Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PDP, NC and Human Rights

The pro-India political parties raise the issue of human rights only when they are out of power. Is this a tactic to make human rights a state-centric discourse, asks Naseer A Ganai 

There is a pattern to it and it has not changed over the years.  Look at the scores of cases of human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir and then see the reaction of the political parties to it. If PDP is in power, it allows NC to criticize and condemn it on human rights issue. And if NC is in power, it gives PDP enough room to ‘abuse’ it on human rights abuses. But whichever party is in power, it takes “due care” of the pro-freedom groups. Their leaders are not given any chance to express their views. They are arrested, booked under the preventive detention laws or put under house arrest. But the question is why they do so? Before answering this, let us look at the action and reaction of the PDP and the NC on human rights issue, when they were in and out of power. 
First the Shopian tragedy: the incident outraged Kashmiris. Instantly people observed the strike and followed the protest calls given by the aged leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The response to the call indicated that the pro-freedom leadership has hold over people irrespective of their participation in the elections. The response apparently baffled the mainstream pro-India parties. They started taking the jump. And the opposition was the first to do so. So the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti courted arrest against the barbaric act in Shopian.  She even went to the Shopian police station and inquired about the FIR. Then after few days, the PDP issued a statement saying that her party forced the government to register the case of rape and murder. First they raised the cry and then they tried to reap its benefits. Through this one statement, the PDP tried its best to wash out the 8-days of continuous strike observed by people of Kashmir over the outrageous act. With this statement the party tried to belittle the sacrifices made by people of Kashmir in hundreds of protest rallies across the valley and in various parts of Jammu division. And ostensibly tried to convey that if chief minister Omar Abdullah has been forced to retract from his earlier statement wherein Omer said “initial reports didn’t confirm rape and murder,” it is due to the PDP and others have no role it. Others, means the pro-freedom parties. Almost all pro-freedom leaders have been taken into preventive custody.   
It is not the first time that the pro-India parties have tried to be on forefront on the human rights issues. The National Conference acted in same manner when the PDP was in power. It would raise issues of human rights violation after it was ousted from the power by the PDP led congress government in 2002. 
In fact the discussions on human rights issues in the State legislative assembly have now become the permanent feature and the party which is not in power is most vocal on the issue. Here are two examples.  The PDP refused to acknowledge custodial disappearance of over 10,000 people as reported by the Association of Disappeared Persons when its patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that only 60 persons have disappeared. Later in the Assembly the then Minister for Home Abdul Rahman Veeri said 3952 persons had disappeared. NC ridiculed Mufti for the statement and accused him of lying. In 2006 four boys who were playing cricket in Doodhipora Kupwara were killed by the troops. Thousands of people lodged protest on the call of the pro-freedom parties. Realizing the gravity of situation, the NC stepped in. It condemned the government right and left. The NC legislators raised the issue in the Assembly. The NC boycotted the then Governor N.N Vohra’s speech and the present Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, who was the leader of opposition, walked out from the Assembly along with his 27 other legislators. Rather was carrying the placards in his hand asking for “end of human of rights violation in Kashmir.” 
The NC legislators were outside the Assembly talking to media denouncing the government and the PDP. The PDP members who this year didn’t allow Governor N.N Vohra to continue his speech over human rights issue were calmly listening to General Sinha’s speech in 2006 after Doodhipora aftermath. Later in the Assembly Sharif-Din-Shariq challenged the claim of government and army that the youth were crossing the border. The government ordered judicial inquiry in the matter. Four years down the line, nothing has happened in the case. 
This is how pro-India mainstream parties run the government here and at the same pretend themselves to be pro-people as well. They keep everything thing within themselves including the governance, human rights issue and larger Kashmir dispute.   No doubt that Abdul Rahim Rather, Mehboob Beg, Sharif Din Shariq and all others from National Conference have every right to raise the human rights issue. Mehboob Beg has given fiery speech in the Assembly over the rights abuses when NC was in opposition. He condemned the then chief minister over rape of Kupwara woman and daughter, when the latter stated that only mother has been raped. But it seems after switching over to treasury benches, the connotation of human rights too changes for him. Mehboob is silent on Shopian and Mehbooba Mufti is vocal. But where was she when her party was in power.  She has every right to force herself into a police station and get herself arrested. But why they are raising the issue of our dignity when they are out of power. When the NC was raising the human rights issue in the Assembly the PDP was accusing it playing politics over human rights and the same is happening now. This time the NC is silent and the PDP is raising the issue. It seems they have tacit understanding in this kettle calling pot black. The have, it seems an understanding to keep the pro-freedom groups out of discourse. And PDP and NC are the part of the State. And they being part of the State their slogans on human rights least bothers the State. If we put it this way, even the human rights violation issue when raised by either NC or the PDP, becomes State discourse.  
Had it not been so, then why both the parties failed to bring resolution for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the Assembly where they created ruckus over human rights issue. 
PDP came into power in 2002. It talked lot about the AFSPA revocation. NC too was vociferous about it. But for eight years they only talked about it. They could have easily brought the resolution in the Assembly to convey New Delhi that it should something. That is it. It is not New Delhi would have instantly accepted the demand. There is possibility of its outright rejection by New Delhi even after its passage in the State legislature. But that is separate question. The passing of resolution would have conveyed seriousness of PDP and the NC over human rights issue.  But both the parties didn’t bring the resolution even for the sake of it. This is there commitment to the human rights! Mehbooba says her government took up the issue of revocation of AFSPA with the prime minister when the PDP was in power. Omar Abdullah says the same thing that he took up the issue with Home Minister and the Prime Minister. Indeed the Home Minister P. Chadambaram corroborated him last week. But what is the need? If you are really concerned about the revocation of the Act why you didn’t bring resolution for eight years? If you want to convey it to New Delhi the best way was through the legislature.  It gives credence to the theory that both the parties are raising human rights issue as part of State discourse to confine it within the parties which are part of the State. 






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