The Handwara incident followed by the NIT controversy exposes the hypocrisy of the manufactured national outrage and discourse with respect to Kashmir. The national outrage in one incident, far milder and less shocking in nature, takes no time in melting into a sneer of cold indifference towards reckless bloodshed in another incident. It is not about brutality, or its various levels. It is about the identity of the victim of brutality. In the national mainstream discourse, if television channels are the primary indication, the ownership of Kashmir is taken but not its people
ANURADHA BHASIN JAMWAL
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]wo weeks ago, non-Kashmiri students of NIT Srinagar were beaten up in brutal police action. There was national outrage of huge proportions. No questions asked about whether the students provoked the police with scuffle, lathis and stones or the latter acted simply dictated by whims. Since the students were carrying the national tricolor and trying to move outside the campus in protest, it was presumed that they were nationalist and therefore completely ‘innocent’ victims.
The discourse of ‘brutal’ police mellowed down in front of rhetoric of ‘anti-national’ police. Four days ago, 3 people were brutally gunned down in Handwara, followed by 2 more killings in protests over the April 12 killings, one each in Drugmulla and Natnusa-Kupwara. Barring in Kashmir, the killings are met by a complete denial. Nobody was moved, much less outraged. Nobody killed them. Nobody was ‘brutal’. The NIT students were protesters, the Kashmiri protesters in Handwara and elsewhere were ‘miscreants’, even anti-nationals, mislead by some ‘rumors’.
The same police won back its ‘nationalistic’ label by resorting to a brutal role as life was snuffed out of 5 people, one of them a budding cricketer, and leaving many seriously injured. The Army is so unquestionably ‘nationalistic’ that such murders by its men can be so easily overlooked. The brutality on NIT campus pales into insignificance but the jarring discourse in national media and political circles turns it into a far bigger crisis. Lathi-charge is magnified. Cold bloodied murders dwarfed.
At the root of the Handwara story is a minor school girl, whose video has gone viral. The civilian version of the story is that an Army personnel tried to molest the girl after which the youth got provoked and attacked the army bunker with stones. The official version does not exist but police sought to fire from the shoulder of the girl in question by keeping her in police custody, video-filming her statement challenging the theory about molestation and instead putting the blame on the young boys who accosted her before they started the protests. Some Bravado! Several questions beg an answer.
Why has the girl been kept in custody? ‘Protection story’ does not suffice. Does anybody needing protection need to be jailed with no access to even family members or legal counsel. Under which law did police film her statement and circulate the video on social media revealing her identity? Does this act violate the supreme court directives in protecting the identity of minor girls in allegations of sexual abuse? Is presumption that no sexual offence had taken place enough to parade the girl before the world to overlook this rule?
Why is there no action against policemen responsible for such brazen violation of laws and ethics? Was the statement by the girl made voluntarily or under duress, intimidation and much cajoling given the fact that the girl is in police custody and there is a history of tutored confessions and statements extracted by police from people? These questions merit a fair probe as events follow a familiar terrain of denial, intimidation, coercion, repression, fudging evidence and deflecting attention from the main issue.
However, these questions are subservient to the larger question. Who killed the two boys and a woman in Handwara and why were two people murdered in Drugmulla and Natnusa? Even if it be presumed that the ‘molestation’ charge was falsely propped up to create provocation and trouble, how does that justify the actions of the police and army, which are supposed to follow standard operating procedures while dealing with mobs? If such cold blooded murders can be justified on grounds that there was some designed provocation, why is there a different yardstick for judging the hooliganism that NIT students allegedly resorted to on their campus?
The Handwara incident followed by the NIT controversy exposes the hypocrisy of the manufactured national outrage and discourse with respect to Kashmir. The national outrage in one incident, far milder and less shocking in nature, takes no time in melting into a sneer of cold indifference towards reckless bloodshed in another incident. It is not about brutality, or its various levels.
It is about the identity of the victim of brutality. In the national mainstream discourse, if television channels are the primary indication, the ownership of Kashmir is taken but not its people. In cricket matches, Kashmiris become the anti-nationals who root for Pakistan. For demanding azadi, they become seditionists. For peaceful protests, they become provocateurs. For pelting stones, they become miscreants playing into hands of terrorists. In their deaths, they become invisible; their colour of blood turns into invisible ash. They deserve no sympathy, no empathy, not even on humanitarian grounds. Only the land of Kashmir without its people is claimed in this kind of a national imagination.
This irrationality, false piety and double standards are being justified brazenly because hypocrisy wears the cloak of ultra-nationalism in Kashmir.