The Pulwama tragedy

The buck stops with the State Government



Seven civilians were injured in the southern town of Pulwama in Kashmir the last Friday when security forces opened indiscriminate fire on at Pulwama Chowk. This came after an encounter between the security forces and gunmen that left four troopers injured. The Armed Forces justify this indiscriminate firing by saying that the civilians were obstructing passage to their vehicles that were rushing the injured soldiers to the hospital. Apparently a situation that absolves the armed forces of the responsibility to follow the code of conduct that they have to adhere to in such situations? Another incident of brute force let lose on civilians. Another announcement of a “probe”.
Seems like that the more things change, the more they remain the same. One New Year’s Eve, the National Conference Spokesperson issued perhaps as apologetic and half-hearted a “condemnation” that the ruling party could possibly come up with. I have read the press statement a couple of times because the ridiculous exhibition of weakness is almost surreal, even for a place like Kashmir and even for a government as weak and apologetic as ours. To add  insult to injury, the ruling party spokesperson, underlined the “difference” between a civilian and a “man in uniform” in the context of the inherent civility of the “man in uniform” as opposed to the Kashmiri civilian who is a fixated, irrational and impulsive savage beast that doesn’t know better than pelting stones and obstructing ways. Was this, of all occasions, the opportunity to rave about the role of the armed force in Kashmir? What a shame, Mr. Spokesperson!
Kashmiris have grown used to this “black-sheep” narrative, immortalized not by the Armed Forces but by our own apologetic leaders of the traditional mainstream parties. A denial of brutal excesses against civilians that was effortlessly proclaimed at Geneva and in Delhi by the same traditional mainstream leaders who shed tears by cusecs, not drops in Kashmir.
No situation, no circumstance can justify the indiscriminate use of deadly force on unarmed civilians. Cajoling the armed forces into an “apology” by singing laurels in their praise is reminiscent of how oppressed Kashmiris used to “appeal” to the “exalted greatness” of the Maharaja in cases of excesses by his soldiers. And it’s disgusting and insulting to the core.
The NC spokesperson advised the armed forces to show “resilience” and “patience” in the same breath. The classic tap on the wrist, even if that. My humble suggestion to the ruling dispensation would be this – if you can’t gather the courage to safeguard the lives of your people and unabashedly so, please be advised to not at least insult “civilians” by portraying them as cattle that provoke and test the patience of the absolutely disciplined and humane “men in uniform” by resisting to be herded by them as and when sought.
 The stark reality is this – the armed forces use such deadly and murderous use of force against civilians because they know they can get away with it – AFSPA or no AFSPA. AFSPA is not the hurdle to justice as much as our State government is spineless. The very narrative and language of their “condemnation” statements reek of impunity and apology. And yes, that impunity comes from AFSPA. But it also comes from our State Government. Hundreds and thousands of Kashmiris have died in the last two decades of turmoil. Yet, for the ruling party spokesperson, the “resilience” is the inherent quality of the “man in uniform”, not the Kashmiri man – the “civilian” in a ragged, tattered Pheran. I belong to a mainstream party too but albeit one that doesn’t think that Delhi wants us to pawn our courage and dignity for power. No, Delhi doesn’t want that. Our own cowering and trembling traditional mainstream parties are so disconnected from purportedly their “own” people that they have chosen not to risk ruffling any feathers in standing up for their people and their right to life.
Incidents like Pulwama are not isolated. A lesser frequency isn’t an “improvement” that can be bragged about in newspaper advertisements that proclaim normalcy. Even ONE such incident is unacceptable. Statements that call for case-based “impartial probes” are insulting. The State Government should introspect, look at our history and gather the courage to address the underlying reality that extends impunity – not just AFSPA but also the lack of fortitude and statesmanship towards common Kashmiris. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the State Government – it is the Government’s unconditional duty to safeguard the lives of its people and with apologetic narratives and trembling, quivering lips – it has made a mockery of that sacrosanct duty.
(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference. Views are personal)

Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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