India, Pak answerable on deaths in Siachen

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New Delhi: Governments of India and Pakistan owe the people an answer for the death of Siachen braveheart Lance Naik Hanumanthappa, JNU student leader Shehla Rashid Shora today said even as she questioned his “deification”, saying he fell not to enemy bullets but to weather conditions and lack of facilities.

Shehla, vice-president of JNU students’ union, said that using the “trope of sacrifice”, soldiers have been denied several rights. She also claimed that by the army’s “own admission” more soldiers die in Kashmir by committing suicides than in combat.

Shehla, an activist of All India Students Association (AISA), said that not only soldiers but women are also “stripped off” their rights through the process of deification. “Whenever they are making a deity out of someone, they are actually oppressing them and we see this with Bharat Mata,” she said.

“We are told they (soldiers) have made ultimate sacrifice at the borders. Hanumanthappa died at the border. They would like us to believe that he made ultimate sacrifice for the nation. But why are we celebrating Hanumanthappa’s death? 

“Did he die because of an enemy bullet? Did he die because of a Pakistani suicide bomber? No, he died because of the weather conditions where he was posted. And he was not given proper facilities,” Shehla said.

“Indian and Pakistani governments owe an answer to the people,” she said.

She was addressing a convention on ‘Resistance’ at the Constitution Club here where JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar and PhD scholar Umar Khalid were among the speakers.

Shehla lamented that through the process of deification, soldiers are actually denied the right to unionise, right to speak against caste discrimination, to speak against against class inequality among others.

“And by the army’s own admission, in Kashmir more soldiers die by committing suicide and not in combat. This is a very important statistic. Farmers are committing suicide, Rohith Vemula committed suicide, soldiers are committing suicide. These suicides are arising out of a structural oppression,” she said.

On the concept of ‘Bharat Mata’, Shehla wondered whether the BJP-RSS combine would recognise Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula or tribal rights activist Soni Sori, or anti-AFSPA activist Irom Sharmila as ‘Bharat Mata’.

“Is Bela Bhatia ‘Bharat Mata’? Your ‘Bharat Mata’ is Maya Kodnani and Smriti Irani and we are not going to recognise them as ‘Bharat Matas’,” she said.

 

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