This story began 22 years ago when a baby boy was born. His parents and family were overjoyed. They named him Umar. Like parents all over the world, they too, had dreams for their son – simple dreams that make up the fabric of our daily lives. Dreams of their son doing well in academics, choosing a profession, marrying a girl, giving them grandchildren to pamper – nothing fanciful or unachievable. Most of us lead a similar life. Our parents had such dreams for us and we wish the same for our children.
Umar was fond of sports, full of life and described as a friendly person. Again, this description would fit many among us. Nothing extraordinary about this – Umar seemed to be a regular 22 year old boy.
But one choice, just one choice, set him apart – instead of choosing more lucrative professions like the Civil Services, the Law, the Corporate World, he joined the Indian Army. Lieutenant Umar Fayaz was commissioned in December 2016. He was posted in Akhnoor with 2 Rajputana Rifles.
On 9 May 2017, he went to a village in Kulgaon in South Kashmir to attend his cousin’s wedding. He was on leave – just another young boy who had come to enjoy the festivities. But it seems that his one decision of joining the Indian Army had subsumed all other aspects of his life – his right to life included.
He was kidnapped and murdered sometime during the night. His body was found in Shopian riddled with bullets. It has to be noted that Umar was not in Kulgaon on duty. He was a local Kashmiri boy. Yet, his life was not spared. Do we need more proof that there is a war on in Kashmir? It is not a small matter of civil turmoil that can be solved by armchair activists. It is a war and a war needs to be fought with guns and guts in equal measure.
Sadly, our nation lacks guts. In misguided Gandhian spirit, we offer our other cheek when the first one is slapped. No other nation – be it USA or Israel – will tolerate such atrocities on their Armed Forces. The land that produced Chandragupta Maurya and Maharana Pratap is now a land of wimps and cowards. All we can do is fulminate and show our indignation.
Or maybe, we are just not bothered about the soldiers who live and die in anonymity. The death of an ageing film star is more heart wrenching for us. In fact, we are very concerned about everyone else, apart from the soldiers who ensure that we live a safe life.
It is fair to assume that there will be predictable reactions to his killing. The politicians will honour his ‘martyrdom’. Some of the politicians may even condescend to mourn his death on Twitter – never mind that they were the ones worrying about the stone pelters when one of them was tied to a jeep a few weeks earlier in order to avoid a massacre. A few liberals will raise questions about the underlying sentiments and causes of disenchantment of the local population. We will read opinion pieces that will speak about lofty ideals like ‘restraint’ and ‘inclusion’.
Can someone go and tell Umar’s parents to exercise restraint and not let their tears flow? Can someone explain how a SC judgement can be so in favour of terrorists and against their own soldiers- if Umar had been in a position to fight his kidnappers and maybe kill them in self –defence, a FIR would have been filed against him. He would have spent his life doing the rounds of courts. Can someone please tell that how can such atrocities be inflicted time and again on a nation of 1.2 billion people? Can someone please answer my questions -
1. Lieutenant Umar Fayaz was murdered. As citizens of India, his family has the right to speedy and fair justice. The SC April 2017 judgement on probing encounters in disturbed areas says “It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both... This is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of individual liberties”. What about preservation of Umar’s individual liberty? If the law is same for common person or the state, then Umar’s family must get justice and closure. Who will catch the killers and ensure that they are put on trial? How will the judiciary ensure that his family gets justice?
2. When a local Muslim boy is murdered, the fault line is obviously stronger than religion differences. The fall guy of all intellectuals, ‘Hindutva’, cannot be at play here. There are undercurrents and cross currents which the armchair intellectuals sitting in New Delhi will not understand. But they are not even making a genuine attempt to deep dive into the situation and work towards a possible resolution. It suits all the intellectuals to keep the Kashmir issue alive – as it gives them huge visibility at zero risk, zero cost.
3. Human rights, by definition, should be applicable for ‘All Humans’. Under a soldier’s uniform, there is a living, breathing human being. He too has rights. The right to life is the most fundamental one. Signing up for the Armed Forces is not equal to signing away your rights. Will anyone raise a voice for the soldier’s rights? I doubt it, because it is far more seductive to speak about the human rights of ‘misguided youth aka terrorists’ than it is to speak about ‘men in uniform’.
4. When everyone has a view on how the Armed Forces should do their job, why are they not joining the Forces? We all know that the best way to bring about any change is to change the system from within. So for all those who advocate ‘maturity and restraint’, including abolition of the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA), please join the Armed Forces. Encourage your sons to join the Army, become leaders of soldiers and then influence the system to change as per your views.
It is indeed a sad day for India today. We have let down our soldiers, their families and all those who have died for this country to date. Cry, my beloved country – that is all you can do! That is all you are fit to do!
Aditi Kumaria Hingu is a marketing graduate from IIM Calcutta, currently she works in the corporate sector. She comes from an army background.
More Columns by Aditi Kumaria Hingu:
Let the Armed Forces do their job
What is poisonous about Hindutva, Aakar Patel?
From cash lovers to Modi-baiters: Reactions to demonetisation
Is India doomed? Actors, failed politicians let down our soldiers
The Table for One: Eternal wait for soldiers who never returned
Let's blame Narendra Modi for all of India's ills!