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Friday, December 1, 2023

Akash Mehra’s death should shake our collective conscience

The death of Akash Mehra (22) should have shaken the nation. His name, sadly, barely made it to the news and definitely was not front-page material like two other youth, Disha Ravi and Munawar Faruqui, who our editorial class has chosen to highlight in recent times.

Akash and his family, originally from Udhampur district of Jammu, ran a vegetarian eatery Krishna Dhabha in the heart of Srinagar. The dhabha was started by Akash’s father Ramesh in 1984 and had been operational for decades. It was the go-to place for vegetarian food in the troubled city – even at the peak of the Islamic terrorism that has ravaged the region since 1989 and the anti-Hindu pogrom of 1991 that forced lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits to flee, the dhabha was never targeted.

Akash Mehra
Akash Mehra sitting at Krishna Dhabha

The family was mindful of ‘local sensibilities’, as Indian Express reporter Basharat Masood writes, meaning they strictly adhered to Islamist calls for shutdowns to stay on the good side of radicalised locals.

Yet, once the jihadis had decided that the Mehras were no longer welcome as they were ‘not local’, this Jammu Hindu family became a target. On the evening of February 17, the dhaba in Srinagar was filled with customers when two masked terrorists barged in with pistols. They went straight to the cash counter where Akash Mehra, the owner’s son was sitting, and shot him from point-blank range.

Terror outfit Muslim Janbaz Force, an off-shoot of Lashkar-e-Toiba, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Downplaying the act of terror

But for Indian Express journalist Masood, the attack was carried out by ‘suspected militants’, and he reports that the killers had been instructed by a South Kashmir-based Lashkar-e-Toiba ‘militant’. Yes, even a member of Pak-sponsored LeT, responsible for 26/11, is not a terrorist but just a ‘militant’ for this journalist of a national newspaper!

Another Kashmiri reporter Fayaz Wani, writing for the New Indian Express, uses the word ‘militant’ seven times in his report on Akash’s death, ‘terror’ or ‘terrorist’ not even once. His report ends with a quote from the disgraced former CM Mehbooba Mufti, whose PDP party has been proven to be just an over-ground front for Islamic separatists, appealing to Kashmir youth to avoid letting their ‘legitimate struggle’ get bracketed as ‘violent and extremist’.

Akash Mehra
Akash Mehra’s mother at his funeral in Jammu, Sunday. (PTI)

If supposedly educated reporters are spinning a brutal terrorist attack like this, don’t be surprised if the word on the street in Srinagar is that Akash Mehra was shot dead by the Indian Army in a false flag operation. This is how Islamic radicalism thrives through a multi-layered societal narrative.

And if you are unsure why the use of the word ‘militant’ is objectionable when describing an act of terror, refer to this piece by the Nehruvian acolyte Ramachandra Guha writing for the viscerally anti-Hindu propaganda outlet The Wire, where Guha talks of  ‘RSS militants’. This is what the anti-Hindu gang wants to do – create a false equivalence between Hindus and Muslim groups, to brainwash the common citizen to regard RSS and LeT as the same. When you do this, a quasi-terror outfit like PFI, and other radical Islamic groups like JeI, JuH, Deoband etc. all get normalised. ‘Eminent’ historian, Irfan Habib of AMU, has in the past tried to draw parallels between the RSS and the IS.

This is how terror apologism works.

It is no surprise that Western think tanks also refer to RSS as a ‘Hindu nationalist militant outfit’. And our media routinely refers to Maoists and North East separatist terror groups like NLFT as ‘militants’ too, while masking their typical Communist-Christian fundamentalist ideologies.

Two tweets from a Kashmiri Pandit living in exile go to the heart of the matter while Akash Mehra will not be mourned by the Indian secular state and the world –

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