Freedom’s Open Wound: Kashmir and the Future of South Asia at Tufts

Talk: Records of Repression


On the night of July 24th, 2012, twenty-four-year-old Hilal Ahmad Dar of Aloosa in North Kashmir was killed in a ‘fake encounter’ by the Army, allegedly with the help of two locals. The army initially claimed that Hilal was a militant, who was killed in an armed encounter, but later retracted this story. The events leading up to Hilals death are first narrated by the two men accused of killing him. Muhammad Ramzan alias Rameez a former militant turned army informant, and Nazir Ahmed Bhat. Then the Army’s version of the story, and its denial of its role in orchestrating the fake encounters is told through investigation reports. The State Prosecutor’s theory of the case, and the forensic reports that confirm that Hilal was tortured before he was killed both contradict the army’s version of events. Finally, Hilal’s family narrate the pain and trauma of losing their son to the military occupation.

The various contradictory accounts of what transpired shed light on how thirty years of increasing militarization and occupation has transformed Kashmir into a penal colony. These multiple versions leave many unanswered questions including the most fundamental. Who was Hilal Ahmad Dar, why was he brutally killed and by whom? Why was he chosen as that object of death? What transpired in the moments leading up to his capture, torture and final death? Why did Hilal have to die? Were few hundred rupees, incentive enough to stage this encounter killing? How can a pre-meditated murder, a fake encounter, staged by the state and its collaborators go unpunished?

Through each of these narratives, I explore the transformation of Kashmir into a carceral society.

The four main narratives also become the site for interrogating questions about loyalty, truth, memory and violence under occupation. How Kashmiri’s are turned into informer and collaborators. How constant violence has re-engineered ideas of truth, justice and loyalty and how the political economy of fake encounters renders Kashmir’s as expendable bodies and political being.