Kashmiri local newspapers on Thursday gave wide coverage to the abduction and killing of army officer Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz, but stayed away from taking a stand on the murder.
None of the papers carried an editorial or an opinion piece condemning or questioning the killing of the unarmed young officer in Shopian while on a holiday. Fayaz’s body was found on Wednesday, a day after he was taken away at gunpoint from a wedding by suspected militants.
“Army officer abducted, killed in Shopian,” said the headline of leading English daily Greater Kashmir. The paper carried the condemnation of the killing by national and local political leaders, alongside a report on the soldier’s grieving family. The paper also carried a news agency report on how Fayaz’s first leave after having joined the army six months ago also became his last.
Rising Kashmir, another leading daily, had pictures of Fayaz’s funeral and grieving relatives. The paper also carried a condemnation of the killing by leading politicians.
The headline on Kashmir Reader’s first page said, “Young Kashmiri army officer’s bullet-riddled body found in Shopian village’. Major Urdu newspapers, like Srinagar Times, Daily Aftab and Kashmir Uzma also had front-page reports on the killing.
Opinion on social media was divided. While users from other parts of the country were unanimous in their criticism of the murder, responses inside Kashmir were mixed. While some criticised the killing, others called for an understanding of the context leading to violence and loss of lives in Kashmir.
“In conflicts condemnation is politics. If we actually care about those killed, we should ensure the context within which these killings are taking place is transformed. Belligerence hurts the self too,” wrote Srinagar-based rights activist Khurram Parvez on Facebook.
Journalist Wasim Khalid wrote on Facebook, “I do not think it was a right decision to kill an army officer, who was unarmed, and had come home to attend a marriage function. He was not a combatant. He was not fighting a war, neither he had done anything which was against the people’s cause. He could have been counselled.”
He continued: “This is utterly disgustful (sic) since we cannot stoop low as Indian state is. There needs to be a distinction. Our whole struggle is based on truth, justice, and on morals, which means humanity. Such acts muddy our cause and place us along with the occupier.”
“We must not forgo the values and principles that we fight for. Our beliefs and humanity must supersede evil. The tyrants are not our teachers,” tweeted blogger Muhammad Faysal.
Several other users, argued that an army man “does not cease to be an army man and a target” even when not on duty. Some blamed the Indian authorities.
A renowned Kashmiri photographer wrote: “If a militant goes to open a bank account or attend his cousin’s wedding, without arms, does he become a civilian, a non-combatant? Does he cease to be a ‘terrorist’ for India? By the way, Burhan’s brother Khalid didn’t have any weapon on him when he was killed. Neither was he a combatant. Why was he killed then?”