That an overwhelming majority of victims of enforced disappearances in Kashmir were ordinary civilians was never in doubt, and the fact is being borne out by empirical evidence thrown up in studies now being conducting on such subjects. This is not to suggest that involvement or links with militancy justify disappearance without trace or custodial liquidation, but to have a sense of the scale of horror flowing out of injecting the logic of violence into the Kashmir issue. Apart from the cold clarity of numbers with regard to a sample survey, what a recent study conducted by a Kashmir sociologist has formally documented is the cruelly forsaken lot of the kin of disappearance victims, with its multiple impact on society. One of the many questions deserving to be asked is how a people can fight a momentous battle for destiny without being capable of dealing with its immediate fallout. Obviously, in pursuit of the linear progression of sacrifice, masterminds have either not foreseen its lateral and logarithmic impact, or, as is the more likely possibility, have banked upon steadily accumulating injury to serve as an inexhaustible source of human capital. This is one more cynical calculation coming undone under the inexorable force of natural law. Since the entire case, post-1989, is predicated on the certainty of brutal and bloody state response and its fatal consequence, the absence of formal or informal mechanisms to handle the results, at least at the macro level, has several implications, none of them showing protagonists in anything but poor light.
One of the most charitable views would be that time-scale projections have gone awry, as an expected swift and decisive disposal by assured quarters has not been forthcoming once a massive convulsion provided a credible opening. Otherwise, the redress of injury would have been the prerogative of the new order, speedily and efficiently undertaken with the backing and assistance of a cheering international community. The damning fact, however, is that drawing-board-level authorities are fully cognizant that key variables in the model executed in Kashmir are beyond control and prediction. Was this a factor they had been counting on? And to what purpose? The latter should serve as one of the many yardsticks to evaluate political pronouncements seeking to define the unfolding of events in the region in the coming years.
But the immediate concern here is the plight of the victims left in the wake of the state response. That the kin of disappeared persons deserve judicial redress is indisputable, but this argument should not be used as a cover up for criminal culpability elsewhere. A judicial redress, at the most, would mean punishment for the personnel involved, but is this all the justice that the victims deserve? One of the most unfortunate of their afflictions is that they are being talked about in terms of unspecified tens, and sometimes, hundreds of thousands, with no major organization dominating Kashmirs political firmament having the faintest clue about the exact numbers, or even a reasonably close approximation. This, when for over a decade-and-a-half, the reading public has been plied with regular accounts from awaami wafood from the atraaf-o-aknaaf of Kashmir. The Valleys suffering, to use a mild word, is the lynchpin of speeches delivered in global fora to justify a certain political stand, and yet protagonists have no inventory of what they regard as their most saleable commodity.
Since succor from any other source is totally unlikely, the government of the day and its successors are bound by duty and moral responsibility to step in swiftly with justice and assistance for sections of humanity battling pain, deprivation and despair.
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