January has often been a month of controversies in Kashmir and Dangal girl Zaira Wasim’s recent episode just added to the list. On January 16, the entire country stood up for Zaira Wasim, a Kashmiri girl who played Aamir Khan’s daughter in the recent blockbuster Dangal. While this caught the nation’s attention, not all stories from the Valley, including massacres and rapes, could garner the eyeballs that Zaira’s recent Facebook post did.
Zaira made it to the headlines when she posted an “apology” on Facebook on January 16. In her post, Zaira had pleaded that she doesn’t deserve to be a role model and asked people not to follow in her footsteps. Though she deleted the post later saying that nobody had pressured her to apologise, almost the entire country came to her rescue. Newsrooms dedicated their prime time programs in her support. Zaira deserved the attention she received but then was her emotional outburst on social media the only incident which bruised Kashmir? Was it the only pain worth sharing? Or does our TRP hungry media only care about mainstream news while conveniently forgetting the ones which might not get them the numbers?
Here are some of the incidents that deserved the same attention (if not less) which Zaira’s case did but failed:
The Month of massacres:
Ironically, January is known as the month of massacres in Kashmir because as many as five major massacres took place in the month after militancy erupted in the valley in the 90s. Justice is awaited in all such cases. These include:
Gawkadal Massacre: On January 21, 1990, at least 50 people were killed when a bunch of uniformed men opened fired at a peaceful procession at Basant Bagh, Srinagar.
Handwara massacre: Four days after the Basant Bagh incident, 25 people fell prey to the hungry bullets of the armed men on January 25, 1990, at Handwara.
Sopore massacre: On January 6, 1993, militants open fired at the BSF personnel in the apple town, Sopore. The BSF soldier sustained fatal casualties. The angry soldiers allegedly ran amuck and opened indiscriminate fire on innocent civilians. According to the official figures, over 250 shops and 50 houses were torched and 57 persons fell prey to the bullets.
Kupwara massacre: On January 27, 1994, while 27 persons were killed, 36 sustained injuries when the Army allegedly open fired on civilians in Kupwara.
Wandhama massacre: On January 25, 1998, 23 villagers, all Kashmiri Pandits were massacred in cold blood by masked gunmen.
Victims of 2016 unrest
The unrest of 2016 is often termed as worst-ever humanitarian crises in Kashmir. While media highlights how Zaira is upset with trolls, this Valley equally narrates the unheard pain of 14-year-old Insha Mushtaq who was blinded by the pellets and will never be able to see again.
Interestingly, Insha was not out on the streets protesting but was sitting by her window when government forces exhausted entire cartridge on her face in Shopian district.
There are many such cases like this. For instance, the case of 19-year-old Shani of Anantnag. The last time Shani stood on her feet, it was to watch the protests on July 9, a day after militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed. A bullet hit her spine during the protest leaving her bedridden for life.
Last year, over 1000 youth were blinded by pellet guns used by government forces. Box Office or the glamour world, which otherwise attract more of media attention than human tragedies in Kashmir, carry no meaning for the pellet victims. Blockbuster or no blockbuster, they’ll never be able to watch Dangal. And Aamir Khan will never speak for Insha because it’s not news unless it happens to somebody prominent or happens in one of the metropolitan cities.
During the same unrest, over 90 persons were killed. One of the victims was Shabir Ahmed Mangoo, a 32-year-old college lecturer, who was beaten to death by Army. But since when did such deaths became important?
Rapes and murders
In 2009, Asiya and Nilofar were raped and murdered under mysterious circumstances in Shopian. The gruesome incident never attracted the kind of support that Nirbhaya incidents. The mass rape of women in Kunan Posh area of north Kashmir in 1992, still awaits justice. There are hundred other cases of rapes and assault cases that were neglected by our mainstream media and awaits justice, if not attention.
Why wasn’t anyone concerned about these victims from Kashmir? If the outcry over Zaira’s episode is a social concern, then this deafening silence on human rights abuse in the valley is a complete indiscrimination with humanity. But then Kashmir is not new to this case of selectivity, be it selective concern or selective amnesia!