Talk Truth, Leave Reconciliation

The ailing man produced in front of the people he ruled for three decades, as a caged criminal, is the most memorable picture of this year. Hosni Mubarak, who was the dispenser of justice for thirty long years, finally became the target of justice. Some years back we saw Saddam Tikriti facing the same fate. Though at the hands of another oppressor, but justice was served to him. There is another picture almost ready for display; Libya’s Colonel will soon be accounting for his crimes. Earlier we saw Slobodan Milosevic facing the trials. The mass graves in Yugoslavia haunted the killers. And it is not only these known cases of the recent past; in the human history retribution and justice have seized great kings and enormous empires. Philosophy and religion apart, the scenes of retribution lay bare the address of someone who finally listens to the cry of the victim.  And then ‘He repays in full.”

When the State Human Rights Commission made its findings on the presence of mass graves in the Northern districts of Kashmir public, these were the thoughts that griped the mind. In a mix of anger and helplessness one only could raise the hands and look into the heaves, crying; will the day come when the killers will be hounded out of their chambers. Will the day come when the power of victim runs over the power of perpetrator. Will God again speak to his people:

“I will bring them down
Like lambs to the slaughter.
Like rams and goats”

But here is what comes to the mind of the Chief Minister of the State – Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  As if he has read some news about South Africa. The absurdity of this response is beyond description. TRC is an entirely different creature and what has happened in Kashmir is not even remotely connected to it.

TRC fits in the scheme where two communities have been hostile to one another, and before the relationship between the two takes a turn for good, it is an imperative that the old wounds are taken care of. This is how it unfolded in South Africa, where the leadership of Whites and Blacks finally decided to live together in a more peaceful atmosphere. To ensure that it doesn’t relapse into violence and peace really becomes the future of South Africa transitional justice was needed. This column cannot accommodate the details of the topic, otherwise it could be explained how the very idea of TRC in the context of Kashmir is unjust and ugly. Just one thing: TRC entails creating Doubt and Moral Ambiguity.  In the case of South Africa it meant that both Whites and Blacks have committed atrocities against each other.

So none can claim moral high ground, and there is no clear distinction between the victim and the victimizer. In Kashmir, we have no moral ambiguity. Here the victim is known in all the possible details. Here the oppressor stands identified with all detail. Here we need not tell the Truth, it’s already told. Here you can only side with truth. This is what ideally the political leaders of the state should have done on this occasion. This demanded that truth be told, once more, in the face of Delhi. This was the occasion to speak thunderously about how a state-of-exception has been created in Kashmir. When law of the land provided defense, the beast in the man could only spill blood. Note this also: TRC comes at a stage when one state of affairs finally gives way to another state of affairs. Here the case is reverse. The oppressive state of affairs is only becoming more oppressive and someone talks reconciliation.  Call Ghalib to do a fresh verse!

Even if Truth cannot be told while enjoying the power bath in the mainstream of politics in Kashmir, there are at least certain other things that are little sensible. Remember we had Nuremberg Trials after WWII. If that is difficult to remind, we recently had the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). We had a similar Tribunal for Rwanda. At least we can demand for an international tribunal to look into the mass violations that have happened in Kashmir. Dig into the graves and get the address of the killers.
Feedback at mrvaid@greaterkashmir