Last week, two killings left Kashmir shocked and grief-stricken: one, of the custodial killing of the school principal Rizwan Ahmad Pandit and two, of the eleven year old Atif Ahmad who was killed when militants held him hostage during an encounter. In a bizarre and tragic spectacle that is so emblematic of the dark times in which we are living, both killings have led to the selective condemnations and the rationalization.
In case of Rizwan, police charged him for trying to escape from the custody which apparently led to his killing. Though an enquiry has been ordered into the killing, it is unlikely that the guilty will ever be punished. Similarly, in case of Atif, people from outside Kashmir and those associated with the government have been quick to highlight the fact that he was taken hostage by the militants. And which is true. The testimony of Atif’s mother and the uncle endorses this. And this has also stunned the Kashmir. This is first such case of its nature. Never before in the three decade long turmoil have the militants taken anyone hostage, least of all a minor, to apparently save themselves during an encounter. So, the development by all means is awful and there is reason to rationalize it.
Having said that it can also be argued what stopped the government forces surrounding the house from making all possible efforts to rescue Atif. Yes, they did get the mother and the other family members to appeal to militants. But certainly more was needed to be done. They could have delayed the operation for a much longer duration. This would have opened up chances for a rescue. But the security forces didn’t do this. So, while it is certainly horrible on the part of the militants to have taken a minor hostage, the government forces haven’t acquitted themselves well. Imagine, how it would have played among people had they made all possible efforts to rescue minor Atif and actually been able to do so.
However, the tragedy of our times is such that those who rationalized the custodial killing of Rizwan were quick to point out the hostage-taking by the militants. This selectiveness of the condemnations and the outrages often belittles the gross human rights violations and denies the victims the justice and also their dignity. It reduces them to mere statistics. Every side preying on the hapless human beings tries everything in its hands to cover its crimes and highlight those of its opponents. And between this unedifying and undignified contestation, many an innocent lives are not only lost but also forgotten.