India's area of darkness

The coalition government headed by chief minister Omar Abdullah has suffered such mortal blows that its eventual fate is reduced to political insignificance. Except for Omar’s own job, the continuation or expiry of his government both have become meaningless as far as the desired purpose of its being there is concerned. For the last more than three months the government’s existence and its presumed authority have been reduced to less than zero. Collapse of the state administration in the face of public revolt has inflicted all sorts of miseries on the hapless population even as rampaging ‘security forces’ continue to behave as terrorists in uniform without any fear of accountability. One by one, routine provisions of daily life including procurement of medical treatment for sick and ailing persons, are going beyond the reach of common man. The degraded status of daily life in Kashmir Valley is very near that of the stone age. While the entire population has been locked in under brutally enforced indefinite curfew, communication links with the outside world have been snapped. For the first time, air and road traffic to and from the Valley has been shutdown under official orders. Telephone services were already crippled with ban on text messaging, arbitrary restrictions on pre-paid connections and recent disconnection of thousands of pre-paid SIM cards on so-called security grounds. Now the police have threatened to do the same with the internet services. Hundreds of people, including business travellers, students and patients needing urgent specialised treatment outside the state have been stranded. The brutal manner in which the police and para-military forces have been dealing with those who venture out in desperate bid to get badly needed medicine or rush a seriously ailing patient to some medical facility indicates that terror tactics have full official patronage.

Instead of trying to mitigate miseries inflicted upon the ordinary people and to perform basic minimum administrative duties of protecting lives of its citizens, the state government has withdrawn from the scene only to keep the mounting body count resulting from the repression let loose against those seeking justice. The toll of 90 deaths during last three months works out to an average of one death every day. Such monstrous statistics anywhere else in the civilised world would have pricked the conscience of those at the helm of affairs and compelled them to honour their moral obligation. Morality, on the other hand, has been and continues to be the biggest casualty in today’s dispensation in Kashmir. That was made obvious by the manner in which the ruling National Conference party’s so-called core committee dominated by the Abdullah dynasty met to assess the survival chances of the Omar-led government. Nobody had the time or inclination to even mention the heavy loss of human lives in the Valley or to say a word about the plight of the curfewed population. Desperate struggle for individual survival has denuded the regime of any sense of responsibility towards its citizens who have been thrown to the wolves.

How long can this sad situation continue? Not easy to answer this question because it relates to Kashmir; not to any other ‘integral part (atoot ang) of India’. Kashmir has always been and seems destined to be treated always as an area of darkness when it comes to dispensation of justice and fairness. Both the ideals continued to be crucified here ‘in national interest’. It is not only that the people are saddled with a hated regime that is incapable of delivering on anything at all but that the treachery of subjecting them to degraded quality of life has by now acquired the recognised status of a well considered official policy. That is the inevitable perception prevailing here. Its consequences, short term as well as long range, are far more significant than the fate of an individual or a group of individuals labelled as ‘government’.