Sopore Tragedy

THE pictures of a three year old boy crying over the lifeless body of his grandfather killed in the cross-firing in Sopore on Wednesday have plunged Kashmir into a deep mourning. The images are deeply disturbing  lend an unbearable poignance to the ongoing tragedy in Kashmir. The boy was accompanying the deceased man  when he ran into an encounter between militants and security forces. The family, however, has blamed the forces for killing the man saying he was brought down from the vehicle and shot dead. In pictures, the man can be seen sprawled on the roadside, with the boy sitting over his dead body, trying to wake him up. The police later removed the boy and handed him over to his parents.  Apart from the civilian, a CRPF personnel was also killed in the encounter while three other jawans were injured.

The pictures soon went viral, causing widespread grief. They also triggered predictable reactions from people, most of them dictated by which side of the ideological divide they are on. In his tweet, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah  called for an end to the use of boy's pictures as a tool of propaganda. On the other hand the newly floated Apni Party  sought a "time-bound probe" into the incident.

However, the tragedy of the civilian's killing and the attendant pictures of the boy are beyond the predictable condemnations  and  the disingenous ordering of  probe. It is the moral vacuum in which such killings take place. Those who preside over them brazen it out, feigning no responsibility for them but are duly revolted by  the misdemeanours of the opponents.  Officially, the tragedies like these are rationalized as natural outcome of the extraordinary situation prevailing in the state. And barring a few 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.

As the situation of the past three decades testifies, the killings of the militants have neither deterred more youth from joining the militancy, nor ushered Kashmir back to peace. Nor for that matter have rising civilian killings enabled a more empathetic understanding of the situation and the consequent need for a resolution.  And nor, if this long duration is any guide, will it in future.   The militancy and the state’s  response to it will go on. True, the state tackles the unfolding violence institutionally, so will not tire of it, but this unrelenting state of affairs is taking a massive toll on the people of Kashmir, our new and the future generation. The most rational and effective response to the lingering turmoil is to address the factors which keep it going. But this is something that is and has been last on the minds of the ruling leadership of the country.


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