Omer's Shopian 'sisters': Time to act

It is common catchphrase in hypocritical cultures like ours to call even strangers as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ (Behenji  and Bhai sahib),  or an unknown elder as aunty and uncle. Implied in these empty utterances is the purported intention to treat a stranger with respect and fairness even when there is no intention or conviction to live up to the promise. For the most part, these shallow expressions lack seriousness at best or at worst serve as a licence to cheat. So the ‘sisters’ are often exploited and ‘brothers’ are duped under the facade of these perfunctory expressions of affection. This is not to deny that some men and women of high character live up to the promise. As we all increasingly succumb to the pressures of crass materialism, such people are few, and are sadly at the cusp of extinction. We hope the newly crowned novice Chief Minister of  Jammu & Kashmir  belongs to those men of high character, unlike his father who himself administered a regime of terror during his tenure as the Chief Minster during the hay days of militancy. Senior Abdullah promised umpteen times that the brutal army men will be punished for violating the honour and dignity of his countless Kashmiri ‘sisters’. And lo and behold he never delivered on his empty promises.
 
When the news about the brutalization of two Shopian women by the  occupying forces hit the air waves across the globe– putting all of us in Kashmir to shame– Omar Abdullah  jumped the gun and straight- facedly denied any rape and murder on the advice of some shameless state officials ( read intelligence agencies and their  implants in the state administration).   However, as the situation on the street threatened to escalate into Ragada II, he soon recanted and offered a prompt investigation–perhaps in the right earnest. He promised that he would ensure that the brutes who perpetrated the crime against these hapless daughters of Kashmir–whom he described as his ‘sisters’– would be punished. (As a side note, a just ruler does not have to have sisters of his own to bring to justice those who rape and kill someone else’s sisters). Granted that he was initially misinformed and therefore did not suspect any foul play. The public deserves to know what new information was made available to him that made him reverse his initial denial of rape and murder, and only a few days later state, “Something happened in Shopian”. What is that ‘something’ other than the rape and subsequent triple murder of a Kashmiri family at the hands of the occupying forces? The question is not what happened and who did it. Rather the question is, when will the perpetrators be brought to justice, and when will this continued suppression of Kashmiris end. We can fruitlessly debate until cows come home that Omar should have resigned; his father won’t let him. What is not debateable is that he should come clean on the issue without any further delay.
 
At this time, there is no reason to doubt Omer’s sincerity.  He, like all of us, must be having sleepless nights, as must late Sheikh sahib’s rooh be restless in his grave near Hazratbal. What is in doubt is his understanding of how the Indian State’s merciless tactic to suppress the freedom sentiment has similarly put us to shame on several occasions in the past.  We need to remind ourselves of the events of Kupwara’s Kunan Poshpora mass rape of February 1991– faithfully chronicled by Barbara Crosette of the New York Times (April 7, 1991). The brutes of Rajputana rifles violated the chastity of hundreds of women ranging in age between 13 and 80 in front of children and male members. The Indian propaganda machinery went into full swing and down played the gruesome incident as "baseless". No credible investigation was ever conducted by the state government. The  investigation by  Mufti Baha-ud-Din Farooqi, the then Chief Justice of the  Jammu and Kashmir High Court, was willfully  ignored. Based on reports of the international human rights organizations, the US State department had accepted the “credible evidence to support charges that an elite army unit engaged in mass rape in the Kashmiri village of Kunan Poshpora’. In a characteristic manner, the Indian government completely dismissed the charges as a "well-concocted bundle of fabricated lies”. It is no wonder that rape, torture, murder and mayhem of Kashmiris at the hands of armed forces continues unabated even today.
 
Young Abdullah needs to revisit his father’s statement last August when the Indian Government denied the criminal blockade of the Srinagar- Jammu highway to strangulate Kashmiris.  He is on record as having publicly asserted that the Indian government’s denial of blockade was a lie. “I know how the Government of India operates (in Kashmir). I have worked with them”, he boasted rhetorically. Implicit in his assertion was a candid admission that the coercive regime in New Delhi, of which he continues to be a part, trivializes the pain and suffering of Kashmiris to justify its brutal suppression of the freedom movement.
 
The fact is that no perpetrators of crime against innocent Kashmiri men and women have ever been seriously brought to justice regardless of who the New Delhi-implanted ruler in Kashmir has been. Weigh this against the treatment meted out to Rubaiya Sayeed by the “murderous terrorists” of Kashmir during her abduction in 1989. However unfortunate the abduction of the innocent daughter of the then Indian Home Minister was, her “terrorist” captors in fact treated her like a ‘sister’. Rubaiya’s father himself ruthlessly presided over the massacre and rape of his own fellow citizens by the Indian men in uniform. Can young Abdullah draw some serious lessons here? We can only hope that he lives up to his assertion that the innocent women were like his sisters.  We can only hope that the real politick of keeping to his power does not fog his vision. We can only hope that he does not either heed the advice of his father or listen to the brief by the Indian intelligence agencies that are working overtime to hush up the case yet again.
 
The shock of this heinous crime may fade from the public memory soon. Where it will leave an eternally indelible trauma, are the hearts and minds of the family of these unjustly violated, innocent and hapless women–their real brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, uncles and aunties. It will no doubt attain prominence in the history pages of Kashmir that continue to be written in blood and punctuated with beastly rapes and criminal hush- ups.   Repeated hush-ups are an effective prescription for creating some more ‘terrorists’ who may not be as compassionate as the abductors of Rubaiya Sayeed. Young Omer and his entourage has much to worry about. We hope he has not spoken too soon.
 
The  author is citizen writer