Our response to the event, more than the event itself, speaks of the condition of our society. The bare bones version of the story is unsettling to mind, painful to heart, and traumatising to soul. The normal human response to such despicable incidents is not to talk about it at all, and just tend to believe that nothing of the sort happened. It doesn’t mean to look the other way. In the immediate, it shows the utter disbelief, and total shock on the incident. And in the enduring, it depicts sense, sensibility, and wisdom.
Making it a part of gossip is indicative of sickness. Bringing it to sermons, with drama and detail, is more than sickness – it’s perversion. Sensing a chance to peg a particular variant of politics to such incidents is downright criminal. And bringing a divisive angle to what is plainly heart rending is appalling; it’s actually a treason against Kashmiri society. The only reason such an incident demands focussed attention is the need for justice; punishing the culprit, and restoring confidence to the society.
The persons, societal structures, and the government institutions that deal with such incidents directly, should be allowed to deal with such incidents. Let’s momentarily suspend our deep suspicion of the government institutions, and not allow our inverted relationship with the structures of power to hide some serious faults with our collective behaviour. That can be dealt with separately. What the state does here, it does. We shouldn’t be discussing about night-being-dark each time someone points towards wrongs we commit in the day. So, can we honestly look into what we do on all such occasions that finally reflects our insensitivity towards the victim, and a disregard towards nailing the actual problem.
Normally, If anyone can help in dispensing justice, it’s better he routes his contribution directly to the concerned persons or institutions – societal or governmental. Our state of mind is such that even if we find the concerned structures dealing with the case efficiently, we are interested in messing it up deliberately. Unfortunately, we have seen this in the past as well. We are more interested in politicising crime, rather than fighting crime. This attitude finally makes us a participant in crime than anything else. This is a broad impressionistic remark, that can be mildly agreed with, or sharply resented to. But if rage and anger are set aside, we can stand before the mirror and see what is smeared in our face. One of the ugly marks would tell us how we hide the crime if it points to us, and not the state. If justice is the ideal, we must singularly pursue it.
Beyond this, there are other things that deserve attention. This, because we keep encountering such situations in one form or the other, and each time our societal response hurts us finally. So some points that surface up deserve mention.
One, we rush to conclusion even in the midst of the first flying version of a story. It’s a weakness of mind, and a temptation to sensationalise things. It doesn’t only uncover our fickleness, it shows we are basically corrupt. Those who don’t wait for the truth to come, always fall for the falsehood. After 30 years of the active conflict with the state, we have hardened in this attitude of somehow feeding everything into the politics of agitation. We have almost lost the capability of looking at the things as they are, because we always conclude that they are what we wish them to be. It has fatally incapacitated our society, and terminally crippled our politics.
Two, we normally miss the human angle to such stories. I don’t know is there an element of deliberation in this, or we have lost the capacity to capture human. Crime, howsoever grim and ugly, is a part of human conduct. Kashmir is not the only place, and ours is not the only condition, where such things happen. We don’t look at things normally, and that is abnormal.
Three, we make sweeping generalisations about our society. Our society is a mix of good and bad, like any other human society. We unleash the dogs of self flagellation to mutilate our own face. Our preachers narrate it in a way that momentarily it looks like we are all condemned beasts.
Four, with a willing promptness, we bring the larger conflict dynamic into play. This is worrying, to put it mildly. Our relationship with the state institutions is duplicitous. We are unable to define our connect with these structures clearly. There are some serious questions we need to ask ourselves, individually and collectively, on how we are related to these structures. The way we push this all to other-side is hypocritical, unrealistic, and plainly untenable.
Lastly, and most importantly, we miss the point that our society is under a terrible pressure given our apathy towards it. We, and by this I mean the dissenting civil society and the Resistance politics, have been criminally negligent of what we have done to our society. We have impoverished our people, and ruined the relationships that act as a defence against crime.
By underlining these points, the purpose is not to make a shocking incident look like normal. Never. The point is that our response to any such situation should be normal. And by normal, I don’t mean mild and uncaring. All it means is that we should use our eyes, ears, and mind before pronouncing judgment, or flailing limbs. By closing down colleges and universities, by vandalising public property, how do we help the victim! And by bringing in, somehow, the disputed nature of Kashmir into the frame, can we always escape the fact that we have ruined this society.
Lastly, in this holy month, let’s pray for the victim. Let’s ask God to balm the bruise, and restore the family. This is a wound that hardly seals.