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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 30 New Delhi July 16, 2016

Understand the Outpouring of Grief and Rage in Kashmir

Sunday 17 July 2016

India and its politicians must introspect as to why there has been such a mass outpouring of grief and support for Burhan Wani, a militant who was killed in an ‘encounter’. Already news reports confirm that over 30 unarmed protestors have been killed by the police and scores more have been injured. The death-toll itself indicates and reports confirm that the lethal force used by the security forces were absolutely dispropor-tionate. Some reports suggest that even hospitals and ambulances are being targeted. This only shows that even those wishing to express solidarity with Burhan Wani are willing to do so under the gravest of risks.

How can any democracy allow the killing of unarmed protestors? And not spend a moment to reflect on and mourn the situation? Sadly this is not an aberration in Kashmir’s history. Only in 2010 over a hundred were killed while protesting.

In an extremely tense, volatile, tragic and dangerous situation, such as we are witnessing today in Kashmir, what is called for is extreme caution and empathy for those who have lost their loved ones. This would naturally include the family and relatives of the one policeman who has died and the three who have gone missing and to date remain untraced. However, vitriolic voices in the media calling for the burning of so-called terrorists with garbage, and ghoulish celebration of Wani’s killing only serves to escalate an already fragile situation. It leads to the brutalising logic of merely sending in more troops. Greater militarisation of an already extraordinarily militarised zone is surely not an answer to mass protests.

Those screaming about the ‘natural justice’ that ought to be meted out to militants as well as those who have already passed judgment on Wani and others would do well to listen to the voice of the highest court of the land. In the recent ruling on AFSPA, the Supreme Court has clarified that “It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both...This is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of individual liberties.” Rejecting the government’s submission that any arms bearing person in the “disturbed area” was to be defined as an enemy under section 3(x) of the Army Act, the Supreme Court held: “Each instance of an alleged extra-judicial killing of even such a person would have to be examined or thoroughly enquired into to ascertain and determine the facts.”

In deference to this ruling by the Apex Court, the security forces must therefore be required to demonstrate that the force used against militants, as well as unarmed protestors, was proportionate and justified. Hospitals and nursing homes must remain out of bounds for the security forces or police. We should not be condemned to witness yet more violence and greater militarisation.

Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

July 12, 2016