Gallows to glory

Gallows to glory

What’s the harm in launching special welfare and rehabilitation programmes on these occasions?

9/11 is basically known as a symbol of a series of four coordinated, so far the deadliest, attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States in the New York City and the Washington on September 11, 2001. But in Kashmir’s context, this 9/11 has a different significance. A shut down call on these dates is a precedence, and a routine.

Precisely, amid escalation of separatist cry here, the month of February has assumed a historical significance.  On February 11, 1984, Maqbool Bhat, considered as spiritual father of the current separatist movement was hanged in Tihar Jail. After 29 years, one of his ‘missionaries’ Mohammad Afzal Guru was sent to gallows on February 9, 2013 in the same jail.

When Maqbool Bhat was hanged, I was too young like my other classmates to understand the reason behind the hanging. Even as our elders told us about Maqbool Bhat, it remained out of our minds till 1988 when armed separatists marked their presence through bomb blasts and firing incidents. The unprecedented incidents ignited our interest to run through history pages to know exactly the reason behind all what was happening. We found Maqbool Bhat as an ‘architect’ of separatist movement.

We witnessed quick leaning of the young minds towards separatism. After over two decades of resistance, our generation witnessed huge loss of life and property. I don’t think a single Kashmiri family was left unaffected in the mayhem. In fact, what’s more visible today is that the young minds became only drivers of the conflict which only suited the vested interest who built their fortunes out of the turmoil.

Here let me reiterate, one should not ignore a hard message in the execution of Afzal Guru. Majority of us link eruption of separatism to ‘an error’ committed by the government of India by executing Maqbool Bhat.

But, Guru’s execution has proved this ‘error concept’ wrong. This act of execution can be summed up in one-liner – the government of India can go to any extent to deal with the forces who confront them. It also conveyed that the political alliances or tie-ups hardly matter when it comes to ‘Indian national security’.

Precisely, central government’s writ is the supreme. Besides, neighbours also stand strongly informed that India is well positioned to deal with any situation capably in the hours of need.

Meanwhile, the hartal call given by the separatists on 9/11has been their only ‘best way’ to pay homage to Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru. This is contrary to the global tradition of launching charity and social welfare programmes as a mark of respect to the departed souls. Today, Kashmir is loaded with lot of socio-economic problems. Thousands have either lost their lives or rendered maimed, and property worth thousands of crores razed to ground. Besides, a breed of orphans, war-widows and increased number of destitute and under privileged too has cropped up during all these years of turmoil.

The impact of hartal calls needs to be taken into account.  These hartal calls now evoke mild response and the writing is on the wall when these bandh calls shall be meeting no response from the general public.  What’s the harm in launching special welfare and rehabilitation programmes on the 9/11 occasion for victims of the turmoil who have no economic means to fall back upon for their survival.

Here I am reminded of an encounter with a German tourist when militancy was at its peak. He had landed here when it was complete bandh on February 11 and whole Kashmir wore a deserted look.  So he had to foot most of the distance to his hotel near Dalgate. As he asked me about the cause of shut down, I told him that the day is being observed to pay homage to ‘freedom fighter’ Maqbool Bhat who was hanged by Government of India in 1984 and also in protest against presence of India in Kashmir. "What the hell is India doing here?" he said.  Today, if the same tourist happens to be here, I am sure his response would be: "What the hell Kashmiris are doing?"

So, before it is too late, a renewed strategy suitable to the present times is need of the hour, where at least people, especially victims of the decades long turmoil are guaranteed respectful socio-economic life.

(The views are of the author and not the institution he works for)