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Kashmir’s Unidentified Gunman

By Iqbal Sonaullah

24 September, 2015

He is a gunman. But that is not important; there are so many of them. What is important is that he is unidentified. All gunmen belong to a certain group that gives them identity, like: an army-man, a policeman, a militant, and so on. In Kashmir, there is another mysteriously-important person: the ‘unidentified gunman’.

In a place where political loyalty decides the place of one’s burial, dying by an unidentified bullet is the worst thing one would wish to happen. Such deaths are either celebrated or condemned – even by such people who don’t understand the synthesis of such killings. When conflict reins a place, society is nurtured with unforgiving characteristics. And if there is no obvious identity of the killer, mass opinion starts to build; mostly on rumors.

While nurturing one’s identity, Gun has a tendency to change perception – at least of the person who holds it. When I was young I believed that the unidentified gunman was the most important person around. I did not realize the labiality ‘being unidentified’ encompassed.

As I grew up, several things about this unidentified gunman became clear. His judgment – right or wrong – defines sincerity of a man. He believes in a particular definition of loyalty essentially set by his own moral standards. In his being, the unidentified gunman is more slave than anyone in Kashmir. He is an executioner who has long surrendered his freedom – the freedom to think what is right and what is wrong. Most of the times, he is not even Kashmir. He is either India or Pakistan.

When I look back and remember some people killed by the brave-unidentified gunman, I wonder why this unidentified person hasn’t ever been powerful enough to hit the henchman. Are these commandments only meant for weak and defenseless? Not every unidentified killing has been genuine. Some such killings occur due to sheer confusion, some because of personal animosity, some because of the arrogance of power. Some, of course, because of one’s disloyalty towards a particular political idea. A dead body, unfortunately, cannot prove its innocence.

And today, someone killed by an unidentified gunman has a shrine around his grave. And someone else killed by the same person has no mourners, no people to offer his funeral prayer, no place in the graveyard. Physical crime, I tell you, is less harmful than the crime of conscience. Physical crime inflicts harm to an individual, while the crime of conscience sells out the entire brotherhood. Then why shall the two meet differential treatments. Why is one respected and the other condemned? Why is somebody’s death anniversary being celebrated as ‘martyrdom day’ while others’ family continues to face wrath of people. This is not fair!

I still wonder whether the unidentified gunman ever feels guilty for doing something wrong. For punishing someone for the guilt less grave than the one he later committed himself. At the end, who is triumphant? The unidentified gunman or the identified slain. Life is not just about how long we survived, it is more so about how we lived.

Iqbal Sonaullah is a freelance journalist from Kashmir. He can be reached at: iqbal.sonaullah@gmail.com
Twitter: IqbalSonaullah


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