A ROAD ACCIDENT
A young lively girl succumbed to injuries in the hospital after being hit by a car on the Khanabal Pahalgam road. Normally this is a very busy route, a favourite of the tourists both local and the Indian as well as international. The leap in the number of domestic means of transport has added to the traffic on the road. So we had a girl Iram from Hutmoed village, fresh from her LLB studies, along with a domestic help on the route on the way to Aishmuqam shrine, on a day when traffic was off due to hartal. A few hundred feet away from the Akad park, driving on her side of the road, and she is viciously pushed away from the road along with her pillion rider. After visiting the accident site it is clear that the car veered towards her side of the road and took the Scootie-driving girl unawares. From the sub-district hospital to the district hospital and then finally to SKIMS, she went from one to the other hospital before breathing her last on the way. A late-night funeral prayer under a mourning chinar tree and a gloomy moon saw her towards her final resting place. A flower crushed before it could bloom; all the long and patient investment of family, emotional, material and time laid to waste by the recklessness of a few boys who, most probably, took a pass at the girl, panicking her without minding the deadly consequence. The four boys ran away after stealing the spark of her life. They will either apologise or purchase their way out of the problem. An exemplary punishment will be replaced by fate-blaming. It will be psychologically healing for not just her parents but for a number of other victims if the accused are given an exemplary if not an equal punishment.
LAWS FOR FOOLS AND COWARDS
The impunity with which laws are flouted is scary especially here in this context of the traffic laws. The speed and intensity of violations only grows with each passing day. Earlier it was just a case of driving licences. Each district has a rate fixed for obtaining the licence without going through the cumbersome process of documents and tests. On top of that if you have connection in the concerned Department, it may well be that you are out of station and the licence might have reached home, without even having a car in the courtyard. That can be purchased later, when you learn the basic skills of driving. Then you have the area of actual driving; like the lunar or solar eclipse, you may once in a while come across someone who is wearing a seat belt, which in any civilised country is the first thing that you do after opening the door of the vehicle. It is common to see the traffic men checking your Registration Certificate, or worse you Pollution documents, than whether you had a seat belt on when stopped by the authorities. Not that the latter are insignificant but ignoring what is obvious is surprising, and focusing on what has been obtained through back-handed payments is shocking. A new trend which has emerged, and is linked to the optics of the social media, are the stunt performances on the road and the allied crazy driving in four wheelers, in local parlance called zig-zag driving.
On an average day if you move up or down the Khanabal Pahalgam Road, it is easy to find groups of young boys with shining new vehicles, armed with DSLR cameras, taking pictures and then uploading them on different social networking sites. Very often the policemen, in charge of maintaining order on roads, are seen watching their performances. On days when traffic is off the roads due to a strike or some other occasion, the density of these wayward youngsters increases, and without minding the presence of anyone, they go about their usual play with their lives and that of others. Mimicking the style and swaggering manner of advertising heroes, they begin to dominate the roads. The moment anyone raises objections against their behaviour, it is certain that they will start to gang up and silence him out of the way. Eve-teasing comes easily to them. It goes beyond that into actual assault and harassment; knowing well that they have the protective cover of their networks in official circles. A network is often a euphemism for freedom to do anything you wish.
To ignore the gross violations and let the culprits scot-free under the ruse of fate is to let the way open for another murder to take place; to let more homes to mourn the snatching of their dear ones. This is to let an entire population live under the fear of a traffic gone mad and roads converted into killing grounds. It is not fate but our human condition, or to quote Cassius from Julius Caesar "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings." The best and short term deterrent against violations is swift punishment without influence-peddling on police and other law enforcement agencies. The day that will happen, stars and fate will start favouring us, and our woe-begone lives. And all Irams of Kashmir will continue to live life to their full potential without any fear of being driven out into sudden oblivious to the trauma of their family and near and dear ones.
DUE PROCESS OF LAW
A swift punishment does not mean an extra-judicial action. They have the right to defend through a process of law. Iram will not come back but that does not mean the men behind the brute action will do emotional blackmail of the victims family and get their way out. In the long run punishment means returning the offending self into a just orientation with self and society. That cannot happen by ascribing to God what belongs to the human domain. For as the Bard of Avon again says "Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to Heaven." Peace to all road accident-departed souls of Kashmir and everywhere!