A gang-rape in Delhi

The gruesome incident should cause a greater public reflection than it has

POINT OF VIEW

RIYAZ AHMAD

Delhi gang-rape of a 23 year old girl and her consequent death has galvanized public opinion in India against the violence on women. The government, initially found struggling in response to spontaneous public groundswell, has stepped up by offering a series of safeguards to help prevent abuse of women. Like rest of India, Kashmir was riveted on the unfolding public spectacle against the backdrop of the abused girl's valiant battle for life which she eventually lost. While girl's passing away was a deeply moving experience, the central government's response to the crisis  made Kashmiris conscious of the conspicuous lack of the redressal in the human rights violations in the state. The response may be predictable but the thinking that underpins it is at the heart of the alienation in Kashmir: the state, both in the form of the state and central governments is perceived under no obligation to act fairly when it comes to human rights excesses in the state.
The problem is more fundamental and has a significance even independent of its Kashmir setting: it is a typical conflict area situation where the basic compact between the government and the people remains in a state of perpetual strain. Government approach towards people is skeptical at best and the people in turn have little faith in the system. But the onus to restore the compact lies with the government, considering also that the governments have become such all-encompassing presences in our lives, the gigantic ordering mechanisms that have come to control everything from social through legal to economic aspects of our lives. In fact, governments now also act as the forgerers, enforcers and examplars of morality.
But  this concept of the government is mortally threatened when the state doesn't even spare a disabled woman stone-thrower  to enforce law and order but doesn't as much as acknowledge a report against hundreds of police and security personnel responsible for some heinous crimes.
In a sense, we encounter a curious crisis in Kashmir. It is the government which plays a due part, sometimes as a passive onlooker, in the reporting of the human rights violations in the state. For example, it was a government agency which built on the examplary work of the human rights group Coalition of Civil Society and confirmed the discovery of the unmarked graves in the state. And it was again the government documents and the enabling administrative procedure of an RTI that helped two NGOs establish the role of hundreds of security personnel in the heinous crimes in the state. But when it comes to acting on these reports, government is least interested.
One can interpret this inability in many ways. One, government has little problem  if the civil liberties groups come up with devastating reports highlighting its role in the human rights abuses. It may be because while such reports reveal the dark side of the state, on the positive  they exhibit a certain freedom within the system to allow a trenchant critique of itself, something that, all said and done, helps burnish the state's democratic credentials. In this sense, state appropriates these groups and their reports as a means of self-advertisement.
In Kashmir context, there is one more aspect that deserves notice: the inability to act is also not only due to the fact of the political leadership being riven by the divergent points of view about the state of affairs but also more importantly due their being unequal to the task of dispensing justice. The reigning state of conflict has diminished the capacity of any state government to override the will of the powerful security apparatus as Omar's continuingly unsuccessful push for the revocation of AFSPA underlines.
The sum of this reasoning is that the nature of the  state's reaction to atrocities  in a given place is mostly a function of the socio-political context of the victim  or victims rather than the result of the amount of intrinsic brutality they have suffered. So, while General V K Singh was moved to join public protest against the government on the ghastly gang-rape in New Delhi, he never felt any tugs at his conscience over the security excesses in Kashmir. Nor did anybody among the mainstream political leadership in the state or in New Delhi felt emotionally touched  when an eight year old was beaten to death by security personnel at Batamaloo through 2010 unrest.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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