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Infamy’s hangover

Editorial |

For those with mindsets myopic enough to believe that military force will suffice to sort out the continuing turmoil in the Kashmir Valley, and the belligerent elements who endorse that view since it conflates with their deeming Muslim and Pakistani synonymous, hence unworthy of humane consideration, a year would have succeeded in relegating to the dungeons of memory the still-infamous “human shield” outrage during the by-elections to the Lok Sabha from Srinagar.

And those in the military fold who had their reservations over the action taken by Major Leetul Gogoi remain shocked into silence by that officer having been awarded a Commendation Certificate by the Chief of the Army Staff.

Yet for the victim, Farooq Ahmed Dar, the trauma of 9 April 2017, has extended beyond being lashed to an army jeep and paraded through 27 villages to exhibit the fate of those disturbing the election process.

For his explanation that he had only gone out to vote (a fact confirmed by subsequent investigations) has resulted in him being exorcised from society, and being deemed guilty of “sleeping with the enemy”.

He no longer finds employment as a carpet-weaver, is shunned by other employers, suffers mental and physical ailments… Even the civil authorities who had appreciated his voting ~ and rejected the Army-line that he indulged in anti-poll violence ~ have abandoned him.

Technicalities have come in the way of his being paid the compensation granted by the J&K Human Rights Commission. Dar’s may be an isolated case but it does articulate why the common folk in the Valley have such limited faith in both the democratic process and the Army, and cements the feeling of alienation that the Centre’s Special Representative, Dineshwar Sharma, is seeking to demolish.

Who would wish to incur the fate of Dar for defying calls to boycott voting ~ he has caught it both ways? Major Gogoi’s action might have been understandable since he was caught in a difficult, violent situation ~ the “commendation” for discarding basic human rights and dignities will never be appreciated: except, perhaps, by the Army-veterans’ squad of “force-multipliers” who exploit their media-savvy to questionable ends.

A hangover of the “human shield” affair is re-igniting the query about the propriety of using the Army to curb civil unrest, anywhere in the country. The soldier is a simple fellow, drilled into thinking that he is tasked with combatting the enemy; unlike his police and paramilitary counterparts who have been exposed and sensitised into understanding that there is an element of validity to protest.

And that civil liberties and human rights have a cherished place in the human construct. Enlightened Army leadership would have addressed the difficulty, the tragedy is that most officers are “disciplined” into equating grey-matter with brass and gold braid. Until the plight of a Farooq Ahmed Dar agitates a plethora of anxieties.