Mamta Devi and Tanvir Sultan’s Killings: The Value of Life in Kashmir


A young man, Tanvir Sultan, along with a woman was killed in a shootout at Kud on Monday evening. Two others were injured. Divergent and diverse explanations, all post facto, have been issued after the killings. According to the police version, Tanvir opened fire on the police party that had asked passengers to alight from the bus. In the ensuing melee, the police fired back which led to the death of Tanvir. Tanvir’s family has a different version to offer. According to the family, Tanvir was suffering from “bipolar disorder” which led him to react angrily to the slightest provocations. And that Tanvir was travelling to Amritsar for medical treatment of his injured shoulder.
Which version to believe is a mug’s game.
In Kashmir, such is the “fog” surrounding killings and issues that it is extremely hard to discern and sieve the truth and facts from this fog. However, given peoples’ propensity to believe the worse, it is not hard to fathom what people would believe. Our newspaper will then not venture into even attempting where the truth lies but we will make a larger point- the value of life in Kashmir. And our  analysis in the nature of a dirge and eulogy is not only about Tanvir but also Mamata Thapa- the woman who died in the shootout- and others who got injured.
If, as the police version goes, the police and the security person knew about the “movement” of militants in the area, why were they not more prepared? It stretches reason to believe that given the experience that security forces in Kashmir have, that they could not have taken other measures other than use of lethal force if indeed the police version regarding Tanvir is correct.  Unless the operating assumption or even reflex of security forces is to “neutralize”- a euphemism for killing- , then a whole host of questions arise over the killings.
Now returning to the main theme of our analysis, what does the “incident” tell about the value of life in Kashmir?
First, a broader point. Human life is sacrosanct and there is intrinsic value to life. A value in itself, the philosophy undergirding human rights is informed by it. And this philosophy is the bedrock of more advanced countries or more specifically the Western world. Shorn of economic connotations, it is adherence to the sanctity of life that makes the West advanced and developed. In this sense and from this perspective, our societies, are far off from this appellation and the essence of this label. Tanvir’s and Mamta Devi’s death confirm this point. What was Mamta Devi’s fault? Merely that she was travelling and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or even Tanvir’s? The state’s stance that there was movement of militants and even assuming that Tanvir was an ex –militant or had some kind of an affiliation with militants in the past does not exonerate the state unless the state had definite , definitive information that Tanvir was plotting an attack. This means and implies that the state had intelligence about Tanvir. But if there was intelligence, why was not prudence and care employed in dealing with the situation?
These issues raise a question mark about the value of life in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Alas, neither Tanvir nor Mamta Devi are alive to state their version; they are no more- victims to the senseless violence that the conflict in and over Kashmir has begotten. But Mamta Devi and Tanvir are owed, in the least, a pledge by all to make efforts to render human life sacrosanct in Kashmir lest more fall victim to gratuitous violence. This can only be done by a pledge underpinned by sincere efforts to institute a win win conflict resolution paradigm that redounds to the benefit and satisfaction of all stakeholders- an idea that KO is beholden to and will always root for. Till this paradigm is instituted, there will be more Tanvir’s and more Mamta Devi’s. Let their death, instead spurring  a blame game and recriminations, provoke a debate about the value of life and a pledge to make human life, liberty and happiness for all  central to the state’s raison d’etre than a narrow commitment to “security”.

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