Anil Nauriya: Targeting Kashmir’s leaders (2005) // Not a Muslim vs the rest issue - the Destruction of a Historic Party-Understanding Kashmir and the National Conference Experience (2002)
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Targeting Kashmir’s leaders by Anil Nauriya (2005)
A rough estimate by this writer suggests that that the killings of NC, PDP and Congress cadres have been under-reported in the Press. In a recent month three incidents were missed by newspapers before one got reported. In the pre-2002 elections period for diverse reasons those concerned with public affairs did not highlight such killings, then largely of NC cadres. It is instructive to examine if similar reasons apply in the case of reports on PDP killings in the post-2002 period. The media had written off the NC as corrupt and often virtually ignored the killings of its cadres.
(a) Hindu sectarian and communal organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Pakistani ruling clique were and are both wrong to see Kashmir xclusively as a Muslim vs Hindu issue.
(c) The killings of the National Conference cadres by the terrorists could certainly have an impact on the poll due in September- October.
(d) There is a significant point of view within Kashmir which, while not necessarily denying the legitimacy of and justification for dissatisfaction with the Indian government, would nevertheless be happy to arrive at a settlement within the framework of the Constitution of India. The terrorists are keen to ensure that this point of view should not find expression and that those who adopt it ought to be eliminated. This complicates the Kashmir problem and makes it more difficult to arrive at a solution.
(e) Such events and element are preventing a proper focus on the day-to-day problems of the people of Kashmir, their basic needs and issues concerning development, education and justice.
The autonomy proposals which the National Conference had put forward sometime ago were dealt with in a summary manner by New Delhi. The National Conference too, for its part, failed to realise, that if the Indian Government, regardless of the party in power, made its maximal concessions to the National Conference, New Delhi would be left with little to offer in negotiations with the groups which have so far defined their politics on the basis of the demand to separate Jammu & Kashmir from India.
For all the mistakes that India may have made in Kashmir in the last 50 years, there is a significant point of view within Kashmiri Muslim opinion which, while accepting the legitimacy of and justification for, dissatisfaction with the Indian government, is willing to come to a peaceful settlement through dialogue within the framework of the Indian Constitution. The terrorists are keen to ensure that this does not happen and that those who express this point of view be physically eliminated, and those who support them sufficiently intimidated. This complicates possibilities of a solution to the Kashmir problem.
that the massive scale of destruction of this party was seldom brought home to the reader in the country as a whole.
The attempt on the life of Dr Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, on June 15, 2002 was the second such in the last 18 months. It followed in a long line of killings of National Conference leaders since 1989. These killings were an attempt on the part of the terrorists to silence political voices opposed to them and, by default, to manufacture consent for themselves in the Kashmir Valley.
The terrorists have chosen the National Conference for special attention, though leaders from other parties like the Janata Dal, Congress (I), the two major Communist parties (the CPI and the CPI(M)) and Awami National Conference, among others, have also been killed. In the case of the National Conference the terrorists have tried to eliminate its organisational structure. The Block and Zonal Presidents of the National Conference have in particular been targeted. This deserves to be set out in some detail for the benefit of those who incorrectly see the current discontents chiefly and even exclusively in a Muslim-versus-Hindu frame.
The targeting started in the early stages of the disturbances. Sheikh Abdul Jabar, a freedom fighter and leading figure in the National Conference(NC) was shot dead on April 18, 1990. Mohd Subhan Bhat, a former state legislator who was Zonal President of the National Conference for Tral, Pulwama was killed by militants on April 9, 1991. Wali Mohd Yatoo who had been Speaker of the Jammu & Kashmir assembly was killed on March 18, 1994 in Jammu. Ghulam Qadir Mir, an eminent National Conference leader and a former state legislator was shot dead on April 11, 1994.
Haji Mohd Jamal, a very popular National Conference leader was killed by militants on May 25, 1995 at the Tengpora Bye Pass, Srinagar. Ghulam Rasool Bhat, a former state legislator and a leading figure in the National Conference was killed by militants in Nowpora, Baramulla on March 3, 1997. His brother was also killed. On June 4/5 1997. Abdul Ghani Lone of Freswar Badgaon was gunned down. He was the National Conference Halqa President of his area. A few weeks later on August 20/21 1997 Abdul Rehman Bhat who was the Noorabad Block President of the National Conference was shot dead.
