Civilian Killings

SUDDENLY it seems yesterday once more in Kashmir. Killings of around six civilians, including that of the prominent chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo, in just 48 hours have put the situation back on edge. The air is again thick with the mounting uncertainty. The prospect for the weeks and months ahead again appears grim.  The killing of Bindroo has particularly shaken Kashmir. He was not only popular but also respected across the Valley. His pharmacy was the go-to address for anyone looking for quality medicine. People visited the shop from far and wide. There was a relationship of trust that had been built over the decades and which transcended religion and the Valley’s toxic politics. Bindroo had chosen to stay back in the Valley while almost all his community had fled in the early nineties. He was unfazed by the runaway conflict swirling around him. Bindroo ran his pharmacy smoothly during the most turbulent phases of the ongoing turmoil.  He didn’t need to fear anyone as he was the most apolitical person, devoted entirely to his business and to serving the ailing of the Valley.  He loved Kashmir and his fellow Kashmiris and the people, in turn, loved him. But, in the end, the grinding conflict also consumed him and along with him five more civilians.

As has been the case in the last 30 years, the situation in Kashmir can take nasty, unpredictable turns and defy control. And that these killings are taking place at a time when there has been unprecedented security domination testifies to this fact.  In Kashmir, it is the exception that passes off as normal. The reaction to these killings has been predictable. There have been routine condemnations.  The sections of media have either played the killings up or ignored them. There has again been an attempt to deflect the attention from the real issue.

More tragically, the killings in Kashmir mean little beyond the Valley. Let alone in the rest of India where sections of media use killings in Kashmir to build their TRPs , even around the world. The administration also has its share of blame. Its exclusively law and order approach over the last some years has only created a spurious sense of normalcy. The simmering subterranean resentment is not only not being addressed but also not acknowledged. Let alone dialogue or a political engagement, even the leadership has largely been absent. If a turnaround is to be expected, the government needs to move beyond the security paradigm which has done little to stop the cycle of death and destruction.  It is time that the government changes the tack and, for once, tries to reach out to alienated people in the Valley.

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