“Yeh humare zinda rehne se bhi darte hain aur humare marne se bhi”(They [Indian state] are scared of us [Kashmiris] while we are alive as well as when we die).
– Shaheed Commander Riyaz Naikoo
6th May, 2020
What a sad, sad day! The search operation at Beighpora, Awantipora that had been going on for the last two days and had entered into the third day today finally ended in an encounter. As Beighpora is the native village of Riyaz Naikoo, there were rumors already doing rounds since yesterday that he’s trapped in the cordon. There was a lot of confusion amid deliberate obfuscation by Indian forces and Indian media. We were left guessing about the encounter there and who could have been possibly trapped in the cordon. There were contradictory reports coming from different people where some said that the encounter is going on while others said that it hasn’t started yet. The tension was visible on every face I saw and in every voice, I heard around me. The top-most commander of armed resistance in Kashmir was probably trapped in the cordon and it was therefore natural for every Kashmiri to feel the pain of losing him.
Riyaz Naikoo is a name that resonates with almost every person in Kashmir, his unique audio messages had made him a household name. From kids to elderly people, everyone would discuss what Riyaz had said in his audio messages. He has been a beloved commander of resistance.
All of us were making frantic calls to get updates from the encounter site at Beighpora. The sadness had fallen upon us all since yesterday itself as there was another encounter going on in Shar-Shali, Khrew where two mujahideen had been martyred. Already sad and heartbroken, the news of Riyaz engaged in an encounter with Indian forces made us feel so weak. And as always happens in such situations, there was a lot of confusion about who was trapped there in the cordon with Riyaz or if Riyaz was even trapped there at all. Some rumors said that Riyaz Naikoo along with Dr. Saifullah and Junaid Sehrai were trapped and some rumors said that Riyaz had escaped the cordon.
Among all this confusion, the first thing that the Indian state did was to shut down the internet service in Kashmir and now we didn’t even have access to proper news updates. We were forced to rely on Indian media and what can one say about the ghouls of Indian media, those leeches were already celebrating Riyaz Naikoo’s death even though there was no confirmation of his killing. I kept calling people around to get updates and there were many people who would call me to get the updates.
All of us were gasping for a breath of news in a hope that we will hear that Riyaz is safe and the operation has been called off, but we only kept getting news of despair. The news of guns roaring and houses being blasted by Indian army was coming from Beighpora. While I was texting and calling friends, suddenly I saw that there was no network on my phone and as I checked around I got to know that mobile services have been fully shutdown in Kashmir. Now I was left with no way to get any update. I wanted to go to Beighpora now but couldn’t find a way at that moment. I felt so damn weak, that I went to bed. I tried to sleep. I thought maybe all this is just a bad dream and once I wake up it will be all over. But who can even sleep in such a situation when your heartaches badly.
I had no other way to get news updates except to watch Indian media personnel yelling on the screen, so that’s what I did finally and came to know that Riyaz Naikoo has been martyred. I felt that the ground beneath me was sinking. Even though the news of Kashmiri mujahideen being martyred anywhere always kills a part of me, but today it hid harder than all. Riyaz’s loss felt very personal. I had become attached to his audio messages and anxiously used to wait for his next message. The realization that there will be no more audio messages from him felt like something sharp had pierced my heart. And all of this happening today on the martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Saddam Padder, Shaheed Dr. Rafi made it feel like I was being repeatedly stabbed in the heart.
There was still no clarification on who was martyred besides Riyaz at Beighpora. Finally, I heard that his associate Adil Ahmad was also martyred there. I am thinking about the day when I first got acquainted with the name Riyaz Naikoo, the day he was named Chief Operational Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen and the day I first heard his audio message and immediately felt that association with him. We, Kashmiris, are very attached to mujahideen, we love them, they are our heroes, our frontline warriors. They have chosen the highest form of resistance against Indian occupation and they always have our devotion. Speaking on a personal level, I have never been attached emotionally to any other Kashmiri mujahid as much as I have been to Riyaz Naikoo. His audio messages and his leadership made all of us feel that closeness to him and it’s something that will never go away.
I had this deepest wish to meet Riyaz Naikoo one day, but this occupation has destroyed so many of our wishes and hopes, we have lost so many people to this bloody occupation, friends, family, strangers; all of us who have been together in this fight against Indian aggression. But the ultimate wish that we will see the end of this occupation will remain forever. It’s an immortal wish, it won’t die with any of us, it will pass from one generation to another. It will be fulfilled one day, that’s our firm belief, that’s our faith.
As goes the slogan in Kashmir, “shuhada ke waaris zinda hai”, the martyrdom of Riyaz Naikoo will be the start of a new chapter in Kashmiri resistance. We will take it forward, we will keep fighting until the dawn of freedom.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the editor of the Kashmir Discourse.
Syed Mohsin Ali is a student of International Relations in the University of Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.