Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Army lieutenant from Kashmir shot dead in his village; army vows retribution

Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz's funeral at his village on Wednesday, with full military honours

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th May 17

Insurgency-racked Kashmir’s fragile social compact, already under severe stress, could experience further strain after armed militants abducted and murdered a young, off-duty army officer, who was visiting his home in South Kashmir.

Army officials say 23-year old Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz, the son of a Kashmiri apple farmer from Sursana village in Kulgam District, had taken leave from his unit near Akhnoor, in the Jammu region, to attend his cousin sister’s wedding on Tuesday, in her village near Shopian.

Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Police sources recount that, while the festivities were in full swing, at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, four men in civilian dress arrived and asked to talk to Fayaz. Since they were apparently unarmed, he quietly left with them.

When Fayaz did not return after an hour, the village began searching for him. Early on Wednesday morning, his body, bearing two gunshot wounds, was found near Harmen village.

Fayaz is the latest and most high profile casualty of an ongoing militant drive to dominate and control South Kashmir. So far, this has consisted of intimidation and violence directed at the homes of J&K Police personnel, who have been instrumental in controlling militancy over the years. Recently, the J&K Police chief warned policemen from South Kashmir against visiting their homes.

Yet, Lieutenant Fayaz, knowing well the precarious security situation in South Kashmir, regularly visited his family in the dangerous districts of Kulgam and Shopian. Similar is the case with thousands of Kashmiri soldiers and policemen who serve in the military and the central armed police forces (CAPFs).

“Since the 1990s, there has been a social compact within the Kashmiri populace, which has co-existed even as many people worked for the government, while others supported, or actively fought as, armed militants. But now, especially in South Kashmir, that compact is eroding. Ummer Fayaz might have been safe in his village earlier; but today, people like him are being targeted”, says a J&K Police inspector with long experience in the area.

A senior Kashmiri journalist agrees: “Lieutenant Fayaz might have felt safe as he was not in uniform and was with family members. In earlier days, he would have been justified in his belief. But not now; he has been caught in the mill of a societal churn and paid with his life.”

A lawmaker from South Kashmir, who like most of his ilk has moved out of his constituency to the safety of a guarded compound in Srinagar, blames indiscipline from both separatists and the state: “When a Bharatiya Janata Party heavyweight like Ram Madhav can dismiss human rights concerns with the comment, ‘all’s fair in war and love’, militants will hardly play by the rules.”

Most worrying to the security forces is the growing synergy between stone pelters and armed militants. An officer involved in a recent encounter near Traal recounts communications intercepts between a militant, cornered in a house, and his commander who was outside the cordon. When the commander told the militant to take advantage of stone pelting by unarmed villagers to escape the cordon, the cornered militant told him: “Pattharbari sirf do taraf se ho rahi hai. Unko bolo ke chaaron taraf se karein” (The stone-pelting is happening from only two sides; ask the villagers to hurl stones from all four sides).

This turmoil in Kashmir manifested itself on Wednesday afternoon in the burial, with full military honours, of a young man with multiple identities – Kashmiri, Muslim, Indian and soldier. Fayaz’s compatriots from his highly decorated unit, 2nd Battalion, the Rajputana Rifles, paid tribute to him as “an honest officer, from a humble background, full of josh (enthusiasm). He was very active in his unit, loved by the troops and immaculate in performing allotted tasks.”

In a condolence message today, Lieutenant General Abhay Krishna, the Colonel of the Rajputana Rifles, wrote: “The complete Army fraternity stands shoulder to shoulder with the bereaved family at this tragic hour.”

And then, ominously, he added: “I also assure the family that perpetrators of this heinous crime and dastardly act will not be spared”.

8 comments:

Baldev (Indian defence news) said...

When will we have enough of body bags? We should station troops in afghanistan-Pak border, give AF-govt. more hardware so it places more stress on the pak army. This will bankrupt them sooner. Put a heavy hand on Kashmir. Strike anti-nationals with punity, withdraw security cover of separatist leaders and create some more jobs in the valley.

Alok Asthana said...

Sad indeed. Quite clearly, terrorists are operating at will. They can do so only when they have support of the locals. And that support can be weaned away only by the politicians. It is now at that stage that the PM can do a lot and only the PM can do it. But while he is overactive in all other sectors, is completely inert on the Kashmir issue. Very serious dereliction of duty. So many are paying the price for he being more of a BJP vote catcher than a functioning PM of India.

Kanu Singh said...

Ajay, nothing can justify this disposable act of cowards who were apparently tracking movement of this Officer and have targeted him for two reasons, obvious one being that he represented Army and less obvious one that he represented legalized and honourable success. Response must be brutal and swift. Message must go across that our boys can only be killed in a fight. They, when off duty and their families are off limits

Anonymous said...

Extremely sad. Too many issues and emotions involved. This too shall pass. But after retribution, not just to those directly involved, but also to those who support separatists.

Bhuwnesh said...

Col Ajai Shukla could you please clarify your 'ominously' comment on General's assurance to family of the martyr officer of the retribution to the perpetrators of this heinous and dastardly act of crime. Do you think it was a threat only? Is General not duty bound to give such assurance and ensure that it happens? Or is it NDTV effect?

Anonymous said...

Very sad. We are cry babies an twitter warriors.

Yasmin malik (hope I got the name right ) killed a few IAF officers in cold blood.
He isu today a "leader". He should gave been hung on murder atleast + sedition.
Looks like sedition laws do not apply to J&K.
I think,our governments are just not nationalist enough.
Maybe defence secretary, Law secretary and Home Secretary need to be sent home without pension.
All law secretaries last should be denied pension benefits with retrospective effect.
We gave long blamed politicians, but these guys are simply spineless.

Anonymous said...

One man's terrorist is another man's hero. You indians still worship BOSE et al as a heros and rightly so. Burhan Wani et al are hero's to their people on both sides of the LoC because they fight for their people.

This officer who got killed should know that if you go fight for the occupying power, that blinds and kills innocent unarmed civilians, there is a payback. Just has many of the Ikwan families have found out, that revenge, the Pakistani/Afghani kind is now in Kashmir. Pakistani's have always considered Kashmiris as the most civilised members of their family. Indian Army has changed that.

Indians need to understand just as Ireland became a nation so will Kashmir (Even the forced occupation/settlement of Norther Ireland is likely to end sooner ratherthan later). Its just a matter of time. Time is on the Kashmiri side. The new generation has new hero's, who lead by paying the ultimate price for Azadi. The youngster only lookup to these hero's. Many indians do not get that there is no cultural or any other kind of affinity between the Kashmiri and Indian people. Even the Kashmiri that serve in the Police know that this indian occupation is a mark of shame in the annual of the history of their people.

RAW13

kunaal gaikwad said...

Sir, I couldn't agree with you more on the PM being more interested in garnering votes for his party dousing the fire in Kashmir. While it is an undeniable fact that terrorists and separatists funded by Pakistan are responsible for the chaos in the Valley, the general antipathy of the local populace to anything "Indian" should be a food for thought. It cannot be simply waived off as a figment of imagination or Pak propaganda. The sooner it is addressed, the better or Shri Modi will be have the dubious distinction of being a modern age Nero, delivering election speeches after speeches while Kashmir burns!