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Kashmir: Listening to People’s Voices
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
The reprehensible incident of rape and murder of two women in Shopian, Kashmir and the response of the State government has once again highlighted the importance of listening to people's voices. While there was much hope that a young and ebullient Omar Abdullah would bring about a refreshing change of approach to security and administrative issues in the Valley by adopting a people centric approach the Shopian incident demonstrates that he remains hostage to the two main actors, the security establishment in the State which seems to be developing its own agenda and the separatists who see every incident as an opportunity to take the law in their own hands and use bandhs and hartals for their own purpose rather than taking up the cause of the victims in a rightful way.
The Shopian gang rape and murder incident is a heinous crime and has to be condemned unequivocally. It is now clear that the Omar Abdullah government went possibly by the version of the police and the administration and ignored the call of the people for registration of a case for rape and murder which has been proved by forensic reports. Or it may have been overly swayed by the need to prevent the Separatists from capitalizing on the incident, we will never know.
In such cases it is generally prudent to listen to the voices of the people who have their ear to the ground and by meeting their aspirations some amount of succor can be provided to the victims though it can never be enough. Ignoring the call of the people howsoever unjustified it may seem conveys a sense of indifference thereby weakening the government's record of democratic governance which in Abraham Lincoln's famous words is 'of and for the people'. The simple rule is wherever there is a loss of life particularly of the weaker sections of the society, the women and children, empathize with the masses and then let investigations take their own course.
The State government is now in a quandary and some major fire fighting would have to be done with possibly the Chief Minister apologizing for the lapse. This need not be seen as surrender to the call of the separatists but only to the voice of the people. Then allowing the law to take its own course would be the way ahead, without any fetters, for there are two possibilities, manipulation of an incident to advantage by militant groups and the second involvement of security forces. This would have to be established by an appropriate enquiry which is already on and the government should express its commitment towards the same whatever the outcome is. The guilty should be brought to book and given an appropriate punishment based on the law of the land.
By its prevarication, the State government has also provided the separatists a handle in a waning militancy with tourism decidedly looking up in the Valley. The Hurriyat hard-liner Syed Shah Geelani has thus asked for limiting the duration of the Amarnath Yatra from two months to 15 days and has been given an opportunity to reignite the flames of the struggle last year.
There are clear indications that the civil strife in Kashmir is likely to be increased with the Geelani faction raising the bogey of the Amarnath Yatra which may have a backlash in the Jammu region as the previous year. The Shopian incident has only added to the ammunition that is available to him. The State government would have to be on the watch to defeat this divisive agenda of the separatists.
In a counter militancy situation as obtained in the Valley, the life and limb of the common man particularly the women and the children would have to be secured. No amount of development would replace this primary need of the people that of safety and security of their families. The State government would have to devote itself more and more towards this rather than fishing for more funds from the Centre.
The young Abdullah was not seen to be carrying the baggage of the previous National Conference and Congress governments in the Valley which had been discredited as the hand maidens of the centre. He will do well to break from this shackle not just for the State and himself but also the large body of youth who have taken to politics and thronging the halls of India's parliament. For this he would need a deeper understanding of how the Indian governance with its many pulls and pressures works.
Omar is a smart young man and we believe in him unless he proves otherwise, the first indication of which would be the way he handles the Shopian crisis, with a human touch or with the standard security centered response.
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