Like many other things, normalcy in Kashmir is open to violently conflicting definitions. Going by the state government’s interpretation, the state has seen a perfectly normal 2011 with tourists overflowing and, above all, no mass uprisings like those witnessed in 2008 and 2010. Naturally, there are claimants to ‘credit’ from the chief minister to the police chief who like to pat themselves on the back. Then there are other loud-mouthed political beings from the ruling coalition parties who propagate it as their biggest achievement. But has the year that just passed really been normal in the true sense of the word? Objectively speaking, no it has not been so. Just pause and listen what the Army chief has to say.
He summarily dismisses any suggestion, even being near-normal as argued by the chief minister while pleading against retention of AFSPA. Mutually conflicting definitions of normalcy continue to stand in the way of dismantling the repressive framework provided to security forces and security agencies. The result is that just below the surface the situation is being artificially maintained at a high abnormal level because return to real normalcy has become a frightful scenario for the state and its apparatus.
Documented statistics just released by the Kashmir civil society uncover this ugly truth with stunning impact. Over 200 persons have been killed over the past one year claimed to be ‘normal’. The victims include young boys and minor children. Custodial killings have not stopped either; the most sensational case being the mysterious death of National Conference worker, Haji Syed Mohammed Yousuf soon after he was ‘interrogated’ at the chief minister’s official residence in Srinagar. Curbs on freedom of movement and freedom of expression of separatist leaders continue unabated. The state apparatus continues to rely upon protective umbrella of extra-constitutional legal immunity from prosecution for criminal acts against ordinary citizens. Barring the solitary case of Maulana Showkat’s assassination, none of the 232 killings has been investigated conclusively. Children continue to be held in detention. Court orders are flouted as before. These are undeniable hard facts that paint a grim picture of ground reality.
Relative comparison between the years 2010 and 2011, no doubt shows a decline in the level of violence. But a closer look reveals a more shocking picture: There is no change in the quality of life; common man in Kashmir continues to be held under the barrel of gun; the state apparatus is unwilling to shed even an iota of its immoral unaccountability; acts of state repression continue to claim innocent victims. Judicial system remains virtually crippled under the weight of extra-constitutional immunity enjoyed by the ruthless security establishment of the state. The atmosphere continues to be too stifling to lend itself for any interpretation other than what it actually is: Oppressive and repressive.
If the state government wants others to take its word seriously the least it should be doing is to speed up investigation of killings in the Valley, including those by the militants and restoring normal remedial judicial processes. The law courts have been virtually rendered power-less. Court orders are flouted by agencies of the state with impunity. Yet, there is so much of mutual back-scratching over illusory normalcy. The system has become insensitive to loss of human lives on such a big scale. Facts and figures released by the civil society are indisputable. Real normalcy can come only with honest acceptance of the reality on the ground and adoption of right means to remedy it. Till then this objective would be only an illusion to mislead outsiders even as the citizens of the state itself continue to suffer the lethal rigour of state repression.