Politics Of Death


In the field of management studies, there is a famous adage which advises students that in order to succeed, it is necessary to be able to ‘convert a threat into an opportunity’. I am not aware of how many of our leaders have been students of management, but they all seem to have adapted this advice to suit their line of work. And so the assassination of a Deputy Sarpanch by unidentified gunmen in Wagoora area of Baramulla has given them the chance to ‘convert’ a tragic death into an opportunity! Indulging in petty politics over corpses is not a new phenomenon in Kashmir and readers will recall the reprehensible display of human insensitivity exhibited by both main stream and separatist leaders on infant deaths in GB Pant hospital. So, politicking on the killing of the Deputy Sarpanch, though abominable, was expected.
Senior National Conference leader and Member Parliament, Dr Mehboob Beg deserves special ‘appreciation’ for his political skills and (shameful) ability to skillfully obfuscate the gross failure of his government in providing security to Panchayat members through philosophical musings such as calling the incident an “attack on democracy” and proclaiming that “Anybody killing an elected person is killing the whole humanity and all those electorate who have voted them to redress their grievances.” But that is not all. In using this tragic incident as an excuse to glorify Omar Abdullah, saying that “By holding Panchayat elections in the State after 33 years the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, made history,” Dr Beg has displayed his thorough (but perverse) understanding of the ‘threat to opportunity conversion’ concept. However, such a gross statement coming from the NC is not surprising as it is in line with the party’s Marie Antoinette inspired philosophy of asking people to eat cakes when they can’t even afford bread!

The reaction of State Congress Chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz asserting that the militants cannot be entirely blamed for these killings and there can be political rivalry behind the some of these incidents reeks of political opportunism. Not to be outdone by Dr Beg of the NC, Prof Soz too did not lose the opportunity to use this tragedy for publicising the popularity of the Congress by saying that “Even today over 20 Sarpanchs met me and showed interest to join Congress.” Abdicating moral responsibility for the failure of the NC- Cong coalition to protect Panchayat members, the learned Professor passed on the buck by saying that “It is the job of investigating agencies to probe and let them get to the bottom of these cases.” More bizarre are his views that “It is not possible to provide security to every Sarpanch and Panch but people should stand by them in this hour of need.” In his own perception, Prof Soz is a leader who is extremely popular with the masses; so why doesn’t he set an example by giving up his elaborate security cover and ask the people to ‘stand by him’?

The PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did briefly touch upon the core issue regarding failure of the NC led state government in providing adequate security to the Panchayat members. But instead of taking on the government for this major lapse, Mufti embarked upon a tirade against the NC- Cong combine, accusing the state government of precipitating chaos and uncertainty through its “misdeeds and wrongdoings” and accusing the Congress for failing to empower Panchayats and displaying double standards regarding implementation of 73rd and 74th amendments in the State.

The reaction of the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani bears the typical mark of ambiguity which is his hallmark. Reiterating his earlier stance that “We are against the killings on political basis,” the octogenarian leader said that “Sarpanchs and Panchs should shun the existing tag and stand for safeguarding the interests of the movement. Let them stop trusting the government and join hands with us.” Whether this statement is an emotional appeal to the ‘prodigal sons’ who made a mistake by forsaking the cause of ‘azadi’ and joined hands with the ‘oppressors,’ or is it a veiled threat of ‘either being with us or against us,’ is left to the reader to decide.

Tailpiece: Speaking to CNS, a local news gathering agency, IGP Sahai said that “Owing to lack of resources, police can’t provide security cover to all the elected Sarpanchs and Panchs. It is not only difficult but impossible as well.” This statement certainly casts a shadow of doubt on Omar Abdullah’s claim that normalcy has returned to Kashmir. When a top cop admits that the J&K Police cannot provide security to Panchayat members, can the common citizens in the State feel safe? The CM certainly needs to look up the meaning of the word ‘normalcy’ in the dictionary once again and do some very very serious (and honest) introspection!

Niloofar Qureshi is based in New Delhi and can be reached at: [email protected]

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