'Rape in line of duty'

A rape committed " in the line of duty" is therefore condoned

BREAKING VIEWS

NAEEM AKHTAR

The Union Cabinet did not even look at that portion of Verma committee recommendations that had pleaded for withdrawing AFSPA cover from uniformed violators of women's dignity in states like Jammu & Kashmir. It had recommended to bring those cases also within the jurisdiction of civil courts. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who has declared revocation of AFSPA as his life's mission did expectedly tweet on the day the Union Cabinet overruled Justice Verma. But unexpectedly the tweet was about another subject concerning women in Kashmir-the girls' rock band who had been receiving hate posts on social media like Face Book. This tweet sparked off further hard line diatribe about music, women, values etc with Mufti Azam Muhammad Bashiruddin also finding a chance to show his existence between the sighting of two moons by his counterparts in Pakistan and his relaying it. The result is that all hell broke loose against and about the poor girls which could only add to their anxiety and insecurity. The point is that only those issues are flagged in Kashmir that are politically correct and don't in any way threaten the job security of rulers, whatever the other costs paid by ordinary mortals like the girls of so called rock band.
This approach has distorted Kashmir narrative by forcing an element of moral equalisation into every hard fact and every truth about the place. The narrative intertwines many strands with the result that it is confused and on occasions looks dishonest. Take the recent gang grape of a girl in Delhi and the protests that followed it. Much against our moral grain, the outrage displayed by rest of the country did not find a matching echo from Kashmir. Social media and even formal responses contained references to the atrocities committed on Kashmiri women since 1990. This reference is absolutely understandable but it reduces the value of our opinion when expressed in context of some other tragedy. While rock band type controversies fortify our undeserved medieval image, the Damocles' sword of disempowering laws like AFSPA generate enough juice for us to get stewed in.
No voice was raised from the state about the statement of one of the most articulate and soft spoken ministers of UPA. Ashwani Kumar, the suave and etiquetted law minister made a remark on the Verma Committee recommendation on AFSPA which few could have survived if the subject was not Kashmir. Talking to NDTV Kumar said the review of Armed Forces Special Powers Act was a difficult issue "because the context is different", how do you divide the action taken in the line of duty where the circumstances are such that nobody knows what is going to happen?" A rape committed " in the line of duty" is therefore condoned.
In the din of protests a respectable voice was raised about the 'rapes committed by security forces'. It was of the old Kashmir hand and friend Wajahat Habibullah. He questioned Gen VK Singh the former chief of army staff as to what action the latter had taken on complaints of rape by soldiers in Kashmir. Gen Singh had on that day joined the Delhi protests along with Baba Ramdev that  had put UPA on the backfoot.
Habibullah has been occupying many positions from where he could have raised these questions within the constitutional system of the country. As chairman of the Minority Commission he could have asked the same question from the present chief of the Army. But no, in case of Kashmir it is not the institutions that would take a call. Even a highly respected Wajahat Habibullah will come down from his pedestal of sobriety and refinement to join the crowd and hoot down a former chief just to be seen on the right side of an embattled government. And significantly there was no dearth of voices from our own separatist camp clutching at the proverbial straw and declaring loudly ,'look even Habibullah says what we say' as if truth is changed by someone's silence or speech.
Meanwhile Gen Singh was booked on charges of  'rioting and causing damage to public property'. Some irony there? The chief of Indian army is booked for rioting in the capital and no one ever said the army that he commanded only a few months back would be 'demoralised' as a result of this. But by any chance if one of Gen Singh's orderlies had been accused of murder or rape in a place like Kashmir or Manipur he would have enjoyed immunity against prosecution. That according to law minister's definition would fall in the category of incidents 'in the line of duty'. Even otherwise we have witnessed even serving generals being investigated or punished for misdemeanour ranging from sexual harassment of a junior's wife or conspiring with real estate barons in parting with defence lands or homes constructed for martyrs of their own force. There was obviously no protest or demoralisation of forces because justice is the best revenge whether that pertains to the anger of brave soldiers frustrated by denial of leave or maltreatment by an officer's spouse.
At the beginning of militancy a bride was waylaid in Anantnag district while on way to her grooms house along with the barat. She was raped and murdered by members of members of a security force. Kashmir erupted against it like Delhi did against the atrocity on the medical student. Obviously the demand was only punishment to the perpetrators. Government employees struck work for a record 72 days to press that demand but has anybody learnt anything about the case after that?
Almost synchronising with the AFSPA rejection came the very heartening news for the state- that of issuing new coins in the name of Mata Vaishnodevi Ji who 'was to establish righteousness in the world'. The honour for the state is justified as the Goddess chose this place as her abode. But mark the irony in two decisions. The descendants of Bhairon who would be called a stalker today and who for his lust was beheaded by the Mata, howsoever little their number in uniform, find their immunity intact when this state experiences a very genuine honour.
The collage of these ironies, injustices, truths, half truths, outright lies, denials and hypocrisy defines the confusion that Kashmir of today is. And till this situation persists, the tribute to Mata Vaishnodevi will remain incomplete, the outrage on rock band issue will sound hollow and the very idea of India will look fake. As long as Kashmir and north east are treated differently from the mainland and institutions fail to respond in Srinagar and Imphal as they do in Delhi and Chinnai.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 6 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST




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