Value Of Life In Kashmir

FOUR persons were killed in an encounter at Hyderpora in Srinagar on Monday. According to police, two of them were militants – one of them a foreigner – an overground worker (OGW) and the house owner. However the families of the alleged OGW Mudassir Gul and the house owner Altaf Ahmad claim they were innocent civilians. The family of Gul has identified him as a doctor. Ahmad’s family has alleged he was used as a human shield.  This has cast doubt on the encounter which the government should be doing everything to dispel. All major politicians in the Valley have called for probe into the killings with former J&K Chief Minister going so far as to term the encounter as “fake”.  Another former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has termed the use of human shield as part of the government’s “rulebook” now. Similarly, People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone and Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu has also called for an enquiry into the killings.

This makes it incumbent on the government to order a probe into this tragic incident. Not doing so will not reflect well on it. It is true that the killings of civilians have now become a new normal in Kashmir. There is little outrage let alone any steps being taken to prevent their occurrence. The government, both in J&K and in New Delhi, look at the situation in law and order terms. This rationalizes the civilian killings.

This is a sad state of affairs and explains why more things change in Kashmir, more they remain the same. In fact, the governments by resorting to an exclusively security driven approach have only worsened the situation. Let alone dialogue or a political engagement, even the leadership has been largely absent. If a turnaround is to be expected, the government needs to move beyond the use of force as the remedy. This has only perpetuated the cycle of death and destruction.

One invariable part of the continuing tragedy of Kashmir has been that its people are generally considered incidental to the long-standing conflict over the region. Across the world, Kashmir is primarily known as an issue between India and Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars over the region. The troubled situation in Kashmir is seen as an extension of this conflict with its people seen as acting on behalf of one or the other country. Their aspirations and agency count for little. Over 70,000 killings so far and their continuing humanitarian fallout have little weight.

What is more, people continue to die every day under various labels largely unknown and uncared for in the rest of India, let alone by the world. This has bred a numbness towards the conflict that remains as intractable as ever. If things have to change in Kashmir, the lives in Kashmir including those of the security personnel have to start to matter.

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