Administrative high-handedness towards street vendors and parallel “chai” culture speak of a decay that speaks volumes
EVEN a moment of cursory introspection will reveal that our society, as it exists today, doesn't only facilitate and enhance the modes and frequency of injustice but it legitimizes the same and has made injustice and oppression the very basis of its existence. It so happens at times that events do not produce any immediate results or reactions, but they keep brewing at the heart of time, till they erupt like a volcano and bring disruption and destruction to the individual and collective plane. What we have been witnessing in our society in the form of sporadic incidents of injustice and violence only seem to be a prelude to the long anathema of structural and a-structural violence, high handedness and injustice which is operating behind the scenes against the helpless and poor. In two such bone shilling episodes which caught the imagination of people, consciences were shaken and minds were thrown into anger and agony while we witnessed the gore visuals lately circulating on social media from LD hospital and Baramulla respectively. A child breathed his last as he was denied entry to the ICU ward at LD hospital while security guards were negotiating “chai” (A Fancy term for corruption here) with his father. One is simply thrown into endless vertigo while contemplating the scene as it explicitly seems to violate not only law and order, but betrays the very notions of compassion, humanity and mercy so much cherished by humans as species. As if bringing living to death wasn’t enough, in another episode employees at Baramulla municipality in an orgy of violence went berserk in damaging the belongings of petty street vendors. While it is clear that the behaviour of security guard amounts to murder and heinous crime, the legal experts have opined that even in Baramulla episode, law was breached and there was brazen violation of protection of The Street Vendors Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending.
The incidents referred to caught public imagination only because in the former case, the father of the child revealed the details and in the case of Baramulla, the men behind the episode were somehow captured on mobile camera and consequently went viral on social media. These were two episodes which took place in two districts under the aegis of two different departments and at the hands of two individuals.
Islam abhors Kufr (Infidelity) to the extent that it projects Kufr as its antithesis and identifies all evils and wrongs with infidelity. Having qualified infidelity thus, here is a quote from Imam Ali, the door of knowledge positing Infidelity against injustice and in fact positing injustice as sin of much graver consequences than infidelity itself. Imam Ali said, “society can survive with kufr (infidelity), but not injustice”, thereby highlighting the threat arising out of injustice not only to individual lives but to the larger structure of society, state and civilization itself. What injustice actually does is that it brings individuals and groups to the brim of rebellion in pursuit of their legit demands and in so doing threatens the very stability of social fabric and overall order.
Is it difficult to imagine the scale on which such episodes or episodes of their class must be taking place now and then, here and there, across the length and the breadth of the valley? Why do the powerless and poor always have to be at the receiving end of suffering and injustice? Why,despite hue and cry, do the culprits almost invariably escape without a scratch on the nails?
Administration and state must come to terms with the fact that they may take legal actions against the wrongdoers within the perimeters of law, but the basic and essential role of administration and state is to enhance the lives of people, mitigate their miseries and shield them against the vagaries of exploitation and oppression. It is the responsibility of the state to safeguard the weak and powerless, helpless and voiceless and to help them mitigate not only the excesses and injustices committed by and within the system but against a-systemic and non-structural, dispersed forms of violence and aggression. It is only by guaranteeing these rights and protecting the basic interests of common citizens that society and state can progress and avoid known and unknown forms of anarchy and chaos.
Let’s imagine what could have been the fate of the said municipal committee employees had he tried anything similar with any man of influence and riches. Had the story stopped with their termination or could they have dared such an act to begin with?
The powerless and voiceless as these street vendors were, the employees muscled their power sending law and regulations, humanity and sympathy to doldrums.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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