Conflict

Sirnoo Slaughter: When the ‘Rambo Mindset’ fired to kill 

Perhaps the most shuddering moment of the Sirnoo slaughter is that of a father from Prichoo Pulwama who fainted upon accidentally spotting his teen son among the slain. While the police is ‘deeply grieved over loss of civilian lives’, the carnage has already become a new crisis in Kashmir, where the local unionists are calling it a “massacre”.

The frequent and frenetic siren-screaming ambulances that rumbled on Srinagar streets on Saturday marked yet another bloody day in its seething south. Ferrying the ‘war abuses’—the bullet-hit civilians of Pulwama—the vehicles pulled over inside the glum gates of SMHS Hospital, almost on war-footing. As bullet-ripped civilians were taken on stretchers for emergency treatment, the air rented with rage and slogans.

The scene, by now, has become a new normal — a ‘curse of sorts’ that has already made war theatres out of general hospital wards.

It was a sun-lit weekend of December, when an additional load was ferried to its theatres after government gunners killed seven civilians in a bid to counter their protest march to Sirnoo’s gunfight site.

Last night, the attendants said, as the chill deepened in the Vale, the native son who hogged headlines as an army deserter in 2017 had come to take shelter in Sirnoo, his hometown. But somehow his moves had fared on intelligence radar.

By dawn, Sirnoo’s Zahoor Thokar, along with his two Hizb associates, Adnan Wani and Zahoor Ahmad Kar alias Tahir Hizbi, was up against the joint force. Apparently, it was the gun of the former army man, Thokar, that killed an army man in the Sirnoo gunfight, before falling silent along with his associates.

Aquib Bashir, the boy whose body was identified by his father while passing through the hospital.

But well before the operation would’ve ended on a routine note, the protesting villagers trying to march to the smouldering site were fired upon.

As a common trend now, civilians march towards the gunfight sites in a bid to rescue their armed brethren. But Saturday’s military response is largely seen as “trigger-happy”.

Even the Gupkar’s former chief of unified command denounced it as a “badly executed encounter” and called it a massacre, while the former ally of BJP, Mehbooba Mufti trained guns at Raj Bhavan over the civilian carnage. “If u end up killing 7 civilians in order to kill 3 militants, it is time for heads to roll,” BJP’s current ally, Sajad Lone tweeted, while hoping that administration abandons its ‘Rambo mindset’.

Not only such military response blurs the line between civilians and combatants in Kashmir, it’s also vindicating the Indian army chief Bipin Rawat.

The general who wanted to see guns instead of stones in the hands of protesters was ironically speaking to a New Delhi-based TV channel the day his forces were ‘at job’ at Sirnoo.

“Whatever I say as an army chief is for my soldiers,” he said in the interview. Pulwama bloodbath itself underlines the fact that his “soldiers” are only taking him very seriously now.

A dead body of a civilian killed in Pulwama being taken out of SMHS Hospital. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

Meanwhile at SMHS, ambulances continued to ferry the bullet-hit civilians. With every arrival, the mood inside was fast changing. Amid the mounting footfall, a young bearded surgeon came out of the operation theatre, and gasped for breath in a crowd filled corridor. Amid a sea of sullen faces, he sought the details of the dead.

“Seven already…” he was told.

He sighed in a manner, as if telling the anxious attendants, sunk on their knees, that this frequent war load of ripped bodies is now taking a toll on us, too.

But as another wounded youth was taken inside the ward with slogans, the surgeon cut short his outing and returned to attend to another bullet-ridden body.

In any warfare, disgruntled civilians are dealt with methods other than bullets. But Kashmir seems to have its own madness behind the executed methods. Now as bullets are frequently hitting the upper body parts of the protesters, the very approach is being denounced as the ‘shoot to kill’ trigger.

“They are not bloody numbers of this god-damned conflict,” someone shouted inside SMHS, while reacting over the killings. “They are seven more torn and tormented families of Kashmir. They are us.”

Funeral of Abid, one of the seven civilians killed in Pulwama. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

This escalating crisis already made Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to warn New Delhi of more rebellion and hatred in Kashmir. However, in the larger din of electoral politics in mainland India and New Delhi’s Kashmir policy being executed by a ‘few selected men in big offices’, Pulwama carnage might well go down as another routine phase of killing in Kashmir.

But beyond what happens next, the painful moment lies in the present mourning Kashmir.

And Pulwama being its pallbearer, yet again, emphases that the solution of the protracted problem—whose contours even made ex-military vets including the present day GOC 15 Corps to seek a political solution—lies beyond countering stones with smoking guns.

 

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