Our killed innocent youth deserve better than a Hartal

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On a day when JNU event on Afzal Guru hogged all the media limelight, two deaths of the civilians in police firing Kashmir went all but unnoticed. Leave alone any spotlight by national media, even the discourse in J&K was muted.Mainstream parties, now all of them out of power condemned the killings and sought official probe. What else. Separatists did what they reflexively do: call for a shutdown.  And Valley dutifully observed it. And today everything is normal. Life is on course again. No grievance is left. No pain to feel. And no injustice to protest. A day of hartal  has solved all these issues. We have paid our due to the dead and moved on, ready for another strike over some future killing. We are now trained to  do it in a practiced, mechanical fashion. Many among us have become so inured to the intermittent shutdowns that some of us cynically look for such a death to get a day off. We must be the only people on earth for whom the convenience of an eagerly sought rest has become a form of protest. No surprise then that nothing changes by these protests. Only thing going about the hartals is that they are the most politically correct means of protest for everybody – people and the political outfits. By resorting to them inertly, we do our duty by our hapless dead: teenage boys or sometimes girls, some barely in their twenties, put to death for the mere sin of being angry, for shouting a slogan or for throwing a stone or two – or for that matter many stones.   Hartal ends and we forget everything.

But this hardly helps the families who are invariably left to fend for themselves. Our leaders never fail to draw due political benefits from the killings of the youth but never attend to the mundane tragedies of their families. And the government only heaps insult to the injury. It sets up a false probe and forgets about it. No security personnel is ever brought to the book. In Pulwama also, authorities have ordered a time-bound magisterial inquiry into the deaths of two civilians, including a woman. District Magistrate Pulwama, Niraj Kumar has appointed Additional District Magistrate Pulwama Shahbaz Ahmad Mirza, KAS, “to enquire into the incident within 15 days to ascertain the circumstances which led to the deaths and injuries to the civilians”. But will probe reach its logical conclusion? Will, at least, its outcome be made public? Perhaps never. But let us, for once, again hope against hope. What will be keenly watched is how the inquiry into the case progresses. Given past experience, the justice will need to be seen to be done. This will be one of the important yardsticks, if this government under Governor  N N Vohra wants to be redeemingly different from its elected predecessors. The killings of youth cannot be allowed to continue. There has to be a stop to this. And this Government unlike its predecessors has to demonstrate that it cares.  And separatist groups, if they really are outraged about the killings, they should also support the families of the victims and remain engaged with them for the long term. That is, other than issuing knee-jerk hartal calls.

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