Haji Abdul Aziz Bhat who was the Block President of the Noor Bagh National Conference was shot dead on November 18, 1998. Ghulam Nabi Malik who was the Block President in Wailoo was shot dead by militants eight days later, on November 26, 1998. Mohd Ramzan Tantray was the Halqa President of the Baghat Kanipora National Conference. Militants took his life on December 12 1998.
Ghulam Nabi Riyaz was the General Secretary of the Rajouri District National Conference. The militants killed him exactly a week later -- on December 19, 1998. There seems to have been a lull for about four months so far as the National Conference was concerned. And then the killings resumed. Ghulam Hassan Bhat was the District President of the National Conference, Pulwama. He was shot dead by militants outside his house on May 5, 1999. Ghulam Hassan Bhat was extremely popular with the Kashmiri people. Earlier, in December 1998, his brother in law, Nisar Ahmed Dar was killed by militants in his village.
Another National Conference activist, Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Qazi, was a well known personality of Kishtwar. The militants killed him nine days after they had despatched Ghulam Hassan Bhat - on May 14, 1999. On the very next day they got at the elderly Abdul Ahad Wani (also known as Ahad Kar). Wani was a National Conference MLA from Langate constituency.
Before the month was over,on May 31, 1999, the terrorists eliminated Abdul Aziz Bhat who was the Block President of the Pinglana National Conference. In the following month two more National Conference personalities were killed. First, on June 14, 1999, the terrorists killed Abdul Aziz Malik who was the Vice President of the National Conference in Kupwara district. There was widespread popular protest in Kashmir over the killing of Malik, again an elderly gentleman of 60 years of age. On June 15, 1999 there was a hartal in Kupwara over his killing.
Second, Mohd Shafi Sofi, who was the Halqa President of the Habakadal National Conference was eliminated by militants on June 28, 1999. Five days later, on July 2/3 1999, Haji Mohd Abdulla, a follower of the late Sheikh Abdullah, and manager of the Auqaf at Budgam was killed by militants.
Another five days passed and on July 7, 1999, the militants eliminated Khazir Mohd Bhat the National Conference Block President in Sopore. In the following month, on August 23, 1999, the terrorists murdered Mohammed Akbar who was the Halqa President of the National Conference for Arizal, Budgam.
On October 11, 1999 Ghulam Nabi Dar, the National Conference Block President for Soura was eliminated. Abdul Aziz Bhat was the Block President of the Kharbag Botwani National Conference. He was killed by terrorists on November 21, 1999. Eight days later, on November 29, 1999, yet another National Conference Block President - Abdul Ahad Bhat - was killed by militants. He was the NC Block President for Kralapora.
Again there was a four month lull. Then it started again. On May 15, 2000 Ghulam Hassan Bhat a National Conference MLA from Dooru and Parliamentary Secretary was killed in a mine blast set off by militants. Another NC party worker was killed with him as were his driver and two personal security officers. On June 12, 2000 one more National Conference Block President - Ghulam Mohd Reshi - was gunned down. He had been Block President for Tangmarg.
Nine days later, on June 21, 2000, the terrorists struck again at the National Conference party structure. This time Mohd Rajab Bhat, Block President of the National Conference, Nadihal was assassinated. The following month it happened again. On July 15, 2000 Munshi Qadratulla, the District President of the National Conference in Doda was shot dead. On October 9, 2000 Ghulam Mohd Mir who was Block President of the Youth National Conference Awoora was eliminated. Another National Conference activist, Mohd Akbar Wani who was also involved in a Srinagar auqaf and other community activitieswas assassinated on January 8, 2001.
Ghulam Mohd Ganai, a senior National Conference activist, who was the NC Block President Khan Sahib Budgam was murdered on March 17, 2001. An earlier attempt by militants to kill him on July 26/27, 1999 had failed. Mohd Abdullah Najar, who was the Vice President of the National Conference, Pulwama district, was silenced on October 4, 2001. Mehrajuddin Farash,a senior National Conference leader who was also the NC Block President Amira Kadal was murdered by militants on October 25, 2001. This happened after he attended a meeting of NC Block Presidents at Srinagar. Farash had been on the terrorists' hit list since at least 1996 when they first tried to kill him.
