This Kashmiri’s Response to an Army Veteran Is a Must Read

A young Kashmiri responds to veteran Major Gaurav Arya’s open letter to Burhan Wani

Updated
India
7 min read
A demonstrator throws stones amid tear gas smoke fired by Indian police during a protest against what protesters say is the house arrest of Kashmiri separatist leaders, after Eid al-Fitr prayers in Srinagar. (Photo: Reuters)

A few days ago, this open letter by Army veteran Major Gaurav Arya went viral online. The Major’s open letter was addressed to the dead Hizbul Mujahideen chief Burhan Wani and went on to admonish him for encouraging young Kashmiris to kill Indian soldiers from behind a Facebook account. The retired Major’s letter ended by saying, “When you choose to fight against the Indian Army, know this; THEY WILL KILL YOU. Your supporters now want blood. So be it. Cheers!”

Now, Wasim Khan a young Kashmiri currently settled in Mumbai has written a heartfelt post on his Facebook account, which responds to the ex-Major’s letter.

In his post Khan says:

Dear Major Gaurav Arya, I was about to board a flight when I came across your letter. To be honest, in retrospect, I wish I had not read it, but I was curious to understand your point of view so I went ahead and did read it. Your words stayed with me and for the next two hours. I kept thinking about the issues you touched. As time progressed the meaning of your words threw my mind into a state of frenzied thoughts. I could talk about each one of those issues, but I think there’s a bigger issue here that’s gone missing. I want to talk about that because I don’t want my friends, especially in India to feel proud about what’s happening in Kashmir right now. I want them to know the truth, which according to your letter I find half told.

Let me begin by saying that I get your point straight up. Burhan Wani was a Hizbul commander. He challenged the Indian army and he met his fate. I understand and in fact I respect that as your point of view being an army officer. This is war. No two ways about it. Lets not be confused and that’s your job. The army is in Kashmir to kill insurgents and has been doing so successfully for about two and a half decades now. You being an army officer should take pride in that and so should the fellow countrymen. I will not take this back to history and talk about why there is insurgency to begin with. I’m sure you are well aware of it. If not then you’re being conveniently ignorant.

But here’s my worry. I get a feeling you didn’t write this letter because you were just proud of the army’s achievements. You wrote this letter because of the backlash that came about after it resulting in many deaths in the recent days and that bothered you. Not the deaths, but the backlash.

You, Major Arya, are a part of a mighty force. I think fifth strongest in the world but then you forget. More than the might of the army you are also a part of worlds largest democracy. If J&K is an ‘integral’ part of India then why do not the laws of democracy apply there? In statistics they do. Don’t you think that’s being hypocritical?

Security personnel in Kashmir. (Photo: PTI)
Security personnel in Kashmir. (Photo: PTI)

Going by your words had Burhan survived at 22, he would have died at 23. You know I didn’t even about know about him till recently. I actually Googled him after his death and he became news to me along with the rest of my friends in India. Apparently he became a militant because the army trashed his brother unconscious in front of him. That probably was the first nail.

This reminds me. Let me tell you something about myself. When the army in Srinagar beat me up for the first time I was ten years old. Ask me why and I’ll tell you I don’t know. I seriously don’t. I was just walking on the road and a soldier decided to frisk me then slap me and then he and his fellow mighty warriors together kicked me. There was no social media then and I didn’t threaten them. Last I remembered was that I offered water to one soldier standing outside my house on a hot sunny day.

The second time I was beaten up by the BSF, I was still ten years old. The third time I was beaten up by the CRPF I was still ten years old and then next fifteen sixteen times I was beaten up I was STILL ten years old. I remember this one time. A few years later I was pulled over and the soldier pushed me aside as I got out of the car. I told him to take it easy and barely finished my sentence when I felt a gun butt on my neck. I fell down. This was on the highway. When I regained consciousness I managed to spot an officer. I walked up to him and tried to reason. Before I could even get close enough he gestured me to stop. Then he said, ‘Tum sab h******* ke saath yehi karna chahiyae. Get lost’. He then got in his gypsy along with his mighty force and drove off. I just stood there and watched them disappear. The damage had been done. I didn’t catch his nameplate but I hope that wasn’t you.

