Of statistics and stark facts

How many names have become numbers?

Binoo Joshi
Publish Date: Dec 11 2012 12:00PM

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition  for benevolence, confidence, justice.
This is what Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century metaphysical philosopher  said about the definition of peace. This is  more relevant today than  it was in  his times.  When  we talk of peace in Jammu and Kashmir, have we reached that  stage where minds are free of fear  and violence, the answer is a simple, `No'. In terms of statistics, the line that the security forces  and officials often use is that the violence is on decline. They are quick to quote figures, comparing the  number of incidents in a particular  year to the current  year. They draw their satisfaction from the   data that their computers show and are keen to put it on the websites  or pass it on  to the rest  of the world through media. Is that the whole truth? Surely not. That is one way of measuring the   declining violence, but it is silent about the  people who are dead or   those who disappeared. Their hopes and  dreams cannot be  reflected in  numbers.  From the living beings, having dreams, and names, they are reduced to numbers.
Elizabeth Minor, the principal  Oxford Research Group , who  did a study on casualty recording, was  told by one of the recorders  that  “Everyone knows that in conflict people die, but they are not just numbers. They are people with dreams, with hopes, with families, with suffering, with all of that. That is a fact of life – when a youth dies  in conflict, the  only thing common is that the man in the grave and the photograph that his parents carry, are  of the same man who died  in a conflict situation.  That is true  of all the `innocents' who died in the conflict because they happened to be there  at a wrong time.
In Jammu and Kashmir, there is no perfect method of casualty recording. The security forces have their own register, telling them that how many militants died in the conflict, how many civilians lost life in  cross- fire  or how many civilians were killed in conflict. Separatists  have their own register and so do have the militant groups, who categorise  the casualties  with their group affiliation, almost in the same manner  as the security forces  put out  register of how many Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen  militants were killed in encounters. Soldiers, paramilitary forces also lose their lives in the gun-battles. No  record is perfect. The figures differ, because the methodology of  casualty  recording is not  the same with any of these. 
Now, the time has come when the  people of the state should know the clear picture  of the dead and buried or cremated. Jammu and Kashmir  owes it to  all, because   simply the  numbers  will not do. Give name to those who died, and  find out what their fears, hopes and dreams were. This would help in creating an understanding. To understand the pain  is the best remedy to remove the pain.  In  this  state, where  there is a fear in expressing grief over the killing of soldiers, and mourning the death of militants is one side of the story. The other is that  in every word, the  political gains or losses  weigh more than  the human beings.   So, whosoever said that  politics is being played on dead bodies  by both mainstream and other parties is not wrong.  There is a  politician, whose knowledge  of politics is confined to a book which he, perhaps, read  in 1950s,  who changes his  views  at the drop of hat, depending which audience he is addressing. He has set a precedent in Kashmir politics of  `patwari' politics into the state. With this kind of politicians, who are struggling all the time for their self, to expect that they would restore the human dignity  to the  people who have been  reduced to numbers, is to expect   too  much. 
This particular   attitude of the politicians is deepening the fears in the minds of the people. There is a real danger that these politicians would offer any number of people to become numbers for their own political health and wealth.   Here, it’s  time that new leadership emerges which stops this process and allow a  beginning to be  made where  human dignity is bestowed upon both the living and the dead.
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