Public opinion even within India itself does not now fully appreciate what the National Conference workers have faced. In fact the Kashmir issue in the last 12 years has often been erroneously seen by the public in India and by world opinion almost exclusively in Muslim-versus-Hindu terms. The RSS and other Hindu-oriented organisations have also contributed to this by their near exclusive focus on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, unfortunate though their circumstances have been.
But once you mount a tiger it is difficult to dismount. Killings of National Conference workers at the hands of terrorists have continued regardless. Abdul Rashid Dar and Ghulam Mohiuddin Wani, mentioned above, were killed even after the Musharraf and Ghani Bhat statements, as indeed was Abdul Ghani Lone of the Hurriyat Conference itself.
The pre-election scenario: These events are continually diverting attention and energies from issues that need addressing: the day-to-day problems of the people of Kashmir, their basic needs and issues concerning development, education and justice. These issues, however, could not have been absent from the mind of the Kashmiri voter in the elections that have just concluded.
Elections were held in the (Indian side of) Jammu & Kashmir in phases in September and October 2002. In the pre-election scenario in the state,the assassinations of National Conference leaders in Jammu & Kashmir at the hands of terrorists have become even more frequent. Everyday brought news of more such killings. Gradually the so-called national press, which virtually ignored these killings in the last 12 years, is waking up to what has been going on. And what has been going on is nothing less than an attempt by the Pakistan-backed terrorists to determine the outcome of the forthcoming elections by physically eliminating the traditional Muslim leadership of Kashmir and intimidating their supporters.
All talk of the "wishes of the Kashmiri people" will come to naught if the traditional Muslim political leadership of Kashmir is physically eliminated. What meaning would a "free and fair poll" have then?
Ironically, international quarters which would have been happy formally to be involved in the poll process itself have had little to say on the murder of National Conference cadres over the last 12 years or even in the last couple of months. Did not these killings affect adversely the fairness of the election which they universally said they desired?
A National Conference worker Ghulam Mohiuddin Wani, was shot dead by militants at his Qazipora-Watpora residence in Baramulla district on July 2. The indifference of the media at least until very recently, is illustrated by the fact that on the next day (July 3) many Delhi papers did not even care to report the event. After I drew the attention of one newspaper to this on July 3, it carried a story by its correspondent on July 4, saying in passing that the "NC activist who was shot dead on July 2 was the sixth party worker to be killed since Omar Abdullah's 'coronation' on May 23".(Omar Abdullah recently took over as the head of the National Conference). What was not explained by the newspaper was why, since this was the case, it had not reported the killings earlier.
The frequency of the killings has been increasing as the September-October elections in Jammu& Kashmir draw near. On July 21 Mohammad Afzal, a National Conference leader and panch was killed by militants. Then again on July 25/26 a Block President of the National Conference and two other NC leaders were killed by militants. Mohammad Sultan Bhat, Block President of the National Conference, was killed on July 25 when he came out of a mosque after offering prayers Kanth Bagh in Budgam. Militants also killed Sonaullah Khan and Wali Mohammed Khan, both National Conference activists, at Bachipora in Budgam district on the same night.
On July 28 a National Conference activist, Mohammad Amin Kathloo, numberdar, was shot dead at Peth Gathi Baba in the Tangmarg area of Baramula district. On July 31 three persons, including one National Conference worker,were killed by militants in Pulwama. Among those killed was Fayaz Ahmad Bhat who was considered the likely NC candidate for Tral(Pulwama) in the forthcoming state assembly elections. On August 2, the terrorists got at yet another Block President of the National Conference. They shot dead Ali Mohammad Dar, Sarpanch and Block President at Koochipora, Qazigund in Anantnag District.
September has been even more bloody. September 11 was marked in Jammu & Kashmir with the assassination by terrorists of Mushtaq Ahmad Lone who was the Law minister in the National Conference Government in the state. He was killed at an election rally in Lolab constituency of Kupwara district. The militant organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba claimed responsibility for the attack in which six others were also shot dead. On the same day the house of Ms Sakina Ittoo, Tourism Minister in the National Conference Government, was attacked by militants with grenades. These attacks now seem to be directed increasingly at women as well. On the same day, Mehra Begum, a National Conference women's wing district president, was shot dead by militants in Baramulla district. Even Mushtaq Lone's funeral on the next day became an occasion for a terrorist attack. Leaders from other parties participating in the elections have also been attacked by terrorists.
