From History tears learn a slanted understanding
of the human face torn by blood’s bulletin of light.
Agha Shahid Ali, “Of Light”
For the past twenty- five years, unnatural deaths have spoken powerfully of
life in Kashmir. One such death occurred on October 29, 2015, when Abu
Qasim, the local commander of Lashkar- e- Taiba, an impor tant militant
group operating in Kashmir, was killed in an operation conducted jointly
by the Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police. Not surprisingly,
police spokesmen celebrated the killing of Qasim, the “terrorist,” whom
they held responsible for several attacks in Kashmir and for ambushing
and killing a specialist counterinsurgency police officer, Altaf Ahmad.
Soon after Qasim’s killing, public protests broke out in parts of Kulgam
(where he was killed), and in the adjoining South Kashmir districts of
Pulwama and Anantnag, as well as in Srinagar, capital of the state of Jammu
and Kashmir. Every time a militant is killed by one of the security forces
operating in Kashmir, locals who knew him or knew of him take to the
streets to protest and to throw stones at the police. This was not unusual—
locals have also been known to throw stones to impede the actions of
security forces as they battle militants. At funerals for dead militants,
mourners gather in the thousands. They join in anti- India slogans as well
as slogans that speak of the martyrdom of the dead man and the certainty
that such martyrs will bring azadi, freedom, to Kashmir.
The death and funeral of Abu Qasim were no dif er ent, even though he
was not a local, but, according to the police, a Pakistani from Multan. A
vast crowd, more than ten thousand people, assembled for his burial in
Bugam village. As on other such occasions, when the crowd dispersed,
clashes broke out between some of the mourners and the police and
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