People stuck in flood in Bihar and UP, blockade in Kashmir, and our rulers sing ‘all’s ok’ lullaby!

Mahatma Gandhi’s biggest weapon was his strength to speak only the truth. Armed with that, he disarmed even heavily-armed armies. But today our rulers’ speeches are filled with hollow assurances

Indian soldiers gearing up for a gunfight
Indian soldiers gearing up for a gunfight

Humra Quraishi

From October 2, this year, let us try and speak the truth and also try and hear only the truth. After all, Mahatma Gandhi’s biggest weapon was his strength to speak only the truth. Armed with that, he disarmed even heavily-armed armies.

Alas, today’s rulers are lacing their speeches with distractions or else with bogus assurances. Where is that truth that one’s craving to hear? Where is that mention of the existing ground realities? Where is that development and that ‘all’s okay’ scenario? Where’s that equal treatment meted out to citizens of this land? Where’s the atmosphere for that basic survival?

Where do all these hollow assurances stand when all structures, human and otherwise, are getting simply washed away in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the fury of the flood? How come that with all the development we boast of, we are unable to harness these waters? Or, is it that there hasn’t been any development and no planning for drainage and as a result, this water enters right into homes, schools, hospitals, offices, prisons? Nevertheless, regardless of the plight of the people, our rulers continue to sing ‘all’s okay’ lullaby.

And even for the hundreds and thousands of those of us who are sitting caged in the Kashmir Valley, they continue to sing the same ‘all’s ok’ lullaby!

There are tragedies taking place out there, yet there is sadly no public outcry. There could be only two possible reasons for this: either the Right-Wing propaganda is working overtime along with a well-executed strategy or else, we have become so very completely numb and blinded (Nah, not by pellet guns but by words and speeches!) that we can’t even comprehend the very basics.

What will happen if you treat citizens as suspects, not even allow them to be heard or listened to! In this caged condition, the hapless citizens of the Valley cannot be heard. They cannot tell us the details of the dead and the dying. Even for those who are trying to report from there, the going is getting tough and tougher…

I am putting together these two rather significant reports, brought into focus in 2018. Read those facts and figures and you’d sit back in a sorrowful and shocked state - that is if your sensitivity is not totally drained out. Also, figure out for yourself that if these were the exact facts and figures in an uncaged condition, what would then or could be the present-day conditions of the Kashmiris in the prevailing conditions!

In 2018, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) released a report titled - Terrorized: Impact of Violence on the Children of Jammu and Kashmir. This report is the assessment of the violence against children in Jammu and Kashmir in the last fifteen years (2003 to 2017). It also focuses on the grim reality that there are nil or near-nil legal and normative processes or practices protecting children’s rights in Jammu and Kashmir, as minors have been booked under the repressive Public Safety Act (PSA).

To quote from this report – “Children in Jammu and Kashmir are living in the most militarized zone of the world, with the presence of 7,00,000 troopers, which exposes them to the risk of all grave six violations against children as laid out in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child… The period from 2003 to 2017, witnessed not less than 318 killings of children (in the age group of 1 to 17) in various incidents of violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The killing of 318 children constitutes 6.95% of the civilian killings in the last fifteen years, as 4571 civilians have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the same period (2003–2017). In the same period, i.e. from 2003 to 2017, at least 16,436 killings were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir, and the majority of them included alleged militants numbering at least 8537 killings. The numbers indicate that in the last fifteen years Jammu and Kashmir in an average year has witnessed at least 1,095 killings, which belies the government’s claims of ‘return to normalcy’… The pattern of killings of children in the fifteen-year period suggests that children were direct targets of state violence, as part of its stated offensive to curb uprising and militancy. At least 144 children were killed by Indian armed forces and state police in Jammu and Kashmir, which alone accounts for nearly half, i.e. 44.02 per cent, of the total children killed. Most of the children, at least 110 of them, killed in state violence were shot dead in different incidents of violence, and not less than 8 children died due to injuries inflicted from pellet shotguns fired by government forces. Twenty-seven children died due to drowning either caused due to the negligence of armed forces in Wular lake tragedy or being chased by government forces during a protest, where victims find no way of escape from the armed forces and were forced to jump into water bodies, resulting in their death.”

In 2018, I heard the Head of the Journalism Department of the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST, situated on the outskirts of Srinagar, in Awantipora), Dr Ruheela Hassan, speak at a seminar held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (Centre for Media Studies), focusing on the difficulties faced by the journalists in the Valley – To quote her from the report- “The struggle of media in Kashmir throughout its evolution is witness that the media in Kashmir has never enjoyed real freedom. Be it the Dogra Rule in 1924, nationalist government (1947-1953), Sheikh Abdullah (1948 - 1953), Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi (1953-1963), Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq (1964-1971), National Conference (1975-1982/1986-1990), media in Kashmir has never breathed in free air.”

Dr Ruheela Hassan had further detailed, “a survey has revealed that 77% of the valley journalists said that they have faced restrictions of one form or other while performing their professional duties.

21% of the valley journalists have been booked or summoned by the stake or national authorities (mostly booked under draconian laws like OSA, PSA, security of the state)

•20 journalists killed.

•Several kidnapped and illegally detained.

•More than 25 injured.

•80% of valley journalists believe that no freedom of expression is enjoyed by them as guaranteed.”

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