Armed or unarmed, protestors in Kashmir meet the same treatment and Pulwama is the latest case. Seven civilians shot dead. Given the level of violence we witness in Kashmir, this is nothing new, nothing exceptional. It doesn't chill our bones the way it once would. We are not just losing lives, we are losing the sense of loss and that is the most shocking part of our story. On one hand we gift ourselves to death and on the other, we are rendered dead. Either we die at will or die by force. In any case, death doubles up on us. The knife cuts us – the poor melons – both ways. This way and that way too.
The forces may justify such actions. To them encounter sites have become like festival spots where people throng with all excitement. They say they pay for the risk they invite. Despite being warned not to go near, they don't control themselves and what follows can only be expected. A bullet is too blind to separate the armed from the unarmed. It hits the one it hits. Period. The explanation sounds logical in some situations. People too have a responsibility to save their lives and avoid the danger of being caught in fire. Running away from risk is the basic human instinct which irrespective of our political dispute we need to exercise as a human species. (Reptiles have taught us to flee when the predator is on the prowl.)
But this explanation can't be an excuse to kill at will. There are ways and ways to avoid loss of life provided you want to avoid. Granted that protestors are furious. After all they are protestors, not receptionists. They will breathe fire, they won't exude warmth. And that is what makes them protestors. Sure they throw stones at you, throw stones back at them. Or even if the situation gets out of control, what are you there for? They flout law, you follow law. (That is what the state says). Where else does it happen? Public violence is a usual phenomenon outside Kashmir too. Even mob-lynchers are not being fired at. Cow vigilantes who go on rampage, loot public property, destroy government buildings and attack innocent civilians are not being dealt with such brutality. Public-police battle is a cat and mouse game elsewhere. It doesn't result in such loss of life as it does here. There the protestors don't shower flower petals on the patrolling parties. They do the same and in some cases they do the worse. There the same forces shoot to control, here they shoot to kill. How violent a protestor, hit in the foot he is rendered automatically non-violent. Nab them, catch them, thrash them, gas them, and if need be – shoot them to warn or – if nothing works – shoot them to wound. Here you begin at the end. Here you start the operation where you stop elsewhere. Encounters never mean you encounter the armed and unarmed the same way. Why gun is the sole answer to all questions you face in Kashmir. Why does our story always begin with blood, end with blood. Why bullets look for us. Why they hit us when they miss us too much.