Carnage in Chenab Valley

Ineptness at the top, intriguing role of local officials and BSF’s insensitivity create yet another explosive situation
The ghastly frequency with which the blood of innocent people is being shed in this state, at regular intervals, suggests as if human life is calculated to be an affordable price to keep alive the (territorial) idea of ‘India’ in Kashmir. The massacre in a remote village of the Gool Gulabgarh area of Ramban district on Thursday, once again, betrays the licentious mindset of the authorities supposedly entrusted with the safety of the lives of the victims of this carnage. At the very face of it, the local law and order authorities appear to have colluded with the BSF in letting loose a reign of terror upon the unarmed protesters. The protests were, in the first place, sparked off by alleged act of desecration committed by the BSF personnel on the previous day while carrying out ‘routine’ security checking of a local mosque. Sensitivity of the situation and its potential implications could have easily been contemplated and accounted for if only the civil and BSF authorities had cared to apply their minds rationally.

But rationality has always been in short supply in this part of the country. Irrational conduct of men in uniform is matched by equal irrationality within the civil administration. This vicious trait is impelled by the deep rooted culture of impunity and unaccountability which is the hallmark of the present regime. Had there been will, the minor issue said to be the basic cause of the flare up in that tiny village of Ramban district could have been easily sorted out. On the contrary, everything was done to provoke mass anger and trample upon the religious sensitivity of the aggrieved population. If and when an enquiry is held this particular point would need to be gone into to pinpoint responsibility at the official level.

Ramban district in general and Gool Gulabgarh area in particular have been relatively free from this kind of trouble. That is why the remote area and its hardy people have been out of ‘news’. Widespread shock and surprise over Thursday’ massacre in the remote village not far from the national highway was thus a natural consequence. After the event, the BSF and the local civil administration are trying to blame each other while facts coming out from the area point to complicity of both.

It is tragic that the chief minister of this state whose primary responsibility it is to safeguard the lives of his people has nothing to show but his pitiable helplessness. Omar Abdullah’s tweets and public statements on such grim occasions have by now ceased to impress. The buck stops right at his doorstep, irrespective of who was actually responsible on the ground for creating a situation that led to yet another staggering addition to the casualty list under his command. Omar can no longer take shelter behind his pretended ‘helplessness’ in such cases. There is something called inescapable moral obligation of the office and position of the chief minister. If only he could recount the huge and mounting number of innocent victims of his administrative/political ‘helplessness’ Omar would have realised that he was long overstaying at his post. Protecting the lives of citizens is his foremost responsibility as well as topmost obligation. He cannot be seen endlessly pleading his inability in such cases and yet clinging to his chair. Enough is enough.

The massacre in Ramban district has the potential of re-creating the dreadful scenario of the recent past. When the state apparatus either fails to carry out its obligations or wilfully abdicates its responsibility other forces step in. Who in this state would say that he or she does not understand what that means. Already there are disturbing indications over the surface. There is a limit to testing the patience of ordinary people who are at the receiving end of this dirty game. Incidents like the one in Gool Gulabgarh can have a snowballing effect if the authorities ignore to read the writing on the wall. The incident needs to be probed promptly and transparently.

Let it be said at this stage that it is the fallout of incidents like these that go on to rekindle the simmering anger and alienation caused by the rash acts of the state like hanging of Afzal Guru to ‘satisfy the conscience of the Indian nation’. With slogans like ‘Hindu Nationalism’ coming from potential future rulers of India it is natural that the latent fears and apprehensions in India’s only Muslim-majority state tend to come alive with incidents like that in Ramban district. The religious angle of this particular case ought to have been handled with sensitivity. On the contrary, it retrospectively appears as if this very factor was the ‘provocation’ for drastic excessive use of force. Perceptions, rightly or wrongly, tend to influence the course of events on the ground. Instant strong reaction across the state is an indication that the situation is fraught with far more serious consequences than the authorities are inclind to acknowledge.