Look beyond hartal on human rights excesses

After Muzaffar Ahmad Rather, 27, was handed capital punishment by the Kolkatta High Court, there was an instant reaction by the pro-freedom groups in Kashmir. Condemnations poured from one and all: from Hurriyat factions, Bar Associations and the civil society groups. There was also a prompt call for hartal, as always and it was also observed at a very short notice.

Rather – a youth from Kulgam district in south Kashmir – was convicted on January 21 along with Pakistani nationals Mohammad Abdullah and Mohammed Yunus on charges related to waging war against India as alleged members of militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Ever since his poor family doesn’t know what to do.  They are going in appeal against the judgement and are in the process of arranging money for it. But there’s no telling what is going to happen.  The Rather’s  case raises  troubling questions for us. First, the youth’s case burst upon our consciousness out of nowhere. Nobody knew that he existed and that he was facing trial in Kolkatta. We should very well ask why there was no information in public domain about a Kashmiri facing terrorist charges in Kolkatta. Why those condemning the sentence now were either blissfully unaware of it or indifferent to the outcome? Why no legal assistance is ever provided to these youth? Why we only protest the injustices of New Delhi and shirk our share of responsibility towards the victims of these injustices.  
 
The point is while we blame the government for denying justice to the victims of human rights excesses in the state, we as a community are no less in dock. It is cynical on our part to flaunt the victims of gross human rights excesses as reference points for the uncounted sacrifices made by the people of state over the past three decades  and not do anything for them at a community level. These questions have answers that could embarrass us all – we the lovers of big fat and showy weddings with a penchant for the large, hulking houses that we don’t need.

And it is not only in the case of Rather that we have failed as a community. There is an uncounted number of the victims in the state who have suffered in different ways. Take the case of the victims of hundreds  of excesses or for that matter  thousands of widows, thousands of orphans, the community response in Valley has been one of utter indifference. And while these widows and orphans might collectively appear a vague statistic as they are a part of the human rights toll that is spread over 30 years of turmoil, what about the youth – most of them teenagers – who died through 2008-2010  and 2016 uprsing? The mention of these youth may form a rhetorical part of the  pro-freedom and civil society discourse, nobody at the political or community level has gone back to ask their families  their well-being. It is legitimate to complain about the denial of justice but it is criminal to fail in community obligations towards the people who lost their everything in the past two and a half decade of trouble. So while we condemn and observe a hartal over Rather’s death sentence, we should also help him and his family fight the case.  
 

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