September 2 proved a particularly bad day. Two more National Conference activists were killed around September 2. Ghulam Hassan Bhat an NC activist in Bandipora, Baramula district was first abducted by terrorists and then killed. His beheaded body was recovered from near his village, Ayatmullah, early on Sepember 2. In the early hours of the same day terrorists entered the house of Ali Mohammad Dar, an NC activist, in Anantnag District and shot him dead.
Also on the same day, yet another NC activist, Habibullah Gojri, was reportedly shot and critically wounded by terrorists in Sopore, Baramula district. This is not all. There was also an attempt on the life of Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, Jammu & Kashmir minister of Industries (a brother of Farooq Abdullah) on September 2. Terorists fired indiscriminately at his motorcade at Khepora. Mr Kamal is an NC candidate from Gulmarg and had just addressed an election rally.
Another National Conference activist, Farooq Ahmed Lone, was injured when the window panes of his vehicle were broken. On September 4 four NC activists were attacked and injured in Kupwara when terrorists hurled a grenade at their vehicle. The four activists were Nazir Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Ashraf, Ghulam Hassan War and Feroze Ahmad War. Mir is understood to have been very seriously injured.
On the same day, militants shot dead a National Conference worker, Mohammad Mustafa Lone in the Kunzar area of Baramula. On September 6 there was an attempt on the life of Mohammad Yusuf Bhat the National Conference candidate Sangrama constituency, Baramulla. On the following day, September 7, terrorists entered the house of Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik, an NC worker, at Sonmullah Vilgam and shot him dead. And on September 8 another NC activist, Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, who was an employee in a silk factory, was shot dead at Tengpora Bypass. Ghulam Mohd Dar was killed in Handwara on September 9.
The incidents of September 11 which claimed the life of the state law minister and also of a woman activist of the National Conference have already been mentioned. Estimates of the number of National Conference members killed by terrorists in the last 13 years vary. But there is consensus that these are in hundreds, if not in four figures.
On September 13 terrorists shot Nazir Hussain, a National Conference leader, in Poonch district. On the following day, two days before the polling in Rajouri and Poonch districts, Haji Mohamad Riyaz was murdered by militants in his house in Shadra Sharif. Riyaz was a Sarpanch and an NC leader in the Poonch and Rajouri districts.
On September 15, the day before the first phase of elections in the state was to begin, another attempt was made by terrorists on the life of Ms Sakina Itoo, the state tourism minister. Her cavalcade was ambushed in Anantnag district.She is a candidate from the Noorabad seat. While she escaped unhurt two securitymen were killed and three persons were injured in the attack. The state agriculture minister, Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzan's house was attacked on the same day.
Late at night the terrorists opened fire also on the house of a National Conference candidate, Javid Hussain Shah in Bandipora. Shah, a member of the Legislative Council, was at home but escaped without injury. The firing was repeated on the night of September 17.
On September 18 two National Conference workers, Ali Mohammed Dar and Ghulam Rasool Mir were shot dead by terrorists. The outfit, Al Arifeen, a "shadow group" of the Lashkar-e-Taiba has claimed responsibility for the killings. Two days later militants first abducted and then killed National Conference leader Moulvi Ghulam Mohammad Hussain. This happened in Brah village, Anantnag district. Hussain was a member of the Gujjar Bakerwal Advisory Board. Another National Conference leader, Azad Ahmed Khan, was killed in the Renipora area. On September 21 a National Conference activist, Abdur Rehman Daka was killed in the Kokernag area of Anantnag district. Also assassinated was Haji Ghulam Mohammad Parray, a National Conference activist in Beerwah, Budgam district.
This information on the targeting of the National Conference is not exhaustive; it consists only of what I could readily place my hands on. Many hundred more NC party workers have been killed by terrorists than I have been able to list.
