On 29 January 2015, Farooq Ahmad Dar, chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (R) (JKLF-R)—a faction of the JKLF—was on primetime television. He had come prepared as far as his appearance was concerned. He was clothed in an expensive pheran—a traditional Kashmiri gown made of wool—he seemed to have gone through a recent shave, and his hair was pomaded upwards. Dar’s slick spectacles were the finishing touch, helping him look the part he was at the studio to play.
Dar, along with a host of other panelists, was part of the famed Newshour on Times Now, and was engaging in an eloquent discourse on the politics of Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Earlier that day, Geelani had termed two terrorists who were killed in an encounter in south Kashmir as “martyrs.” This was the same encounter that resulted in the death of the Indian Army colonel MN Rai. Geelani has been making such statements for a long time now, and what he said that day is consistent with the pro-Pakistan approach he has cultivated for decades.
But while Geelani made special note of the deaths of the two terrorists, the martyrdom of Col. Rai escaped the attention of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and that of his social media managers. On 27 January—the day Rai died—they were busy making light of the disastrous handling of the rains during the Republic Day parade. Modi tweeted that day, addressing Barack Obama:
Putting aside the lack of acknowledgement on Twitter, not one member of the Modi government appeared to have the time to attend Col. Rai’s funeral in Delhi.