On social media, in the newspapers, they never call them a terrorist. Yes, they murdered people in Kashmir and elsewhere, but there were always murders in our world. And these murders happened for a cause that nobody is willing to sit down and describe. The names of those murdered, no one could find in papers or on Twitter.
One September day in 2018, Kulwant Singh was home, on leave in village Kapran, Shopian. He worked as a Special Police Officer (SPO) at a police canteen in neighbouring Kulgam district, serving tea to other police personnel and visiting civilians. The village, where his family stayed for generations, is one of the early apple cultivators in Kashmir. Singh’s family did not leave the Valley even after the onset of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Kapran, on a normal day, is unusually calm, and all one can notice are apple trees.
On 21 September, Kulwant Singh and two more policemen were abducted from their homes in Kapran. Waiting for an abducted colleague to return is one of the most painful professional experiences. Multiply that agony and we might still not be able to comprehend the pain that their families would have gone through that day. Few hours after they had gone missing, their dead bodies were recovered from apple orchards in Kapran. They were shot point blank and murdered in cold blood. Three honest, hardworking men died at the hands of terrorists that day.
Who is a terrorist?
To say that just carrying a gun doesn’t make someone a terrorist, and that ‘terrorising a society’ is an essential attribute before an individual can be labelled as a terrorist is a smart apologetic fraud. Killing of police personnel or security personnel is acceptable to this school of thought. Just because Kulwant Singh worked for the police department, it is wrong to imply that his wife and very young children don’t qualify to be victims of terrorism.
Last year, I met Singh’s family on Martyrs’ Day. His school-going son still lives in the shadow of that dreadful day in September.
We lost our father when my sister and I were still in school. He died under ordinary circumstances. Still, it took my family years to get back on track. This child lost his father under the circumstances that many of us can’t gather the strength to imagine. What is terror then, if not this?
Resolution 1566 (2004) of the UN Security Council defines terrorism as: “… criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, and calls upon all States to prevent such acts and, if not prevented, to ensure that such acts are punished by penalties consistent with their grave nature.”
Which criteria does the killing of Kulwant Singh not meet as per the above definition? The only criteria, he and people like him, don’t meet is that they don’t believe in what terrorists and those who apologise on their behalf believe in.
The cost of intellect of comfort
The most disturbing part about relying too heavily on the intellect of comfort is the creation of a binary of sufferings for a family and society. What terrorises a family might not terrorise a society because of its ethnic formation. But who can decide for the family that the social, psychological, physical and economic trauma of terrorism in their case is just another ‘militant’ action? Most policemen and women join the force because they have a family to take care of, and because life did not present them with opportunities to be in other professions. Terror apologists don’t have any right to put a lower price tag on lives of people like Kulwant Singh, just because he wore a uniform for a living.
In wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, BBC Arabic head, Tarik Kafala had suggested to avoid using the term “terrorism” to describe the men who carried out the massacre because he thought it was a value-laden term. Terrorism is a value laden-term, I agree. This is the moot point of every terrorist movement. Using violence to assert what you believe in and killing people while doing that is a value-laden process. It is not about fairness or unfairness of the act itself, it is about the motive. Calling a killer a terrorist is an acknowledgement of that motive.
On the other hand ‘militant’ is a term that secures the lives of those who report on the unfolding of this process. Calling a terrorist a militant is escapism personified. The term ‘militant’ has emerged as a fine euphemism with the advent of terrorist movements by non-state actors across the world. When the writer knows that an open acknowledgment of the political motives of a given terrorist organisation might not be feasible to defend legally, he chooses to stick with words like militant and militancy.
Sandeep Chaudhary @Sandeep_IPS_JKP is SSP Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir. Views are personal.
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