Unconscionable toll of civilian killings

The new home ministry statistics have revealed a terrible state of affairs prevailing in the state. According to the annual report by the ministry, there has been a 166 per cent more civilian fatalities  and a 42 per cent rise in the number of militants killed in 2017 compared to the previous year. In 2017, there have been 342 violent incidents in the state in which 80 security personnel, 40 civilians and 213 militants were killed. On the contrary, in 2016 there have been 322 incidents in the state in which 82 security personnel, 15 civilians and 150 militants were killed. This statistics don’t reflect the death of around 100 civilians during the extended unrest over the killing of the popular commander Burhan Wani. This year too, the killings have continued, more so those of the civilians during protests. In fact, the killings of the civilians seem to have become more a norm than an exception now.  The cycle goes on. More protests, more killings followed by more protests. Since January,  17 more civilians have lost their lives. 

But beyond pushing Valley further into turmoil, the mounting deaths have elicited little empathetic response either from the rest of India or from the world, let alone a meaningful political initiative to address the crisis.  There are not even the customary statements from the political parties, no show of concern from the civil society groups and no outrage on primetime television, otherwise worked up into a frenzy by even a routine incident of militant violence in the state.   What is more, the continuing killings are far from denting the stoic silence of the state government and some of its prominent faces. The government’s time-honoured mechanism to deflect the criticism is to order a probe, even if the mechanism has lost its credibility.  The probe is something that is the last on anybody’s mind. People would rather be spared from the travesty of it. Their outcomes are now a foregone conclusion.

The tragedy of the ongoing killings is beyond the condemnations and the false probes. It is the moral vacuum in which these take place. Those who preside over them brazen it out, feigning no responsibility for them but are duly revolted by little more than the misdemeanours of the opponents. New Delhi seeks to keep the deaths under wraps and exhibits little compunction for them. In fact, these are justified as a legitimate response to the stone-pelting protesters, more so when they disrupt the encounter sites.   And barring some feeble exceptions, the world wouldn’t hear of them. One only hopes that this unconscionable indifference ends and both New Delhi and the world see Kashmir for what it is – a place of lingering conflict which needs urgent attention and engagement to resolve.



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