On Monday several disturbing pictures of the torture of prisoners in Tihar jail including that of Shahid Yusuf, the son of Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin hit the social media. The pictures were also released by the Hurriyat as part of its statement on the issue. The prisoners had deep bruises and lacerations across their bodies underlining the brutal physical assault they had endured. The pictures have generated deep concern in Kashmir but it has hardly made any news at the national level. If this was the case with the prisoners from any other state of India, media would be up in arms. The television channels would be crackling with the apoplectic discussions. The gladiatorial anchors as usual would have worked themselves up into a frothing rage and rallied public opinion against the jail authorities, soon to be joined by the politicians, sporting and film celebrities issuing their harshest condemnations.
But not so when the prisoners are from Kashmir. And all of us know why. The current political discourse in the country has reinforced the hatred for Kashmiris. And the large sections of the media have played no small role in this. A process of othering an entire community has been in works for years now. Apart from working up hate for Kashmiris, such portrayal also simplifies the fiendishly complex issue in Kashmir. The result is abetment to revenge in Kashmir and against Kashmiris than a search for solution to the deepening turmoil in the state.
Jails are supposed to be the safest for the prisoners. Here they are protected by the state. But when the security guards meant for their safety physically assault the inmates, who will protect them. And if the inmates are Kashmiris, it can easily be overlooked. For, going by the prevalent discourse in the country, Kashmiris deserve it.
Incidentally, the torture has come to light at a time when the centres interlocutor on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma is on his second visit to the state and holding consultations with various civil society groups including the youth to find a way out of the current impasse. More than a resolution of the political dimension of the issue, Sharma is here to address the grievances of the people and promote reconciliation. But as the torture of prisoners in Tihar would have us believe, the different arms of the state seem to be plowing in opposite direction on the state.
What is more, only the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed her concern over the development. Mehbooba spoke to the Union Home secretary Rajiv Gauba and asked him to intervene in the matter. Gauba has assured the Chief Minister of a thorough probe into the incident and punishment for the culprits for having violated the jail manual. Similarly, Delhi High Court has taken a serious note of the violation of the fundamental, human and legal rights of prisoners and ordered an enquiry into the incident. A bench of the acting-Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar have termed the physical assault on the prisoners as completely unjustifiable. However, no statement from any senior or junior functionary in the central government has been issued on the development which is again reflective of the state of affairs in the country vis-a-vis Kashmir. And if the situation continues as it is, this makes a mockery of the centres political outreach to the state and exposes it once again as a cosmetic measure meant more for photo-ops than making a real difference to the tragic state of affairs.
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