 Zohra (5) is in all likelihood the youngest victim of the pellet gun in Kashmir. (Photo Courtesy:<a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/kashmir-protests-burhan-wani-death-stomne-pelting-crpf-hizbul-mujahideen-2908277/"> The Indian Express</a>)
Zohra (5) is in all likelihood the youngest victim of the pellet gun in Kashmir. (Photo Courtesy: The Indian Express)

If you could ask my friends they’d tell you how I didn’t let that or any similar experiences bother me. Also post these beatings I didn’t resort to violence. It did cross my mind a few times but it wasn’t in me. I wouldn’t be out of place if I even told you that all the times I was beaten up weren’t because I was protesting. I was beaten up because I just looked at someone in uniform and the person my best guess is that the soldier probably felt threatened. Trust me when I say I only looked because I was curious. I can’t say I felt much curious after that.

In the early nineties the strength of militants was about 4000 in the valley. You can check this with the nerd at HQ XV Corps. He’ll agree. Today the number of militants is about 66 in south Kashmir and about 40 in the north and rest of the valley. However the number of the army in the early nineties was about five hundred thousand and today it’s a little over seven hundred thousand. The nerd will agree to this too. So, if the army has successfully eradicated so many insurgents what is the need for the might to grow now?

Now, coming to the recent deaths. Something that’s bothering me more than the Kashmir issue. More than bilateral or trilateral talks. The reason why I chose to write back to your letter. When you joined the army you were a graduate. Then you went to the prestigious Indian Military Academy and come out as a polished officer. I too have visited the IMA and man was I also impressed. I have more than ten friends in the Army. Many of my friends are army officer’s children and not once the thought crossed my mind that why didn’t they as army officer’s children join the army. I’m saying this to you so that we are not confused why Geelani’s or someone from Mirwaiz Omar’s family is abroad. It’s not relevant to what’s happening in Kashmir or is it? You really think that they would or could have done something to stop the killings? I want to drop the words Hurriyat, Jihad and Allah from this conversation and keep it only to the deaths are being caused because of the use of force from the mighty army on little children.

Handwara in Kashmir has been at the centre of major unrest since Tuesday, 12 April, 2016.(Photo:AP)
Handwara in Kashmir has been at the centre of major unrest since Tuesday, 12 April, 2016.(Photo:AP)

Lets say I protest in Delhi today would I be shot at? What sort of force would the security forces use on me? Probably water canons? Lets say I loose my cool and physically assault them then what sort of force would they use on me? Probably lathis. Lets say I pelt stones on them then what sort of force would they use on me? Tear gas? And finally if I behaved like a lunatic because I feel oppressed would I still be shot at? In Delhi or Mumbai – NO. In Kashmir – YES.

I don’t want to argue about the might or the force. The right or the wrong. I just want you to know that your words “WE WILL SHOOT YOU” are ringing in my head and its scary. It’s scary because its not limited to insurgents, millitants or terrorists. I haven’t even challenged you but you’re scaring all of us.

I’ll also admit that at this point I get a feeling that the same thought process is being used irrespective. On unarmed ten year olds. Dear Major Arya there is no might there. There is no might in blinding them. There is no might in crippling them. There definitely is no might in killing them. Lets get off of our high horses and see this as human beings.

I hope this letter somehow trails back you so that you can see this from a simpler point of view. I hope that you can get to sit across me and look me in the eye and say there if there is any might or virtue in this. Just recently a mighty soldier of your army was denied cremation on basis of his caste. What happened to his mighty sacrifice? Did he die in vain?

You are an army officer. I’m a civilian. Neither of us are politicians nor do we need votes. Lets just be honest and save the ones we can.

And lastly, please don’t get me wrong. I feel that even after reading your letter another child is shot in the name of patriotism, nationalism you’d have done more harm than good.

Signed – Anyone in Kashmir.

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