Guest post by REKHA CHOWDHARY
With another incident of fake encounters in Kashmir, it is a moment of introspection for the political and civil society of India. For all those who are proud of Indian democracy, it is a moment to reflect as to how this democracy fares for the people in Kashmir. It is important to note that democracy does not remain limited to the electoral choices and the extent and intensity of competition in the formation of government – it also involves the political and civil rights of people. Even when democracy has been restored in Kashmir in its procedural form and is kicking in the form of intensely competitive politics, its substantive effect is missing. The right to life is the minimum that is provided by any democracy, the range of rights however goes much beyond this and involves the basic civil liberties as well. However, the way the hapless innocent persons were cruelly murdered in Nadihal in north Kashmir and declared as militants – it is the denial of the minimum. It is not only the murder of three people, it is also the murder of Indian democracy!
It is a moment of introspection for all those who believe in the strength of the Indian nation and would vouch for equal citizenship rights for all Indian nationals. The citizenship right of these three Kashmiris has been mercilessly violated. Were these three people not entitled to the basic rights which rest of Indians are entitled? And the way they have been killed in fake encounters, does it not go against the spirit of the Indian Constitution. Does the writ of Indian constitution not extend to this part of the country? And this is not the isolated case. There are many more exceptions which can be quoted. Are Kashmiris not equal citizens of India?
It is a moment of reflection for all those who declare Kashmir to be integral part of India. It should be a matter of great concern to them that in one part of India, three Indians have been used as a fodder for the personal benefits of few individuals. What about the rights of these people? How can one take a position that Kashmir is integrated with India, if the rights enjoyed by all Indian are not extended to the people of Kashmir? And why should there not be a vociferous response of condemnation of the killing of the gullible Indians? That is if Kashmiris are seen as integrated part of India?
It is also a moment of reflection for the political decision and policy makers. The three Kashmiris have been the victims of the planned cold-blooded murder by those whose job was to protect them. The army personnel involved in their killings had the justification to be posted in Kashmir, to protect the Indian territory and Indian nationals. In what condition these individuals could get the ‘power’ to plan and kill the innocent Indian nationals and declare them as the militants – the enemies of the Indian nation? Was this act merely a result of the individual greed for promotions and rewards by few black sheep in the forces or was it because these few individuals felt empowered by the immunity that the forces enjoy because of the special powers granted to them?
It is a moment of reflection by the Indian media, Indian middle classes, Indian intellectuals and the Indian civil society. The media and the middle class form the conscience of the nation and it is their strong reaction to various offences committed by the mighty that justice has ultimately prevailed. Most recently, we have seen this happening in campaign against Rathore in Ruchika’s case. Earlier the middle class and media have made their intervention in various other cases. Why are they silent about the ruthless killing of three Kashmiris? Is it because those killed are from the poorer section of society and do not form their major concern? Or is it because there are different standards for their responses and the killings in Kashmir are seen in different light? And what about the intellectuals? With the exception of the very few, who are seen to be committed to the Kashmir cause and who openly identify with political perspective of Kashmiris – why are other intellectuals not feeling disturbed by the fake encounter? Are these cases seen as the ‘collateral damage’ in the fight of the Indian state against ‘terrorism’? Or they think that speaking against few faltering officials would demoralise the forces and weaken the case of the Indian State.
The most important question for the political and civil society in India that can be raised at this juncture is – do they own Kashmiris to be a part of their own and do they feel a sense of moral obligation for the three innocent Kashmiris killed by the ‘erring’ agents of the Indian state? If so, the minimum that is expected is that a voice be raised against the act and justice be demanded.
(First published in Rising Kashmir, June 2, 2010.)