It bears repetition that it is the traditional Kashmiri Muslim political leadership that is being killed. It is being killed because it stands for a composite and secular India. How long will groups like the Hindu sectarian RSS (and also the Pakistan ruling clique) continue to see the Kashmir problem only in a Muslim versus Hindu frame?
Appendix Terrorist Killings of political figures other than those belonging to the National Conference. I have set out information about some of the more prominent NC leaders who have been killed by terrorists in the years since 1989. I want also to mention some of the J&K Muslim leaders of other political persuasion who have been killed by terrorists.
Among the first to be killed was Abdul Sattar Ranjoor of the CPI. He was the General Secretary of the state CPI. He was killed on March 23, 1990. Ghulam Nabi Shah, District President of the Janata Dal, Kupwara was shot dead by militants at Kupwara on March 16, 1995.
A veteran leader, Ghulam Hassan Mir, was the Congress (I) district President in Pulwama. This seventy year old man was dragged out of his house and shot dead on April 9, 1996.
Abdul Hamid Bhat, a a CPM activist, was shot dead by militants at his home in Kulgam, Anantnag on November 2, 1997.
Haji Abdul Gani was the Congress(I) Block President in Hari Poonch. He was killed in the night of July 2/3 1999.
Abdul Hamid Sheikh was the Block President of the Awami League, Chandilora. He was assassinated on July 18,1999.
Ghulam Hyder Shah (also known as Noorani) who had been in the CPI(M) and Janata Dal but was contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Anantnag as a BJP candidate was killed by militants on September 7, 1999.
Mohd Anwar Sheikh of the Awami League was killed along with his wife, daughter and personal security officers when they were attacked by militants on October 27, 1999.
Abdul Rashid Bhat was a former Block President of the Awami National Conference. He was assassinated by militants on Nov 1, 1999. The attack took place in broad daylight at his Maisuma shop.
A very senior leader of the Congress(I), Aga Syed Medhi was killed by terrorists in a mine blast at Mazhama Magam on the Tangmarg road. He had contested the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in 1996.
Molvi Ahmad Din was assassinated by militants on March 3, 2000. He was the District Vice President of the BJP in Rajouri.
Non-NC political personalities killed in the run-up to the forthcoming elections:
On September 6 an independent candidate, Sheikh Abdul Rahman, was killed when militants fired upon his vehicle at Wadipora near Handwara.
His nephew, Nazir Ahmad, their driver, Ghulam Mohiuddin, and the Sheikh's political supporter, Abdul Aziz, were also killed. On the same day, four supporters of the Janata Dal(U) candidate in Handwara constituency were also injured when militants fired upon their vehicle in Kupwara district.
On September 10, Hakeem Ghulam Nabi of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) was shot dead in Pulwama district. He had earlier been a National Conference Block President.
On the next day, September 11, an election meeting of the People's Democratic Party was attacked by militants in Surankote, Poonch. Hand grenades were hurled at the gathering. Indiscriminate firing was also resorted to. Around a dozen persons were killed on the spot and 14 others injured.
An attempt was also made on the same day by terrorists on the life of Tariq Mohiuddin, A Congress candidate from Khansahib constituency, and a grenade was thrown at his motorcade which was also fired upon.
On the night of September 20 Zahoor Ahmed and Abdul Rahman, two workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were killed by terrorists at Okai in the Kulgam area of Anantnag district. On the next day, September 21, a grenade attack was made by terrorists when the senior Vice President of the state Congress, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, was addressing an election meeting at Kokernag. On the next day terrorists made a grenade attack on the house of Mohammad Shafi Banday, the Congress candidate from Shopian, Pulwama district.
One of the worst-ever attack took place on 14 May 2002 when militants lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately on the KP Lines family quarters in the Kaluchak Army cantonment in Jammu. The attack left 32 people, mostly members of families of army personnel, dead and over 60 others wounded. A group of five militants in Army fatigue boarded a Pathankot-Jammu passenger bus near Vijaypur, 30 km south of Jammu. They alighted from the bus between Kaluchak and Ratnuchak Army area where they killed seven unsuspecting passengers after asking them to disembark from the bus. Following the attack the militants sneaked into the cantonment where they killed many more people. In another attack on the Hindu community, militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) killed 30 Hindus on 13 July 2002... read more:
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