Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Death of Conscience in India

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Kashmir is restive at the moment and for the past three days there is information blockade in the valley as people are not able to watch TV channels of their choice, nor can they access internet. In the absence of free flow of information the only thing which get strengthened and spread is rumour and very unfortunately the government which claims to bring ‘openness’ to our lives, is doing such things which endanger national security. So far three lives have been lost in the protests against hanging and the valley is completely directionless. You cannot control the people through your army and military might as political issues will have to be resolved by political dialogues and Indian state has shown no such will power to do so. It continue to treat Kashmir issue as a law and order problem based on the whims and fancies of the Hindutva gangs who shout out daily about Kashmir our ‘pride’ and play the politics of Kashmir in their respective election campaigns.

The attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 was an act of terror which wanted to create chaos and anarchy in this country and therefore all those who mastermind the entire ‘project’ deserved severest of the penalty. Those who physically participated were gunned down by the security forces. Afzal Guru also went through the process and finally the Supreme Court too could not find direct evidence against him but based on circumstantial evidence felt that it was ‘rarest’ of the rare cases and hence he must get death penalty. The problem does not end here. Number of people has written about Guru and his engagement but my point is not whether he is innocent or not. An attack on Indian parliament deserved to be condemned without any ambiguity. But there is an undelaying fact the Afzal Guru was neither the leader nor the important functionary of the movement which is trying to destablise India and wanted to create anarchy. He was a mole, a small worker who might have been used as a courier for some purposes or other. The real masterminds roam around, issue threats and our government neither has power to capture them, nor will to control them hence Guru’s hanging will not halt their nefarious designs but isolate Kashmiris more than anyone else. The issue is actually of the ethics of the entire process though I do not believe that there cannot be a mistake in Supreme Court judgment but over the years the poor and marginalized people are easily becoming simple tool to use spread the communalized and fascistic nationalism and the ruling party is fast responding to these issues in a competitive mode so that it does not have to face charges of being ‘anti national’.

The problem in India is the growth and strength of upper caste Hindu nationalism which is being named as ‘collective consciousness’ of the country. It is they who are fixing up agenda of the country and pushing the others to more marginalization. Media remain the cunning fox in the entire game and serving the interest of their corporate God fathers and religious grand- fathers. There is no doubt that the country need to look inward in its whole approach towards terrorism, crime and communal issues. The fact is communalism is nothing but terrorism but since communalism’s main beneficiaries are political people with great ambition hence it is not taken that seriously as the issue of terrorism. In the past 50 years millions of lives have been affected with the dangerous virus of communalism but trace a record and we will find nothing has been done to punish those who instigate such violence. The end result is that it gives rise to communal feeling, dejection, and isolation which are detrimental for the health of the nation.

In India the problem does not lie with right and wrong but purely politicization of everything which pay good dividend to the rightwing forces. In the attempt to look more patriotic the current regime is taking hasty decisions which will divert attention from the real issues. There is no doubt that Afzal Guru’s execution case would have become a major political issue but then the ruling party is not capable of providing any logical answers and hence it repeatedly followed what the Hindutva gangs have been saying and trying to satisfy them so that the issue does not haunt them in the general election. The major problem that the Congress Party finds is basically because the bases of both these parties are upper-caste Hindus. By executing Kasab and Afzal fast, it send a message that it is serious about ‘terror’ threats and by keeping silence and secretive it want to assuage Muslim feelings that it is not ‘celebrating’ the execution. But such overly political game plan never work and the Muslims too have realized these dangerous games but what to do as Congress have always enjoyed the vacuum created by its leaders. Today, the party does not have the courage to take on the right wing lunatics and hence the party, in its bid to attract all and to create ‘win-win’ situation end up in appeasing the fundamentalists of all religions. The direct result of this competitive communalism is the common Muslim who is fighting his battle for survival in India. These are attempts to push the Muslims on defensive so that they do not raise their issues of ‘participation’ in political powers and economic backwardness which haunt them even today. For years, Muslims had to pay the price for ‘partition’ of India as their leaders were submissive and opportunistic too. When the things started coming to normalcy, the issues of Shahbano and then Babari Masjid kept them in perpetual confrontation with the state machinery. The government, the political parties rarely understood that and played competitive communalization. Muslim became the victims of symbolic appeasement which the Indian state and its political parties always believed in. Hence, support for Imam Bukhari and his deals became ‘appeasement’ for Muslims and hence a Damocles sword was always hanging over their head when the Sangh Parivar continued to raise the issue of Muslim appeasement. The congress promised to rebuild Babari Masjid but does not even talk about that. As a rule of law before the Ayodhya case settles, it is time to maintain status quo ante 1992 but is that possible without constructing the mosque.

