In A Hurry To Kill

As Flies to Wanton Boys Are We to the forces, They Kill Us For Their Sport.

IS that an excessive thought? I wonder. How do you explain a blast being let loose at a car that wasn’t firing? Or the blast not being directed at the tyres if the idea was to stop the vehicle and check for miscreants? Or not to send a message forward to the next check post to stop the car there?

There is only one way this can be explained: when you have guns and you have a law that says you can fire them to kill without asking questions or fearing a murder charge, you fire. Imagining that you are fulfilling a childhood fancy to fire toy guns as though they were real ones, or playing kill kill video games with virtual human beings of some other variety than your own. Result: two budding, pristine, innocent lives wasted, two families devastated irretrievably, a valley of woes sent back to fume and mourn.

We are told how the army did a yeoman’s job during the flood. Although this was something they have done many times over in other parts of Bharat, Kashmiris were to think what a favor had been done to them. Remarkably, Kashmiri after Kashmiri spoke to TV cameras with noble acknowledgement. Just as at other times Kashmiris have acknowledged the good work the army has done with other forms of community need in the valley.

But, alas, in human relations you are as good or as bad only as your last thought and last deed. In murdering the boys as they have done, they have yet again let the cat out of the bag, namely, that all their good work is patronage rather than caring, and of a calculated sort, since they think nothing of killing in a jiffy the very ones they do good work for. The British used to do so as well.

Nor will it help to say, however rational an argument this may be, that it would be wrong here to speak of the whole army rather than the culprits involved in the killing. The very people who make that argument do not much use it when it comes to politicians or public servants of diverse kind: then they interpret the misdeeds of one politician, one bureaucrat, one doctor, and so on to malign the whole fraternity of politicians, bureaucrats, doctors, what have you, don’t they? When a new killing of this sort happens, it brings back to wounded memories other heinous killings that still await justice, be it Pathribal, or Macchil, and the good things in public memory yield to the unforgivable atrocities.

Here is, therefore, a simple question that the “nationalists” must ask of themselves and share the answer with Kashmiris: when they say Kashmir is an integral part of India, do they mean Kashmiri people or the territory of Kashmir? Were it the former, everything would be different, including the relations between army who do the legitimate job of defending the borders with another nation-state, and the people of Kashmir. Because it is, for all we can see and infer, the latter, nothing seems as it ought to be.

This, incidentally, is a question that many others in other parts of India are also asking of the “nationalists”-be they the Adivasis, or the Dalits, or marginalized ethnicities in Manipur, Chattisgarh and so on, or women who work not only in the fields, factories, households but indeed in far posher locations as well: who does India belong to? Even as we rather gloat at the follies of other nation-states, especially the one next to us, we might consider the thought that there are many chickens coming home to roost here where we smile the smile of well-being.

A last personal thought: In the last few years I have often been at the University of Kashmir at Hazratbal among students and scholars of various grades, all uniformly bright, perspicacious, and agonized, and willing to analyse and discuss to the wee hours, to the exclusion of the sort of baubles that distract metropolitan young ones from any serious-minded immersions into the zeitgeist. It tears my heart to imagine that the two boys who have been wasted may well have been in one of those discussion groups with me, with dreams in their radiant eyes.

Dr Badri Raina is a distinguished commentator on politics, culture and society. A Fulbright Scholar and PhD from Madison, Wisconsin, Prof Raina taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is the author of the much acclaimed "Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth." He has several collections of poems, essays and translations to his credit.

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