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A state of victimhood

Published : Feb 14, 2013, 9:42 am IST
Updated : Feb 14, 2013, 9:42 am IST

It affects the psyche of youth Naeem Akhtar

It affects the psyche of youth Naeem Akhtar

Jammu and Kashmir has always been treated as a security subject rather than a governance challenge. It is a state that is caught in an unending vortex of cause and consequence of this security paranoia, resulting in trust and development deficit. It goes without saying that whatever the requirements of legal process, there was a need for the government to take into consideration the overall political impact of this execution, which is why the option of mercy has been provided under our Constitution. Keeping this in mind, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had appealed to the President in 2011 to grant clemency to Guru and commute his death sentence to life imprisonment. Guru’s execution has the potential to affect the psyche of our younger generation in particular. The sense of alienation is going to get greater. Look at the way people have reacted, see how the youth have seized social networking sites to give expression to their sentiment. There is sadness, dismay, rage, even a sense of vengeance. The average Kashmiri believes that Guru has been a victim of injustice. You may disagree but the way he was sent to the gallows does create such an impression. I know a young Kashmiri dental surgeon closely. He left his practice to dedicate himself to the establishment of democratic institutions in the state. He began by launching a high-voltage campaign for the Right to Information in a state that has been a victim of secrecy and complete opaqueness in governance. He became the founder convenor of a very effective RTI movement that helped create awareness about people’s rights, and he encouraged people to be a part of the development process. I think this was the first serious attempt to introduce an element of probity in public life and accountability in governance. This young man set up a network of young people across the state who very enthusiastically worked for the strengthening of transparency laws. Last year Muzaffar Ahmed Bhat, the young dentist, decided to join a political party that could help add value to his efforts in bringing about change. He chose the PDP. He worked directly with me. I thought he liked being part of a growing mainstream organisation that helped change the political scenario in the state by being the first credible Opposition party to work under the Constitution of India. He helped build bridges between the PDP and large sections of youth and students. He grew, I would think, into a role model for young Muslim Kashmiris who wanted to bury the past, become part of what we have been repeatedly told is the idea of India, and proactively campaign for the constitutional rights that are granted to every Indian citizen to be extended to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Last Sunday Muzaffar resigned from “mainstream politics”. The reason he gave in a brief letter: Afzal was sent to the gallows by the Congress only to consolidate its Hindu votebank. We hope Muzaffar does not denote a trend, but the apprehension that his example could lead others to cross the road does not seem out of place.

$ The writer is chief spokesperson, People’s Democratic Party

*** Local leaders lie for gains Anand K. Sahay To grasp the issue being debated, we need to be reminded that Kashmir is a complex story. For ordinary people it is a tale of sorrow and tragedy. But for Kashmir’s politicians and their civil society hangers-on, its bureaucrats, and some business interests, the situation in the state is a godsend. It offers them the opportunity to milk the system, to engage in monumental corruption. To do this, they manipulate the feelings of the people and whip up frenzy in order to build a siege mentality which creates a sense of victimhood. If an aggravated sense of siege was not nurtured, causing governments to become nervous and maintain enhanced security deployments, the vast funds that flow into Kashmir — to be spent locally under the head of security — is bound to dry up. That would hurt the vested interests deeply. To know how much, just look at the thousands of newly-built houses in the major towns, their latest cars, the escalating values of their properties, their smugness, and their rising social and political power which only enhances their capacity to manipulate. The “alienation” that is spoken of flows from the idea that “India” has battered Kashmir. From this public narrative is concealed the well-documented fact that extremist organisations and the foreign terrorists they have hosted have killed many times more local Muslims than the Indian security forces. This is not hidden from the people but they dare not speak up out as their Muslim tormentors live among them. The “alienation” also follows from the idea that Kashmiris are treated differently from other Indians. This is a monstrous lie but it helps the vested interest to give it currency. The frequent brute behaviour of the men in uniform is a common occurrence across India but Kashmiri politicians make people believe that it is reserved only for Kashmiris. The hanging of Afzal Guru, convicted in a case that could have turned out to be a large-scale massacre of MPs and ministers and led to war with Pakistan, is also shown up as an instance of discrimination. The question raised is why the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged. It is conveniently overlooked that the killers of Indira Gandhi have been. This should silence the accusation of selectively picking on Kashmiris, but it doesn’t. However, the broad point about politics is valid, although it’s not the politics they speak of. If the general election was the consideration, why was Guru not hanged in 2009 The real politics is the fear that DMK can pull the plug if the Tamil killers of Rajiv are hanged and the UPA-2 government will fall. It is true this is self-serving on Congress’ part, but does not prove discrimination against Kashmir. In the Guru case, the people of Kashmir should know that others in the country feel as hurt and agitated as they do about his family not being allowed to meet him. Mufti saheb is right. In this respect, India has behaved like a banana republic. Nevertheless, the “alienation” bogey can be raised only if Kashmiri politicians press it, not otherwise.

$ The writer is coordinating editor, The Asian Age