THE families of the truckers who received serious burn injuries in a petrol bomb attack by some rightwing thugs in Udhampur have returned the meagre state government relief and the airfare. At a press conference in Srinagar alongside Awami Itihad Party leader and legislator Engineer Abdur Rasheed, the fathers of the injured youth Showkat Ahmad and Zahid Ahmad narrated the governments indifferent attitude towards their plight. Government, they said, paid them a paltry Rs 40,000 and the air tickets to Delhi. They said they returned the money to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during his visit to Anantnag on Tuesday. CM, according to them, didnt care to enquire why they were giving the money back. The families also accused the Tehsildar, Anantnag of threatening to slap them with Public Safety Act if they didnt take back the returned money.
Though the veracity of the accusation is yet to be established, the story of the families resonates with the people. Did Tehsildar really threaten them with PSA? Government so far hasnt cared to respond. The Deputy Commissioner Anantnag Muneer-ul-Islam, however, has put up a dubious defence in a Facebook post, According to Islam, the aggrieved families on the instance of a relative with an Ikhwan past wanted the money to be deposited in an account which didnt belong to the injured youth. In another interview to a leading national paper, Islam said that the families are annoyed as they wanted compensation in cash. Such an opinion hardly becomes otherwise a very well-meaning officer. For, it not blames the families for their genuine grievance but also goes on to denigrate them by painting them as money-seeking out to benefit from their tragedy, which in turn is also trivialized.
Going by their press conference, families are legitimately sore over the peanuts they have received as relief. They are well within their right to return it in protest. They are justifiably outraged for being burdened with the responsibility to look after the three cops accompanying them. And if they say that the Tehsildar threatened to book them under PSA for their defiance, the onus is on the government to prove otherwise. Considering that most of our officials are generally not known for a civil behaviour, Tehsildars threat doesnt look unlikely. Bred in the violent state of affairs of the past 25 years, most government functionaries seem to think that the use or threat of force will solve every problem.
However in case of families of the victims of Udhampur attack, this is tragic. Here is a government which is seen to be callous towards their plight but pusillanimous when it comes to taking action against the perpetrators. As the families have said there is little that is known about the attackers. They have not been publicly identified. Nor has government generated the public confidence that they will be punished. True, the law will take its course but the government is expected to do more. It has to reflect and articulate the public outrage. It has to show that it cares. And it has to send out a tough message that it will not tolerate the recurrence of such incidents. But as the pathetic situation of the families would reveal, the state government has failed on all counts. Ironically it seems to be the other way round: Government has been harsh with the families of the victims but appears to treat the perpetrators with kid-gloves. It is important for the government to correct this perception, if it has to restore some of the eroded faith with people.
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