According to Hindutva brigade, Indian governments is ‘soft’ in dealing with ‘anti national’ elements and hence it should have shown some offense in dealing with the issue of Muslims in India. The Congress government dutifully obliged to their Hindutva counterparts. First Kasab and now Afzal Guru became the issue of political debate. After government hanged Kasab, it was clear that the Sangh targeted for Afzal Guru and the government quickly complimented with such a secretive operation. Let us see how both the parties respond to Hindu terrorism and how many of them would be send to gallows. Is it not a fact that both the Tamilnadu Assembly and Punjab Assemblies have passed resolution against the death sentences to the killer of Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh? Both the government feels that hanging will create tension in their state but the fact is that they want to tap the popular sentiments of the people. How come the popular sentiments of Kashmiris are not taken seriously here?
The government wakes up when the middle classes comes in the Delhi streets but can easily target those who it is no comfortable when they come to protest in the streets of Kashmir valley. As I write, reports are coming in that the Army did not allow a pregnant woman to be taken to hospital and finally she succumbed to the pressure. Is this the way how we operate our system? Kashmir was coming to normalcy and needed a soothing balm but the competitive politics of Hindutva has damaged the cause of the nation. In the war cries, we need statesmen who could speak with courage of conviction.
The matter here is not that Afzal was right or wrong but the procedures that followed are shocking. How can the state be so secretive that it does not even inform the family of the accused? It is said that the last wish of the accused is always fulfilled but Afzal’s wife and children were not allowed to speak to them and meet him. Where was the need to bury him in secrecy when his family whereabouts are known, then it is the duty of the government to inform the family well in advance and allow them to perform his last rites?

The rarest of the rare cases in India are increasing and the ‘collective upper caste conscience’ of India will not demand execution of those terrorists who planted bomb at Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express. This selective collective crying is meant to change the agenda of the nation and deviate from the original issues of the people of India. It is shameful that a man who is responsible for killing of 3000 persons and who still haunt the Muslims of Gujarat is still being projected as the future ‘prime minister of the country. We do not hear demand for executing those who masterminded different riots and that is why there is a growing alienation of the people in Kashmir. The difference of opinion is so high that a majority of Kashmir parties feel that the execution was completely unwanted ad uncalled for; the nationalist parties in Delhi are united in their common upfront against the act of ‘terror’. Modi and Thackarey got rid of tight grip of law as the ‘collective conscience’ of their people voted in their favor so they got legitimacy to rule. Why the same argument is not applied in Kashmir and elsewhere. Now, Kashmir is completely paralyzed for the past four days on the hanging of Guru and we do not say that the ‘collective conscience ‘of Kashmir does not consider Afzal Guru, a terrorist but a victim. But it is our verses them syndrome in India. When the caste Hindus protest that reflect the collective conscience of the country but when Muslim protest that is communalism and separatism. It is this kind of mindset that we have to fight more and with much vigor now which threaten to destroy the basic human values of our constitution which provide us right to life and right to choose our political thought as well as freedom of expression.
Afzal Guru is hanged and with this the valley is burning. It is time that the government must think of abolishing the death penalty. Crime does not end with execution. Neither will terrorism be over with the hanging of Afzal. Terrorism is an ideology and must be countered by ideological minds. It is time; we look the entire Kashmir issue from the perspective of Kasmirirs and not make Kashmir a symbol of India’s ‘secular’ consciousness. Let Kashmir be freed from this bondage of Islamic Kashmir or secular Kashmir. Let it enjoy the freedom like any other state. It is beyond doubt that Kashmiris today feel that they are being put on ‘test’ under ‘Indian nationalism’ which has very little to do with the issues in Kashmir.

This case also questions our judicial process. We always used to say that judges are very technical. I know in many places the cases are dismissed on hyper technical ground without ever giving the opportunity to the parties. Only power elite and the powerful forces in the government can be correct in terms of ‘papers’ and ‘technicality’ and that is why a common man can never really expect judgments in his favor as even that come, the authorities will trap him in the ‘technicalities’. The Tihar followed the ‘procedure’ by ‘informing’ the family of Afzal Guru through speed post which has now reached Kashmir and one can see the language of the communication which is so dry and insensitive that it would be difficult to imagine whether attempts are made to really assuage the feelings of the people. The government notifications are in the form of warning. Afzal Guru was a criminal declared by the court and without even doubting whether the trial was fair or not, he deserved a better treatment in death. If the Lashkar and Jaish are uncivilized and brutal in killing people, the state’s operations cannot be a replica of them but better ones so that people have faith in them. His family and child had right to know and meet him before death. It is shameful that our state apparatus is so afraid of doing so that it has to carry out an execution in such a way. One can understand that the government might have wanted to make the case low profile but the way the government and authorities are going all around with big bang it is assumed that we will witness more such execution by the year end so that by next year’s election Congress remain the ‘champion’ of Hindu nationalism and not the Hindutva ‘brigade’.

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