Kashmir - Mass Graves, Non-serious Government.
Seema Mustafa, Newsclick, Sept 5, 2011
Chief Ministers are elected to govern. Not to tweet policies. More so, when there are no policies or signs of good governance, only tweets as substitutes. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who has been more visible in cyber space than on the streets of Kashmir, takes the lead on this front. The latest on Afzal Guru, :If the J&K Assembly had passed a similar resolution (as the Tamil Nadu Assembly did for commuting the death sentence of those held responsible for the execution of Rajiv Gandhi) for Afzal Guru, would the reaction have been as muted? I think not.” The tweet shows a childishness that the state is already paying the price for.It is true that the reaction of mainland India to a similar resolution by Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would have been very different. But while such a tweet is justified from an ordinary citizen of the land, it has disastrous effects when coming from the Chief Minister of the sensitive border state, as it evokes a reaction that is hostile and angry from political parties like the BJP to illusions and not reality. For such a resolution has not been passed by the Assembly, there has been irresponsible mention of it by the head of the state government, and the hostile reactions just widen the gap between Srinagar and New Delhi, and unfortunately even between communities.
Secondly, implicit in the tweet is Omar Abdullah’s belief that such a resolution for Afzal Guru should have been passed by the Assembly but that it was not for fear of such reaction. If as Chief Minister he really believes so then he should have had the courage to move the resolution, get it passed by the Assembly, and stood firm as Chief Minister Jayalalitha clearly decided to do, against angry reactions from the centre. He did nothing, just tweeted. Third, the tweet reflects his inability to act. As most of his tweets have in the past. He throws tweets into the air to basically absolve himself for inaction. This particular tweet is directed also at the local sentiment, a “look I am a good guy but those chaps will not let me move ahead.” To give him his due those chaps at the Centre, including Union Home Minister PC Chidambaram, will not let him move on his own, but then that was the choice before Omar Abdullah from the very beginning. The people or the corridors of power. He chose the latter, and deserted his people.
Four, the tweet has not added to his popularity. This columnist put it to test on Facebook and these are some of the responses that should make the Chief Minister sit up and take notice. Hawa Bashir: “Come up openly Omar…paheliyan na bhujwaon.” Junayal Rafiqi: “That Twitter kid is busy with his iPad while the centre is ruling the state.” Bilal Ahmad: “Tweeter Abdullah is wasting time nothing else. He has done nothing neither we expect he will do something for the betterment of people.” Javid Samad: “He is a Chief Minister but only for his Father and the Government of India.”
Mohammad Ashraf: Omar got many opportunites----to come out openly for Kashmiris but for some unknown reasons he alays shirks. He again has an excellent opportunity if he could only muster enough courage!”
The issue thus, is of courage and the wisdom to act in a manner where the interests of the people of Kashmir are preserved without confrontation, justice is done, and their rights protected. The people, like people everywhere, are not stupid, they are not swayed by tokenism and can recognize good action from vacillation and party boy tactics.
Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, and good Omar Abdullah friend, too needs to brush up his geography. Congress scion Rahul Gandhi needs to brush up on geography. He saw mass graves in Bhatta-Parsaul, a village in Uttar Pradesh, whereas the graves actually exist in Kashmir, the Valley that everyone in Delhi seems to have forgotten about. It does not exist except when the security forces claim to have “foiled” infiltration or have killed or apprehended a “terrorist.”
Rahul Gandhi should visit Kashmir, not on holiday, but to meet the people, to feel their grief, their heart wrenching sorrow. Thousands of persons have disappeared in the Valley since the 1990’s with their parents and relatives unable to give up hope of seeing them again. Many this columnist spoke to wanted only to see the ‘dead body’ as confirmation of death, as the waiting had taken a heavy toll of their mental and physical health. Parveena Ahangar, that brave woman who turned her grief into action and founded the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, is still grieving and waiting, and hoping. Her 16 year old son was picked up by security forces in Srinagar’s Batamaloo neighbourhood 20 years ago, and she has not seen him since. And in her efforts to trace him she found 63 other missing cases. She formed the Association that has been relentless in keeping memories and the issue alive. As she told this columnist, she has not given up hope, and never will.
The State Human Rights Commission found that 2730 bodies were found in 38 unmarked graves discovered in north Kashmir’s Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts. Relatives relive those days when their husbands, or fathers, or sons were picked up in the vicious anti-insurgency operations of the 1990s and taken away, never to return again. Some--- a little over 500-- of the bodies in these graves have been identified, spelling closure for some, and the reliving of terrible memories for all.
Is this Justice? Is this democracy? The state government, that could ignore Parveena but cannot wish away its own state human rights commission, has spoken of compensation for the surviving relatives but this will not take away the years of anguish, fear and economic deprivation. One has met widows and half widows in Kashmir whose lives turned from middle class to destitute after their husbands were picked up and taken away. What about their anguish and struggle to survive for 20 odd years? Will the money, if it ever reaches those who it is intended for, compensate for mental agony as well? What about those responsible for arresting, and killing, innocent people, including young children? Will they be arrested and tried?
The people of Kashmir are victims of grave injustice. There is today not a single home that has not been associated with the violence against the people in one form or the other. The anger of the youth is palpable as they have seen their grandparents and parents suffer, have coped with loss and strife, and today as they are on the verge of taking over the responsibilities of the generation find themselves without hope. Fear is part of their lives as they know they can be picked up any day, taken away,and become part of the statistics of the disappeared. As there is no accountability, no law and above all no Justice.