A shopkeeper’s death, allegedly after he was beaten up by mobs for refusing to shut down his shop in Srinagar in response to a bandh call, is as much a cause for concern as are the killings of protesting stone pelting youth or innocent passersby at the hands of police and security men. Both are condemnable and heinous crimes and cannot be seen from a prejudiced prism, dividing people into the binaries of us and them. If some choose to condone the death of the shopkeeper on the pretext that ‘it serves him right’ for being disloyal to the ‘cause of the hartal’, it only reflects an erosion of humanity and wrongful justification of violence, which must be shunned and condemned in any form. But it is far more serious when the government chooses to selectively treat only one kind of violence as ‘hooliganism’ and ‘brutality’.
The government in any functioning democracy is the law keeper and the protector of its citizens. If the rights of the latter are violated and impinged upon, it is incumbent upon the government to restore these rights and deliver justice, whosoever may be the violator. Interestingly, while the shopkeeper’s death inspired a spontaneous response of the authorities with four arrests (which is all very well for its promptness), last year’s brutal killings of 130 youth have not ended up in a single arrest – no challans, no FIRs and no cases against those who killed and tortured. There are, however, plenty of cases against young men and boys as young as nine year olds for ‘waging a war against the nation’ because they picked up the stone on the roads, or perhaps dared to write something on their facebook walls.
When the government position is that the 130 boys were not quite wronged, when every case of torture, even beating up media persons on the roads is justified, it does appear that victimhood for the government depends much on who the perpetrator is. In doing so, it is inspired by its own theory of relativity (with due apologies to the great scientist Albert Einstein, who was anything but a war monger). According to this Victimhood Theory of Relativity, victimization depends on the identity of the perpetrator. In case he happens to be a personnel of the government agencies, he can be deemed to be invisible and non existent. In case, he happens to be an ordinary civilian, he can be branded a criminal.
Incase, he happens to show any signs of nursing any sympathy for the ideology of separatism, he can become a gigantic criminal who cannot be pardoned. Everything depends on other relative factors, and cannot be purely judged on the basis of the brutal act of victimisation itself. In Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, what we see depends on factors like light and speed. In the government’s Theory of Relativity, who we brand and bracket as victim or perpetrator depends on the tinted glasses they see things from.
Omar Abdullah, the man who heads the government, may not have discovered this Theory of Relativity. It existed in some measure even before he was born, though reached to perfection sometime during his boyhood days. But he certainly knows how to use it to the hilt with his statements and his tweets. Sample some of the things he had to say or avoid saying in the recent past. Just when he took over as chief minister of the state, it took him a month to respond to the two brutal killings of two boys allegedly by army personnel in Bomai-Sopore. Just two years after that, he didn’t take a second to get to his twitter handle when two girls were done to death brutally in Sopore by some alleged militants, interestingly not as much to share the grief or condemn the killings but more to rebuke the separatists for their passivity in the case so that he could turn around and childishly babble: ‘see, I told you so!’. When Press Council of India sent him reminders about the case of beating of journalists, he first dragged feet and then turned around to put the onus on the journalists who were not so brightly dressed enough for the security personnel to recognise them. And now he wants the separatists to respond to this ‘hooliganism’ of the act of beating a shopkeeper to death!
No sane man who argues that the case is anything but hooliganism! But so is the brutal killing of young boys protesting on the roads or just passing by. So are the fake encounters, custodial disappearances and involving young boys in fake cases. Since all these happen at the hands of the personnel, who enjoy powers not because they are super-citizens and superior but-because they have been entrusted with the responsibility to protect the masses, it is much bigger ‘hooliganism.’ Does Mr Omar, have a take on that?