Illegitimate, rented voices in Kashmir won’t last, writes Sajad Gani Lone as he mourns his father’s assassination
My father and I were sitting in his office that Tuesday morning. He had just returned from an overseas tour. I was both pleased and surprised to see him in an extremely pleasant mood.
There were some distinct changes. His complexion had brightened and every query from my side was replied with a smile. There was something different. He was too cheerful and resembled a naughty boy. Perhaps his soul was content that it was on the right path and his principles were not mortgaged.
I left for my office around 1 pm and went in to say goodbye. He asked me whether I had any money on me and asked me to give him Rs 3,500. Again, an unusual request. I handed over the money to him and left.
Around 7 pm, I was informed that my father was injured in an attack on him at the Idgah ground. I rushed home and on entering found two bodies, covered from head to toe, lying in our garden. I removed the cover from the face of the first body and it turned out to be the the body of his security guard. The second was that of my father.
I removed the cover from his face and then it hit me. My father, aged 70, lying still, his body riddled with bullets. I could not even afford the luxury of being stunned for a moment and drowning myself in grief. I heard my mother wailing, my nine-year-old niece Maria crying, ‘‘Who killed my Dadu? Why did they kill Dadu?’’ These noises will probably ring in my ears for the rest of my life.
Maria has a question, so do I, so do the thousands of people who visited our residence for condolences, so do the thousands of people who lined along the streets to pay homage and so do the lakhs of people who shut down their businesses for three days as a mark of homage and protest. We all want to ask. Why was Gani Lone killed? Who killed him? Who benefited? Who lost? Easier said than done. Do we have the answers to these questions? Probably not.
The key to the Kashmir issue lies in sincerely answering these questions. These questions will always remain unanswered. Did my father make the mistake of trying to answer similar questions? Will everybody attempting to answer such questions meet the same fate?
My father came from an extremely poor family and had to endure extreme hardship in order to study. He was a self-made man and had risen the hard way. Hardship faced by him during his youth had made him extremely courageous and rebellious. As a child, I remember him always going against the stream. We always wondered why he put himself under so much stress? Why couldn’t he take life a bit easy?
I got the answer not from my father but alas after he was gone never to come back. The stream of mourners who came to pay homage from the most remote areas gave me the answer. Asi ha rou aazi bub (We have lost our father today),’’ they cried. He was not just my father. He owed his life and stature to these people, who had no blood relations with him. The scale of grief engulfing these people was a clear indicator that they had come to mourn their leader and not just a politician.
He was a political warrior. His forthright views often made him a loner. But he was a fighter and fight he did—right till the end. He was aware of the risks involved in speaking so boldly. He was interested in the broader benefits of Kashmiris and not the personal cost.
In the present context of Kashmiri politics, he stood for a dynamic approach. A strategy based on realistic thinking and in tune with the world order. He feared that the ever-rising costs borne by the Kashmiris in terms of death and destruction were too high and felt that a constructive shift in the strategy would decrease the costs, without diluting the original objective.
Right till his last moments, peace with dignity was the aim of his political struggle. Enemies of peace martyred him. These enemies of peace have a vested interest in the continuation of the Kashmir problem. They may have succeeded in killing him, but his voice has become even louder.
His cherished desire that authentic Kashmiri voices should pevail will one day become a reality. The cacophony of illegitimate, rented voices is a cruel but transient phase. The agony of the Kashmiris cannot be prolonged. We have to learn from Lone’s martyrdom.
Published in KashmirLive of ExpressIndia