An outdated mindset

It is high time for the state government to honour its pledge and immediately withdraw all criminal cases launched against hundreds of boys, mainly students, in connection with 2010 summer disturbances in the Kashmir Valley. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been making public promises to fulfil his commitment in this regard; but only to be checkmated by the bureaucracy. This inaction amounts to perpetuation of uncertainty and abnormality and runs counter to the grain of prevailing normalcy. The coalition government’s inability to implement its own decisions reveals a fatal shortcoming in its political abilities. It is common knowledge that bureaucracy everywhere has a vested interest in prolonging uncertainty which enables it to cut corners in real performance and cover up systemic shortcomings. However, larger interests of the state demand that this tendency be curbed in order to consolidate the situation on the ground. With the sword of prosecution hanging over the heads of hundreds of young men they remain imprisoned in an atmosphere of haunting uncertainty along with their families. The situation in which the cause of action against them had arisen has since disappeared and the changed climate warrants general amnesty.

The logic and imperatives of withdrawing criminal cases has been accepted time and again but without any follow up till now. There have been quite many verbal commitments but without implementation. The cases launched by the police remain very much alive and the accused boys continue to be summoned for court proceedings. Many of them are unable to attend their schools and colleges regularly because of this reason. Besides, the fear of criminal prosecution continues to haunt them. What the police and the ruling political establishment seem to be ignoring—or forgetting—is the probability of some of the affected boys succumbing to the pressure of anxiety and finding themselves pulled back into undesirable circumstances.

The surface calm in the Valley is still too fragile to withstand the disturbing consequences of a swing back in the ground situation. The tentativeness of the situation is also the result of the deliberate failure of the governments in the state and at the centre to address the underlying concerns of the people. None of the confidence building measures promised over the past three years has been implemented. The process of dialogue with the estranged segments of local population remains in the deep freeze. The fact that even the report of the New Delhi-appointed Interlocutors is not being shown the light of the day indicates the level of unresponsiveness at the top.
Added to this is the fact there is total disinclination to soften the harsh rigorous regime of draconian laws slapped on the people way back in 1990s when the situation was drastically different from what it is today. The move to lift the AFSPA is nearly shelved under military pressure. State’s own abominable Public Safety Act continues to be used rampantly. Channels for voicing dissident and protest have been clogged for all these years. Shockingly, the proceedings of the state legislature all through the just concluded budget session reinforced this ugly picture rather than providing any hope of relief. The treasury benches revealed built-in aversion to any kind of dissent, much less showing any appetite for cultivated tolerance.
Putting the pieces together, it is obvious that the mindset at work is totally unsuited to the demands of the time. The thinking at the top level appears to have got frozen in the distant past. Apparently wilful dithering over the issue of withdrawal of criminal cases against a large number of boys is a typical manifestation of an outdated mindset.