Human rights in Kashmir

'If this is jihad, we want nothing of it': Killing of unarmed policemen in Srinagar sparks questions

Don’t policemen have a right to live? Why the lack of protests? Do the human rights activists have double standards?

Far from the spotlight of the media, a far-flung village nestled in the idyllic hills of Handwara mourned the death of one its members, killed by a “special squad” of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen militant outfit.

He was one of the three policemen killed in two separate shootouts in Srinagar on Monday, May 23.

Near the house of Nazir Ahmad, mourners made their way up the dilapidated hilly road on foot and in taxis, some coming from as far as Srinagar.

The mourners – family, friends, and neighbours – asked why “Maulvi Nazir”, as some called Nazir Ahmad, was killed.

The Hizb-ul Mujahideen in a statement said: “Besides killing three policemen of Special Operation Group, the militants managed to decamp with a rifle of a slain policeman."

The mourners unanimously condemned the labelling of Nazir Ahmad as a member of the Special Operations Group, the infamous counterinsurgency wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Nazir Ahmad and Ghulam Mohammad Bhat were unarmed when they were killed, as per media reports.

“We challenge those involved in this [attack] to prove he [Nazir] was an SOG personnel,” the relatives said. “The killers should know what they have done is wrong.”

“Doesn’t a policeman have a right to live?” asked Abdul Hameed, the brother of Nazir Ahmad. “What was the purpose of killing an unarmed policeman?”

Said a young neighbour at the gathering at the slain man's home: "If this is jihad, we want nothing of it.”

The attacks

While such attacks have occurred before in other parts of the valley, it was after almost three years that the police had been attacked within Srinagar.

“The attacks in Srinagar are a chilling reminder of the killing of Justice Bhat and of the Maisuma Station House Officer in 1989, said author and journalist David Devadas. “It shows that militants are lurking in Downtown Srinagar, no doubt getting ready for more action.”

Javid Mujtaba Gillani, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) said the attacks were the result of security forces maintaining “pressure on militants”. The Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, described the attacks a desperate act by militants to assert their presence.

Militant recruits face a shortage of weapons because the traditional arms-supply through the Line of Control has been thwarted by strict vigil of the Indian Army, according to news reports. The militants as a result have taken to snatching weapons from security forces to stock their arsenals.

Selective outrage

The relatives rued the lack of protests at the killings of the policemen. “This double standard should be shunned”, said a cousin of Nazir Ahmad, referring to political leaders.

Khurram Parvez, prominent human rights activist and Programme Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society in Srinagar, said that police personnel know the consequences and dangers involved in duty. “Legally speaking this [Zadibal shootout] was combatants fighting combatants," he said.

But Parvez added that any killing, be it of members of the the police or armed forces, a civilian or a militant, is unjustified. Still, he emphasised, “The issue for us has always been civilians being killed extra-judicially.”

He noted that on the same day as the Zadibal shootout, two men were killed in another shootout in the Saraibala area of Srinagar.

“Even if they were militants, should they not have been arrested?” he asked, “which was very easy according to eyewitnesses.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.