by Tasavur Mushtaq
SRINAGAR: Two years ago, a spectacle was created. A man who gave nearly four decades of his life to unionist politics in Kashmir was disowned on the day of his death.
On April 25, 2018, when Ghulam Nabi Mir, locally known as Patel was gunned down by militants near Rajpora in south Kashmir, he had an identity crisis. Both PDP and Congress condoled the death, but not as their man. PDP said he belonged to Congress and Congress said he was from PDP.
Two Years Later
Otherwise busy in combating the crisis of mutating virus, the UT government’s R&B division of district Pulwama shot a notice to Ameena Bano, a resident of Tral Pulwama seeking deposition of outstanding rent dues amounting to Rs 7,42,080 for their quarters, block B, set 3 at the MLA hostel housing colony in Pulwama.
Ameena is the widow of slain Ghulam Nabi Mir (Patel). The family had moved to government accommodation because of threats against Patel.
Dated March 24, 2020, the notice mentions the family has “occupied” a residential quarter without clearing the outstanding dues. Signed by Executive Engineer, the notice directs the family “to clear outstanding rent dues within a period of 07 days from date of issue of this notice failing which same shall be got recovered as arrears of land revenue through the office of Deputy Commissioner Pulwama.”
Earlier in December 2019, the Deputy Commissioner had told the family of Patel to vacate their government accommodation.
As per the letter, the accommodation of the family of slain politician has been allotted to the assistant regional transport officer.
It was during 2002 elections, Patel and other local candidates including Mohammad Khalil Bandh and Ashok Kaul (BJP) were putting up inside fortified Pulwama exchange, fearing they might be killed by the militants. Later, Patel was given accommodation at Government Housing Colony, Pulwama, and also allotted Y category security. “He has four PSOs, a driver, and a car,” said his son Sartaj Mir. He had also government accommodation at Talab Tillo in Jammu.
As told by his son, Patel “shifted out of MLA hostel Srinagar after a powerful blast killed a number of people there in 2006.”
Registered as migrants from Jammu, the family has security reasons to stay in government accommodation.
A family as quoted by The Wire has said “Our family cannot leave and why should we? The government knows well the threat we face for being part of a family that supports democratic politics in Kashmir. Was Ghulam Nabi Patel a stone pelter? No! He was a politician. Had we not been told to move here because of the threats he faced for his interaction with Indian democracy, he might have still been alive.”
Mir’s daughter, 24-year old Nighat has been quoted saying “sometimes I wonder why our father had to be a politician.” “Why couldn’t he just be a daily wage worker? At least he wouldn’t have died the way he did. My father is a shaheed (martyr). He died for the ideas he believed in.”
A protected politician, in his sixties, Ghulam Nabi Patel was killed when unidentified gunmen fired at his vehicle. A resident of Dangerpora village in Shadimarg belt of Pulwama, he died on the spot. His two PSOs Imtiyaz Ahmad Zargar and Bilal Ahmad Mir suffered bullet injuries but survived.
Police had said Patel was travelling in his Scorpio SUV when he was shot at by militants at Rajpora Chowk. Patel died while being taken to the hospital.
Police had initially said that Patel was an activist of the ruling Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ghulam Nabi Mir was not a Patel. It was his association with Congress’ Ahmad Patel that gave him this nickname which eventually became his identity.
He started his journey in politics in the 1970s as Congressman with Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
As a political activist, Patel was kidnapped twice during the troubled 90s, allegedly by the militants, for his association with Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad. Besides, he survived two attempts on his life. He fought a couple of state elections, but without registering a victory.
In 1996, he contested state assembly elections on Janta Dal mandate but lost with a small margin of fewer than a hundred votes. His association with Janta Dal was because of Mufti Sayeed.
Later in 2002, Patel fought elections on a Congress ticket from Rajpora constituency but lost with a huge margin. However, as Mufti became Chief Minister, Patel would be hanging around despite being part of the Congress.
However in 2014, just before the state assembly elections, he joined PDP and was welcomed by Mufti Sayed himself. Mufti reportedly told people that Patel has come back home. A long associate of Mufti, Patel had a contribution to help party secure Rajpora, a seat which gave south Kashmir its first finance minister.
His killing was a dual loss for his family. Survived by two wives and eight children, the moment Patel was killed, all the unionist parties disowned his affiliation. There were rumours that Patel was seen with BJP leaders as well before his death, but this was rejected by his family.
“He was a PDP man always, let him have some dignity in death,” his son Sartaj told after his assassination.
His killings were condemned by all but without ownership. The then chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti condoled Patel’s death but identified him as a Congress leader. “Heartfelt condolences to the family of senior Congress leader, GN Patel who was killed by militants today in Rajpora. Such cowardly acts achieve nothing but leave one more family devastated,” said Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Monga said Patel was a good person and he always works for the people. “He was not a primary member of our political party and had not held any position in the party.”
The man who represented Rajpora last, Dr Haseeb Drabu wrote on Twitter, “Gh Nabi Patel, senior citizen & seasoned political worker associated for 40 years with mainstream parties shot dead. Mindless. Painful. RIP!,”.
Omar Abdullah criticized both the Congress and the PDP for disowning Patel. “How tragic that Patel Sahib, a political worker assassinated by militants in Kashmir is being disowned by both the PDP & Congress. If neither party is willing to own him as one of their own let’s just call him an NC worker so his death is not in vain,” Omar wrote on Twitter.
In another tweet, Omar said, “Ghulam Nabi Patel is being denied the dignity of having been assassinated for belonging to a political party just so the PDP & Congress can lie to their workers to claim they aren’t at risk from militant bullets.”
Soon it became a public debate. Senior journalist Nazir Masoodi said Patel is nobody’s martyr. “Tit for tat condemnation. Congress condemns the killing of ‘PDP activist’ after PDP condoles the killing of ‘Congress activist’. Ghulam Nabi Patel is nobody’s martyr. If he was a separatist he would have died as a hero and owned by everyone in Kashmir,” Nazir wrote on Twitter.
Journalist Sreenivasan Jain taking to social networking site Twitter wrote: “In April last year when @szaffariqbal and I interviewed him, he said he was general secy of Pulwama district PDP.”
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) leader and former legislator Rafi Ahmad Mir disparaged the government decision of issuing an eviction notice to the family of a slain mainstream leader Ghulam Nabi Patel who lives in a government accommodation at a housing colony in Pulwama.
In a statement issued here, Mir said the government’s eviction notice speaks volumes about non-application of mind and highlights the apathetic attitude of the administration towards the families living under constant distress.
“The eviction notice that has been sent to the family of late Ghulam Nabi Patel is bereft of any rhyme or reason. How can a family that has lost its family head to the bullets of elements, inimical to peace, pay rent amounting to around Rs. 8 lacs in one go when the family is living in a state of perpetual penury?” Mir said while soliciting the intervention of Lieutenant Governor G.C Murmu towards this important issue.
The JKAP leader said that Late Ghulam Nabi Patel was a veteran leader who laid down his life for strengthening the democratic process and it was the government’s responsibility to rehabilitate his family instead of making it shelterless.
“Where will this family go amid this COVID crisis when no family dares to entertain even blood relations? Has the government rewarded Late Patel for his commitment towards political mainstream just two years after his fateful killing? While arriving at such inhuman decisions the administration should take all aspects into consideration,” Mir remarked.
He said that the family of Late Patel is economically shattered and is not in a position to pay the outstanding rent. “Since this family lives under constant threat perception and has no house of its own; the government must offer some waiver so as to enable it to continue in the government accommodation,” the JKAP leader demanded.