‘The first principle of values that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundation’.——— Martin Luther King. this patch of land, once upon a time heralded as ‘heaven on earth’, has been bleeding—and bleeding profusely and uninterruptedly—long years ago. Instead of milk and honey, promised to flow from the enlarged udder of peoples’ rule, the rivers and streams are fast losing their purity of color and flowing with blood and tears. The streets and pavements, malls and complexes have since long draped in mourning, singing the melancholy: ‘ And then have we a prescription to die, when death is our physician’. (Shakespeare in Othello).
How many times fathers will have to carry the coffin of their dear ones to the graveyards and return heart broken. How many times the mothers will have to relapse in fits at the separation of their darlings? Are those obsessively driven to ‘muscular approach’ (P. Chidambaram, former Home Minister) derive sadistic pleasure at killing of youth and people wailing and beating their chests? Will this culture of impunity remain insulated against what humanity and justice stand for? Have the state institutions adhere to the basics of the constitution, where life and human dignity hold supremacy to all and every other considerations, or go by the jingoistic strands in the name of national interests? Which holds sanctity and primacy, Constitution or institution? All institutions of the state– as legal luminaries believe and courts have cleared in numerous verdicts– derive authority and legitimacy from the Constitution, not from the government.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been debated a lot. But its continuation in Kashmir has unfolded newer tragedies. The Amnesty International and many human rights groups in India loudly demand a repeal. It was enacted nearly hundred years ago by British. To call it ‘ an enabling provision’ for the forces—as some top brass officials and ultra nationalist TV anchors keep on screaming—is to constitute an upper privileged class, immune to court’s accountability, besides it being a colonial hangover, reminiscent of Imperialist British days. Does it all reconcile with ‘democratic’ appeal of Delhi? Does it fit in the larger frame of a nation emerging as a ‘regional super power’ in South Asia? More than military and economic strength, it is moral foundation a state is raised on that makes a country truly great and strong. More you siege the state with hyper nationalistic demands and calls of ‘ situational urgencies’, more it will distance away from its preamble imperatives.
They say Shopian-like incident is only an ‘aberration’ in the armed forces ‘services to the nation’. The majority of Indian soldiery, they hold, is ‘highly disciplined’ and respect human dignity and maintain the grace of the uniform and, thus, should not be black tarred. That draws us to the pith of the argument. Yes, to malign entire force regime is unjustifiable and, as chief minister of JK , Mehbooba Mufti, stated in the assembly there can be ‘black sheep in the army’. The question is why cannot the disciplined force be sanitized of this aberration and black sheep quarantined for the hygienic upkeep and safety of the rest of the professional force
The recent killing of two civilians in Ganowpora Shopian and scores other injured—that has evoked wide-spread condemnation and rage across political divide—is a latest shocker in the huge pile of such gruesome tragedies innocent Kashmiris are caught in the deadly grip of for the last so many decades. Had the guilty personnel been punished through judicial process—plugging escapist routes AFSPA provides them—the potential offenders would have got deterred against committing the heinous crime. That not happening, the sense of impunity dominated the psyche of the forces. Lest they take fright at my putting mirror before them, here is what the strong pro- Indian leader and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah states in assembly on Shopian killing: ‘There is a sense of impunity in government forces as the steps initiated for their accountability on human rights violations have been reversed.
After those convicted through a legally recognized process in Machill fake encounter case (were out of jail), they believe that they can get away even after they are convicted and awarded sentence ….those killed were shot above chest and in head. No effort was made to exercise restraint’(GK, 30 January). He further asks, ‘ What is the need of a magisterial inquiry when the accused have been identified and named in the FIR?’
Could banners of slain local Hizb militant in Ganowpora by RR personnel have furthered militancy in the area? Perhaps not, they were there as mark of mourning, which would have not last long. But the removal of the banner, with physical and emotional wounds fresh and intact (after all these gun-wielding boys are not outsiders) did ignite sentiments and blasted people in anger, especially when people from adjoining areas were in mourning mode and expressing solidarity with bereaved family. Common sense dictated to exercise restraint.
It makes democratic claim, so fervently peddled by Delhi and Srinagar rulers, lose sheen and appeal. And as NC MLA, Ali Muhammad Sagar bemoaned in assembly, it makes political space for pro-Indian groups ‘shrink’. All this, under law of unintended consequences, lending credibility and wider access to what they say ‘separatist forces’ in Kashmir. The ‘dread’ they want to keep at bay comes back laughing, feeding on their follies.
Tail-piece: Mehbooba Mufti pledged in the ‘most powerful assembly’ that Ganowpora investigation would ‘reach its conclusion’ and ‘guilty won’t be spared’. Judged in the back drop of such numerous cases dumped in trash, it looks horrendous challenge for her.