What happened in Handwara on Tuesday is extremely tragic and firm action needs to be taken against the guilty army personnel. The bereaved family members require emotional support to be able to face the mental trauma of having lost their loved ones so unexpectedly and every Kashmiri must display solidarity in this hour of crisis. The killing of four civilians and injuries suffered by many others has generated a very acute sense of indignation and anger amongst the people. In such a tense atmosphere the slightest spark of instigation can easily ignite public outrage and result in violent clashes between protesters and the law enforcing agencies.
The situation is extremely volatile and exercising restraint is the need of the hour. Any provocation could cause the infuriated public to quickly turn into frenzied mobs and give vent to their anger by indulging in acts of violence. In such situations the law enforcement agencies would obviously resort to use of force to control and disperse mobs and this could again lead to the killing or injuring of protesters. Kashmir has experienced this senseless cycle of violence begetting violence on numerous occasions in the past. But sad to say no individual or organisation has ever bothered to analyse this morbid trend that is unnecessarily causing the untimely deaths of our youth!
Every untoward occurrence in Kashmir which results in loss of life or injures civilians has more than one version and the Handwara incident is no exception. The first version given by locals is that an army man followed a female student who had gone to a washroom located opposite an army bunker in Handwara chowk and then attempted to molest her. On hearing her cries for help some locals reached the spot and after catching the molester thrashed him. This news spread like wild fire and soon an infuriated mob surrounded the army bunker. The army opened unprovoked fire on the crowd killing one youth on the spot while two other boys and a middle aged lady succumbed to their injuries in hospital.
The second version given by the army however categorically rules out the allegation that an army man tried to molest a girl and claims that army personnel had no other option but to open fire as the crowds were attempting to set bunker on fire. A video posted on social media after this incident shows a girl in school uniform (with her face blurred) recounting the incident in detail. In her testimony she is clearly heard saying that she was being troubled by another male student in school uniform and that no army man had molested her. While one cannot vouch for the authenticity of this video, its release soon after the incident negates the chances of the victim being tutored but this again is only an apprehension!
If the girl in the video is indeed the actual victim of the molestation attempt and what she is saying is true then her evidence needs to be taken note of- not because it vindicates the armys stand but because it reveals a rot within us that is spreading like cancer. The victims testimony clearly shows that there are some amongst us who are intentionally putting the lives of others in danger by spreading false rumours to infuriate people and incite them to take law into their own hands. Why this is serious is because those who are spreading provocative rumours know very well that the people whom they instigate to turn violent will have to bear brunt of the law enforcement agencies response. There is no problem with protests or shutdowns but playing on peoples emotions and putting them into harms way is criminal!
There is nothing unusual in the way the separatists have pounced to make hay out of the Handwara incident. Our leaders may wax eloquent on their peaceful approach and express great concern whenever Kashmiris are killed. Yet, why is it that they come into action only after someone is killed? If they really care for the people then why dont they educate the youth not to pay heed to rumours and indulge in acts of violence as it would give the law enforcement agencies the chance to use force against them? With both the government and army regretting the loss of lives and announcing investigations in the Handwara incident the Hurriyats shutdown calls will achieve nothing except further inconveniencing the poor section of Kashmiris who are already overwhelmed by the deluge of hartals.
I have no axe to grind with the separatists but when it comes to the question of human lives the truth must come out even if it is unpleasant. As leaders it is the moral responsibility of the separatists to ensure that their own people dont unnecessarily get influenced by rumours and lose their lives by indulging in reckless acts of violence. Yet, read the statements made by separatist leaders on the Handwara incident and you would realise for yourself that all of these contain varying degrees of provocative content. None of the separatist leader has considered it necessary to ask the people to exercise restraint and refrain from violence as the objective for which the protests are being held can be fully achieved without any bloodshed!
The separatists may be genuinely worried for the people but they need to make their concern more visible as offering condolences and attending funeral prayers arent enough. So, when people like Arnab Goswami allege that the separatists are playing politics over the dead bodies of Kashmiris and using them as cannon fodder just so that they can demonise New Delhi, how can we cite instances that prove this assertion wrong?
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