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Monday, August 9, 2010

Kashmir conundrum-the human cost

The turmoil in valley took militant turn in 1989. Estimates on the number of people killed, directly and indirectly, in the conflict have largely varied with attendant accusations of over and under-estimations. Nevertheless, that doesn't answer the core question 'Does the exact number of casualties really matter?' Hasn't the greatest casualty been loss of innocence, an integral part of Kashmiri psyche? And worse than all has been the loss of human dignity and value. No one can underestimate loss of human lives that left hardly any family in Kashmir unaffected. Loss of family members, close and distant relatives, friends and acquaintances, prominent personalities and innocent unconcerned individuals must have left a void no unaffected individual can ever understand. I don't think even a book could lessen the grief of Fatima Bhutto over the violent loss of her father. But worst fate is left in store for the living, which besides grieving for their dead, are left to bear the brunt of all miseries and indignities. The violence perpetrated by the militants in the valley has been matched by the armed apparatus of the state. The number of people dead is compounded by disappearance of individuals without a trace, and their kin are left in a space between convulsing despair and unbearable hope. Does anyone in any sanity believe that a population can be won over by unbridled repression; through midnight knocks at the doors by security forces; by shutting down the entire localities and keeping populations out to weather elements; by being constantly strip searched and shouted and shoved at the check points? An unnoticed aspect of the entire sordid saga of violence in Kashmir has been loss of lives of underpaid security personnel and undoubted despair of their families that never makes it to any headlines. Like any predictable shoddy old tale, the scenario of felling of one or two security personnel in a patrol due to fire from a single sniper and berserk indiscriminate retaliations, have been repeated time and again from one place to another. In my naivety I have always asked myself about objectives, if there are any other than filling in of log books, of those security patrols in densely populated areas of the valley achieve, except for provoking fury in general public; becoming targets of miscreant snipers; bringing further alienation through indiscriminate retaliation and causing avoidable casualties of innocents. True Kashmir has been allowed to simmer as part of global power-play and has always been brought curiously back into, rather than back from, the brink, whenever, vested interests felt threatened from the possible ascendancy of normalcy. But digging into the roots and causes doesn't bring any solution until human values and dignity are brought back to the population and misplaced use of violence as mean to find a solution is discarded. And for attainment of those goals paramount onus lies with the Indian government who solely can take necessary measures that include: 1) back channel diplomacy involving eminent and influential people from Kashmir; 2) removal of use of force from equation and complete abrogation of Armed Forces act; 3) restoration of human dignity and institution of a semblance of transparency (how do those families numbering 1000s reconcile, whose members have disappeared); 4) and as Manmohan Singh once declared stars can be limit, Indian government should declare wider autonomy and even if by doing so government loses its majority so be it. If it could withstand assaults of communist parties against nuclear deal it can sure survive onslaught by rightist elements on this also and make India better in the long run. To start with instead of heaping miseries on the days of national celebration government can try to reach out the population through aiding affected people; providing health care facilities; improving power supply or through any other damned humanitarian way instead of organizing sham celebrations with entire population shut down. Independence Day is approaching and the mock spectacles will be repeated all over the valley. May be one is being too naïve to hope for any change; how could vested interests tolerate any infringements into their cozy world; one needs not to forget that those mock parades, mock unfurling of flags; and everything associated keep huge amounts rolling.

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