ON Monday, 22nd June, the security guards of Minister for Agriculture Gh Nabi Lone (Hanjura) allegedly beat up a senior journalist Javed Malik in Srinagar. The journalist was later put behind bars when he objected to the misbehavior against him and his wife by the Ministers security guards. The security guards of the minister also allegedly misbehaved with the journalists wife. Owing to the political turmoil, Kashmir has become notorious for unaccountable bureaucrats, police officials and politicians. But now with an elected Govt at the helm, people expect accountability and rule of law to prevail in the valley. But going by Mondays incident, it seems people in Kashmir will have to wait long for such a dawn.
VIP culture has deep roots in Indias political culture. In fact it is the legacy of colonialism. In Kashmir it is not only a continuation from the days of the Dogra Raj, but this culture took stronger roots during the years of militancy when Kashmir had literally no law and no outlets where public grievances could be heard. It must be mentioned here that during the last decade or so, the VIP culture in rest of India has been largely curtailed. With institutions like high Courts and Supreme Court taking notice of this, the people in power have also largely stopped becoming oblivious to this growing resentment against the VIP culture. Also in the last few years, many powerful politicians and businessmen have been sent to jail on various cases of corruption, fraud and misappropriation of funds. This has sent a strong a signal to the powers that be that people in India will no longer take such practices lying down. Social media and the spread of satellite TV news channels have also helped expose such incidents.
But when it comes to the J and K State, most notably to the Kashmir valley, it seems the changing times in the rest of India are not rubbing off on the VIPs in the State. Various VIPs, be they police officers, bureaucrats, politicians etc, take undue advantage of their authority and power and thereby make the life of common people miserable. The incident involving the security guards of the Agriculture is merely a pointer to that VIP culture which is now deep rooted in the State. It has taken roots because of a culture of corruption, misgovernance, unaccountability and privilege. During the years of militancy, people in Kashmir were witness to incidents of brazen highhandedness by security forces, who could beat anyone to pulp. They would often beat the drivers on highways who they thought would try to overtake their vehicle. Though their high handedness has considerably come down, Kashmir is facing this menace now through bureaucrats, police officers and unfortunately their elected representatives. The institutions of the State in J and K have completely crumbled and there is no redressal of public grievances. It seems all people in power are hand in glow in continuation of this culture of privilege which benefits a select few. It is clear that Kashmir faces a bigger peril of VIP culture than the notorious Indian States of Bihar and UP. Even with round the clock news channels, social media and a probing print media, the powerful and the mighty in the State hardly seem perturbed.
Last year a video went viral in which the son of a senior police officer was shown boasting about the powers his father could yield. A policeman was shown tying the shoe laces of the officer in that video. No action was taken against the erring officer despite wide media coverage of the incident. It seems a certain section of Kashmiri society wants to derive maximum benefit from the conflict situation in the valley. For them, a common Kashmiri is and his rights can be trampled upon anytime, without the fear of any institutional action. As long this culture continues in the State, common man cant be expected to have any trust in the rule of law.The incident involving the journalist happened in the heart of capital city Srinagar. One can imagine how perverse this VIP culture will be in the rest of the Valley, especially far flung rural areas.
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