killers were - can we justify killing of an unarmed armyman when we are condemning killing of unarmed civilians? Will the separatists condemn this killing too, like they condemned the recent killing of politician Abdul Gani Dar? Dar was also on the other side of the narrative and was unarmed, just like Ummer was on that night of his relative's wedding.
On my way back from the funeral, I kept wondering what was missing from the funeral and from the corner of my notebook a few prophetic words, told to me by Ummer's cousin, stared back at me: "The lines are so clearly drawn that we know today who will mourn for you and who will mourn for me."
Ummer had gone to attend the marriage ceremony of his cousin sister after he was taken out of the house and killed, they found his dead body in the main chowk of the village on Wednesday morning. He was commissioned into the Army's Rajputana Rifles regiment just five months ago.
Ummer has never meant harm to anyone, in fact, he did not have the disposition of a typical army jawan — he would play with children on streets. He was a local boy of South Kashmir — the region that is today filled with militants and anti-India protests. But after his death, for everyone here Unmner is now an Indian, an Indian army officer, a Kashmiri and a Muslim, while as majority of the people living in Kashmir these days are Kashmiris, Pakistanis or Independent ideology people and anything but Indian.
People in Ummer's home village, Sursanoo, remember that the village has had only one militant - Mohammad Ayub Parry, who was killed while crossing the Line of Control in early 1990s, and he was brother of Ummer's father.
Who will decide which mourning is acceptable? Was mourning for his brother in 1990s or for his son in 2017 — the lines are so clearly visible that Kashmir once again has reached a point where there are battles within battle. It is Kashmiris who are choosing their battles because they can clearly see who will mourn for them and who they will mourn for.
Published Date: May 11, 2017 11:24 am | Updated Date: May 11, 2017 11:24 am