Kashmir has produced some remarkable & accomplished figures but pardon me for saying Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather is not among them. As India’s Air Attache in France, he’s become famous overnight as the Indian Air Force officer who flew the first batch of Rafale jets from France to an Indian air force base near Ladakh & the Pakistan border. He has been a career officer in the Indian military since 1988 with all sorts of medals & military distinctions to his name.
His middle-class family is from the Anantnag district where his father, who also served in the Indian Army, retired as a deputy superintendent of police. Indian media reports that tributes are pouring in from Kashmiri youth bursting with pride at his military accomplishments. Which Kashmiri youth would those be? The ones incarcerated & subject to torture by the Indian Army? The young mothers of kids abducted by Indian forces in nighttime home invasions? The thousands of young & old injured & disfigured by pellet guns? Do the thousands of young men forcibly disappeared & dumped in mass graves get a voice in the celebrations? The Times of India article says his family often faced threats, probably for being collaborators, & when Hilal got married he had to relocate to Jammu for safety reasons. Now, for piloting war planes he’s heralded as a hero? Don’t believe everything you read. Kashmiris have not suddenly lost their marbles overnight & gone gaga over a man who serves in the very military that is the agent of their oppression.
(Photo of Hilal Ahmad Rather by IANS)