Yes, we have a reason to be infuriated. The judgment on Pathribal case has once again demonstrated the perils of being a Kashmiri living on the Indian side of LoC. This judgement has illustrated how law transforms into an antithesis of itself when the subject is fundamentally considered an enemy. The normal function of law is to protect the human life but in case of Kashmir the scheme has turned upside down. Law has become rabid. It has become the instrument of death. Not at the level of political struggle alone, I, as an individual, have a reason to think about the vulnerability to which I stand exposed – courtesy Armed Forces (Specil) Powers Act. This way Pathribal is crucial both personally, and politically. Living a normal life is just not possible when someone around is licensed to kill you. If Kashmir seethes in anger, and expresses this anger by writing, speaking, and protesting against the judgment, it is understandable.
But Pathribal case poses some profound questions. Beyond anger, condemnation and an eagerness to underline the rhetorical points. It poses questions not only to Kashmir, but India as well. It even scratches the global conscience.
First for Kashmir.
Everyone in Kashmir vociferously demands rolling back this law – actually the suspension of law. ‘Special Powers’ is only a euphemism for absolute and unquestioned powers. In simpler words it means that law will not come in the way of unbridled use of power. The sovereign – in this case Indian Armed Forces – is absolute and beyond law. Life of a Kashmiri has no legal status. So everyone in Kashmir is supposed to stand against this law. From National Conference to Tehreek-e-Hurriyat everyone is crying full throttle to repeal this law. Irony is that none wants to second the other in this demand which otherwise is unanimous. Here is the question that stares us all in the face. If the political parties on both sides of the divide are very vocal about repealing this law, why can’t they compliment each other! Those who contest elections and don’t question the sovereignty of India over Kashmir, and those who don’t contest elections and question the sovereignty of India over Kashmir, speak almost the same lines when it comes to AFSPA, but never have we found any attempt to forge a concerted effort for the revocation of the special powers.
There is a common belief that the parties like National Conference and PDP are not bothered about repealing the Armed Forces (special ) Powers Act. Their worry is to come across as pro-Kashmiri regional parties so that they can get votes and enjoy power. Otherwise, people question, if NC, and earlier PDP, were serious about the matter they could simply refuse to sit in the government and bring pressure on New Delhi on this matter. Also what stops these Unionist parties to join hands with each other and fight the case together. That could make it little more effective. But this too doesn’t seem to be happening. In this situation if people accuse these parties of doing politics, and not being serious about the life of a Kashmiri, they have good enough reasons to back this accusation.
Resistance parties are all game when Unionist parties are questioned this way. They take it as a vindication of their oft repeated stance that it is not NC or PDP who represent the aspirations of the people of Kashmir but them alone. They bolster their rhetoric that parties like NC and PDP are the instruments of control placed by New Delhi in Kashmir. But they forget that there are equally pointed questions waiting for them. By their own manifest assertions, they are fighting against occupation, and all the institutions – legal, administrative or economic – are the instruments of occupation. They have drawn the battle lines clear and definite. They don’t allow any participation in the system, citing the reason that any participation in the instruments of occupation is tantamount to joining the enemy. That is their fundamental reason to stay away from the electoral process. When this is the case why should they be expecting justice from a system which is established with a purpose of denying justice, in the first place. What is the element of surprise in the Pathribal case!
If they raise such a hue and cry over this matter, should one take it as an effort to fuel another kind of politics. Is their opposition to AFSPA meant to make the life of an ordinary Kashmiri more secure or to fuel the engine of Resistance. Here is an ethical dilemma for them. If they are concerned about the life of a common man, what stops them from exploring the possibilities within the system, or systems, put is place by India. And if the life of a Kashmiri per se is not important to them have they not slipped into the same ugly politics as they accuse the parties like NC and PDP of.
Let us pan it out. If taken as a threat to human life and dignity, what stops all the political forces in Kashmir, who oppose AFSPA, to make a concerted attempt to get this Act repealed. If the interest is to make the life of a common man secure, possibilities of a united opposition can be explored. But if the interest is to fuel the engine of respective politics, AFSPA is just an excuse.
Unionist parties use it to their end, and so can Resistance camp be blamed of. And never forget that we as individuals are also to blame. We, in our respective spaces, are concerned about the political ideas we espouse, and not the fundamental question of saving the life. The day life per se becomes the central concern we can dismantle many psychological and practical barriers that come in the way of fighting the battle for life