The horrendous bloodshed must stop now!
By: GOWHAR HASSAN
On 14th February around 3:30 pm, life seized to live at Lethpura, Pulwama. The Srinagar- Jammu highway that connects thousands of people suddenly became a site of detachment. The hustle and bustle of life froze into the lull of death. An explosive-laden car rammed into the fifth bus of a CRPF convoy of over 70 buses on the national highway. The bus carrying the security personnel was blown into smithereens, resulting in the death of 44 soldiers. The attacker who drove the car was identified as a 22-year old Kashmiri boy who had joined Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistani-based militant organisation just a year ago. The bodies of the soldiers lay scattered all over the road, and the body of the suicide bomber exploded leaving no trace behind. This deadly attack, a horrible incident that claimed so many lives, is one ring of the chain of such heinous incidents of bloodshed in the conflict ridden state.
The seventy-year-long conflict has left thousands of Kashmiris dead, hundreds disappeared and many blinded and the beautiful valley known as ‘the paradise on Earth’ enshrouds hell in it. Kashmir is the only heaven that has half-widows; the women who are still waiting for their disappeared husbands, many women raped and murdered. The tears of our mothers have dried up lamenting the separation from their sons. It is the only place in the world where people get killed by stray bullets and peaceful protestors, who want to express their dissent with the ruling, are pelleted to death. More to it, the perpetrators have never been punished. The countless massacres and fake encounter have mocked the legal procedures of the country itself and abused the human rights recognised worldwide. As Kashmiris, we know what it means to lose a life.
Longing for peace has been an aspiration of mankind across all ages and places. But, the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a distinction as, torn by conflict for so long, who can seek peace more intensely than the people of the state? Peace isn’t partial. It doesn’t leave anybody nor is it baised towards a particular subject. The aspiration of peace isn’t selective. We can’t wish peace for ourselves but not for others.
The horrible attack isn’t an incident is to be condemned in the strongest possible words and the loss of human life caused by the violence is indeed tragic. Every Indian soldier doesn’t pick up the gun and puts on his uniform to fight in a war zone or to kill people. Really, most of them don’t even know that they will be operating in a conflict situation. Statistics narrate that majority of soldiers who got killed in the Pulwama attack belonged to very poor families. For them, joining the services would have meant nothing but earning a livelihood. Who would prefer to stand on a road so distant from one’s family, braving the harsh weather for hours together? When politics fails, security forces are left to handle the situation which results in nothing but violence and bloodshed. Initially recruited for the security purposes, the soldiers find themselves in death traps prepared by the failures of the political system.
The deadly attack, once more, reminds the people of the heavy human loss and the indiscriminating nature of the human cost of a conflict. During the past three decades, many of the Indian security forces have been killed in the process by militant attacks and in encounters. Studies say that many have committed suicide due to the harsh working conditions and incompatible demands of their job. On the other side: According to a report, 213 local militants were killed in the previous year. So, the conflict has resulted in the loss of human life on both sides. But where does this painful tale of human tragedy lead us? What are the forces that have made the spilling of blood an act so justifiable? Divisive politics and political vacuum have shown no respect for human life.
When politicians are more concerned about their own vested interests and are involved in the politics of hate and communalism, they fan the passions of the common masses against each other. India has a rich history of communal politics where votes are gained by polarising the emotions of the public. Even the system of reservations has been used as a political tool to divide the vote bank. The general elections being few weeks away from now, many mainstream political parties and leaders have started to exploit the Pulwama attack by seizing the incident as a political opportunity. The ruling BJP is using the attack as a playing ground through which it can showcase its idea of muscular nationalism and its own version of patriotism. Be it the PM’s rally of Jhansi or the Amit Shah’s Jammu visit, the saffron party is leaving no stone unturned to exploit this human tragedy. As the attack has been spiralled to a near-war situation between the two countries, the incident, fundamentally an outcome of the case of political failure, has been polished and projected into a national security issue, only to stretch it for a political gamut.
The intimidation and harassment of Kashmiri students studying outside the state by the hate groups in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack has led to more violence. It will only result in the further alienation of the Kashmiri youngsters towards the country. The Home Ministry’s silence over the issue is another reflection of the ruling party’s stances ahead of elections.
In order to figure out the deceptive trap of politics over the dispute, the people of the state and those living outside have to realise that their emotions aren’t too cheap to be exploited by the political parties. Falling prey to the phenomenon of construction of Kashmir issue by Indian politics as a mere security problem and a litmus test for patriotism, will only pitch innocent people against each other. Human lives, which are much more precious than politics itself, will be lost. Let the people introspect and see what is being done to the values of this country and to the secular ethos on which the Indian constitution is based.
(The author is a Research Scholar at the Department of Convergent Journalism, Central University of Kashmir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)