Kashmir is seething with anger again, this time over the killing of seven civilians in Pulwama district on Saturday. The situation is quite familiar. The killings are not new to Kashmir which has witnessed one of the bloodiest conflicts of modern times. Apart from the widespread bloodshed, people of the valley have also become used to the hypocrisy of the regional political parties-National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party.
The former chief ministers- Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti- expressed outrage over Saturday’s incident. Mehbooba called it a “bloodbath” while Omar termed it a “massacre”. Whenever the civilian deaths take place in unwarranted military action, they rely on statements of token condemnation and in some cases expression of helplessness on their part. Their response in the wake of military excesses has become so predictable that it hardly registers. Both NC and PDP have been playing mere lip service to the demands of troop withdrawal and revocation of laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act. When they were in power, both parties utterly failed to protect life and dignity of people. They must realize that the resentment their weak response stirs up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion brought by their political pretence.
After every civilian killing, as a knee-jerk reaction, NC and PDP politicians are quick to put the blame on the forces thereby attempting to divert the public attention from their own follies. These parties can’t be exonerated for their failure to stop civilian killings in the past and the wrong precedence they have set. They didn’t relinquish power when people were being killed and injured. Both Omar and Mehbooba survived worst phases of public upheaval in 2010 and 2016 respectively. The ruling dispensations at the Centre helped them tide over the mass uprisings.
They will not be able to get Delhi agree to revoke AFSPA with their arguments. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, which unfortunately has been missing in their case. Let alone resigning, Omar and Mehbooba did not even threaten to do so since they knew Delhi can take them and their tantrums for granted.
When Omar came to power in 2009, many people saw a glimmer of hope in him. More than his age and charisma, they were misled by his promises. However, he proved to be just like any other ineffective chief minister. Mehbooba couldn’t prove any better, perhaps even more helpless when it comes to stopping human rights violations.
Jammu and Kashmir is not like any other state where you assess the chief minister’s performance on the basis of governance and development alone. It is a place laden with political baggage so even if everything appears peaceful on surface there are strong and dangerous undercurrents. The calm is oftentimes deceptive and no one knows it better than Omar and Mehbooba.
The successive state governments have had no bearing on the conduct of troopers. Ideally a government is responsible to ensure that rights abuses are halted, criminal perpetrators face justice and that victims can seek redress. Both NC and PDP-led governments have been found wanting on these fronts. There is no deterrent in place and the official probes ordered have not yielded results and lack credibility.
Pulwama-like incidents also do not augur well for Government of India’s efforts to win hearts and minds of Kashmiris. Though we have been hearing that the Pakistan-backed insurgency is the only impediment to peace in J&K, it is the unabated killings which have emerged as the biggest threat to return of normalcy in the state. 2018 has been the most violent year for Kashmir in nearly a decade. Quoting figures compiled by rights groups, Aljazeera recently reported that over 500 people have been killed this year so far in the valley, including nearly 150 civilians.
People gradually switch to normalcy when there is no loss of life over a period of time. It is not subject to instigation by separatists as mainstream politicians would have us believe. Civilian deaths are the real hurdles to normalcy. As long as the killings continue, sustained normalcy will elude Kashmir. The utter disdain for human life will continue to keep the valley on edge.
Back to NC and PDP’s response, blaming armed forces and AFSPA may seem a good option for them to deflect the public anger, but it won’t help them wash their hands of the innocent blood spilled in the valley and the dangerous precedence they have set.
On Saturday night, NDTV prime-time show ‘Left, Right & Centre’ debated the civilian cost of war against militancy. The NC and PDP spokespersons conveniently blamed New Delhi for the killings since both parties are out of power this time. The truth is that they need to be held as much accountable for loss of civilian lives in the valley if not more.
Leave a Reply
Enter Your Name
Enter Your Email
Enter Your Message
VIDEO : Pulwama encounter: Wreath laying ceremony of Army