When a beast starts eating its own tail, it is a clear sign of its impending derangement. Kashmir, unfortunately, has reached that point of madness.
The lynching of Mohammed Ayub Pandith, a deputy superintendent of police, at Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta, Srinagar, on Thursday is a warning that Kashmir is turning into a snake pit where the inhabitants are ready to attack each other, creating an environment of fear, anarchy and hysteria – ultimately creating a society that could annihilate itself.
Pandith was killed outside the mosque for allegedly shooting a video of stone pelters. He was stripped naked and stoned to death by an irate mob. It was a ritual reminiscent of the medieval ages, that the so-called Islamic State has made its signature style.
There is just one word to describe Pandith's lynching, barbaric. Murdering a man with Mohammed in his name on Shab-e-Qadr – the night when first Quranic verses were revealed to the Prophet – is not just anti-human but it also defies the very spirit of the occasion the murderers were celebrating. By lynching Pandith, a man performing his duty, the deranged mob of killers has not just shamed humanity and Kashmiriyat but also defiled Islam.
It is evident that something is really wrong in the Valley. Instead of fighting politically with the Indian state, its jihadists and stone-pelters are now turning against their own people in the most violent ways. There seems to be an undeclared Kashmiri vs Kashmiri war that is turning ugly and brutal.
The new trend was visible when militants first abducted and killed Lt Ummer Fayaz, an Indian Army officer, on the eve of his sister's wedding. Much more than the dastardly killing of the officer, the silence of the Kashmiris was more indicative of how they had accepted the violence directed within.
Then, six days ago, militants ambushed and killed six police officers in South Kashmir's Achbal area. Such was the venom inside them that the murderers disfigured the cops after launching a cowardly attack. Before that, on 28 May, five cops and two guards were killed by terrorists in a raid on a van carrying cash.
Pandith's lynching, again an act of cowardice and treachery, is the latest in a trend that indicates how Kashmir's political movement is now claiming its people, like in the famous parable of snakes becoming so used to violence that in the end, after attacking outsiders, they started devouring their own behinds.
Kashmir is a complex case. Though a separatist movement has been raging for decades in the Valley, most of its residents are still confused about their aim. Some of them – and their number is minuscule – want to become a part of Pakistan. Many others want freedom and want to turn the Valley into the Switzerland of Asia – a chimera that is absolutely unviable because of India's geopolitical concerns.
Some want just more azaadi and human rights within the Indian system. And many want to stay with India, join its army, security forces, civil services and the police force.
The point is, Kashmiris have always had many voices, many desires and many aspirations, some of them even contradictory. But, for ages, Kashmiris lived in peace with each other and accepted this diversity of views. This brutal silencing of voices from within that support India is a comparatively new trend.
What does it indicate? One, of course, that Kashmiris known for their syncretic, liberal Islam and tolerance are stepping away from their cultural, religious and moral ethos. In their political fight, they now seem to be ready to embrace violence and tools popularised by barbaric organisations like the Islamic State.
Two, it shows that Kashmir is in the grip of an ascending spiral of bloodshed. Security forces, militants and some of its residents are now engaged in a dangerous game where every violent act begets a bigger act of violence, every encounter leads to a more barbaric revenge. It has now become a place where hatred and vengeance have replaced the defining traits of what Atal Bihari Vajpayee famously described as insaniyat and Kashmiriyat.
Kashmiris need to be careful. So far, their struggle has found many sympathisers because their fight appeared to be for the right to decide their own political destiny, live with dignity and be allowed more human rights.
As long as the average Kashmiri separatist shunned barbarism, eschewed violence and believed in a political solution, he was seen as a victim of oppression and the vagaries of Partition.
But, if its people resort to such dastardly attacks on unarmed people performing their duty, they would lose the sympathy and support they have earned. Their barbarism would only act as justification for a bigger response from the Indian state, an act even their erstwhile sympathisers would find difficult to criticise.
Some years ago, while walking down Srinagar's Boulevard road, I had come across a graffiti asking tourists to be not afraid. ''Darro mat, yahan bhi insaan rehte hain (don't be afraid, humans live here).''
Pandith's lynching is indeed a cataclysmic event. For, it shows the devil has indeed entered some Kashmiri souls, stripping them of their insaniyat.
Updated Date: Jun 23, 2017 18:59 PM