No ‘Coffin Politics’ Please!

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THE gruesome Paris attacks’ targeting innocent people is undoubtedly an unspeakably horrific act that cannot be justified by even the most perverse sense of reasoning. It is also outrightly blasphemous because during their killing spree the assailants had reportedly invoked the name of Allah, the most beneficent and the most merciful, thus violating the very fundamental tenets of Islam. Therefore it is heartening to see Islamic nations and respected clerics wholeheartedly joining the worldwide condemnation of this beastly act.

Whenever human tragedy strikes, offering condolences and expressing solidarity with the kith and kin of the victims is a natural response that transcends personal issues and prejudices. We experience this in our daily lives and hating the sight of someone is not uncommon. At times, we unconsciously even find ourselves secretly wishing a person ill but when something untoward happens to that individual, we immediately forget all the grudges and make a beeline to offer condolences. This is what was expected from the international community after the Paris attacks and it did by and large happen this way. 

However, there were some aberrations and unfortunately what the spokesperson of the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led Hurriyat (M) faction stated was something that he shouldn’t have been said. The Hurriyat (M) statement that “Terror and aggression at any place and in any form are condemnable (and) the killing of one innocent person is equivalent to the killing of entire humanity,” is perfectly in order. However, to have gone on to say that “The people of Kashmir can empathise with the pain and loss of the families of people killed in these attacks, as they themselves are the victims of state terrorism and aggression for the past more than sixty years,” could have been avoided.

There is no harm in drawing parallels but doing so when a nation is reeling under unprecedented serial terror attacks has the scope of being easily misinterpreted.  By trying to link the Paris attacks with the situation in Kashmir gives an impression that the expression of condemnation and offering condolences by separatists is in actuality an excuse to further their political agenda. Though it is completely improbable that this was indeed the aim of the statement issued by the Hurriyat (M), the anti separatist forces are bound to play up this faux pas. In not being more discerning while framing the statement, the Mirwaiz has unnecessarily courted controversy of playing “coffin politics”!

To make matters worse, this part of the Hurriyat (M) statement bears a striking similarity with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s uncouth observation that “What France suffered from-savage terror- is what the Syrian people have been enduring for over five years!” The only difference is that while President Assad is indirectly telling the French people ‘serves you right’, the Hurriyat (M) statement is conveying to them in a roundabout way that the Paris attacks ‘are no big deal’ as Kashmiris have been enduring this type of terrorism for sixty years! When parallels are drawn between tragedies they smack of insensitivity and the outcome is therefore rightly considered to be in very poor taste. 

Jammu and Kashmir National Front chairman Nayeem Khan has also followed the Hurriyat (M) line by saying that “Who more than we Kashmiris can feel the pain of such bloodshed who have been witnessing carnages at the hands of Indian occupied forces and their collaborators since decades together.” One wonders whether Khan realises that in trying to compare the nature of the Paris terror attacks with the killings in Kashmir, he is only conveying the impression of Kashmiris being so self centered that they see every tragedy only through the ‘prism’ of Kashmir! 

The Mirwaiz and Nayeem Khan may not have meant any offence to the people of France. However, the tendency of separatists to use each and every occasion to raise the Kashmir issue though laudable can sometimes turn out to be a self-defeating exercise as in this case. The only saving grace is that it is quite possible that in the deluge of condolence messages being received by France, the statements issued Hurriyat (M) and the JKNF chairman may escape notice. However, a lesson has to be learnt and our leaders need to ensure that their statements do not convey such an over-obsession with the Kashmir issue that it hurts the sensitivities of tragedy stricken nations as this can harm the Kashmir cause.

Tailpiece: I’m not sure whether the Mirwaiz would agree with what I have said regarding statement issued by Hurriyat (M) on the Paris attacks. However, I’m more than certain that the teacher who taught him English at Burn Hall School would definitely be annoyed with the preposterous content and poor structuring of this statement! 

Niloofar Qureshi Is New Delhi author. She can be reached at: niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com

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