Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In times of ‘normalcy’ related deaths

Naseer A Ganai

Taking a walk on the banks of Dal Lake is a sign “of peace and normalcy” in Kashmir.” And promenade of tourists on the boulevard is assurance of peace. Last year Prinyanka Chopra’s forays in dusty Down Town too were construed as a symbol of peace. What followed the visit, we all know.

Death of people in road accidents is also a sign of peace. It is nothing but normalcy-related deaths, which is being given wide coverage. At the end of the year, they tell us that more people die in road accidents than militancy-related incidents. Hence normalcy has returned to Kashmir. Instead of doing something serious to stop road accidents, they seem to be busy to count the number of deaths and injured in road accident for the larger interest of peace and normalcy.

In broad day light, a man was shot dead in the Lal Chowk. But authorities proudly declared it as normalcy-related death. Means, in times of normalcy a civilian can be shot dead near press enclave, few meters away from police gypsy.
The State Government, Central Government and its scores of agencies have been over the years so obsessed with their own definition of normalcy and peace that they do everything under the sky to ensure their “peace” prevails.

The Section 144 has been in force for years on the Srinagar streets and elsewhere to ensure that more than five people do not assemble. The Government fears that any assembly other than J&K Assembly is not healthy for democracy. The assembly of people has potential to infect democracy and there are chances of it getting diarrhea. That will make the whole democratic journey a long one given the condition of our roads and scarcity of loo’s along the highways.

So, for smooth running of democracy only selected-cum-‘elected’ members of the State Assembly should assemble in the House to talk about their own household matters. They usually talk about where their children should get placement and who else should get selected through recruitment agencies. They also discuss matters like which contractor should get which contract and which rich person should get land under Roshni.
And once they conclude the important session, the media announces that the Assembly functioned smoothly. And a number of bills were passed for the benefit of society including bill to increase salary of sitting and former legislators.
The bill, the radio newsreader says, was passed after a long debate in which the learned legislators stated that as long as legislators get fairly good amount of salary, there will be less chances of corruption in the society. Society means MLAs, MLCs, their daughters and sons, bureaucrats and their chamchas. Now the society also includes panchs and sarpanchs. Peace depends upon the wealth of ‘society’.

For people other than ‘society’, there are laws, big eyes, ears and long hands of the State.
The State authorities keep big eye on everyone who writes on Facebook. And it is all ears to who talks what and with whom on mobile. Their peace seems so fragile that they think it will be in tatters if someone posts something on his Facebook wall.

They fear that peace would go extinct in Kashmir if a boy tells his girlfriend on phone that he has lost peace of mind since she has started dating another boy. And that he would do anything to stop her another date. They think his activity could be a potential threat to peace and stability of Kashmir and in fact South Asia. And in order to ensure violence-free subcontinent they ensure he does not indulge in any stop-dating activity.
Thousands of people across the valley are craving for passport. However, the Government fears that once Kashmiri youth would get the passport, they will directly land either in Gulf or in any Western Country. There, they think, they will get audience of Amir-e-Qatar who will hug them and criticise India on human rights.

The state Government fears that in the United States of America, once Anjelina Joli will look at Kashmiri boy she will abruptly leave Brad Pitt and stay with him. She will then go for the campaign on Kashmir around the United States and get huge press coverage. In order to stop Angelina from falling for Kashmiri boy and taking up Kashmir cause, the Government prempts the whole plot by denying passport to the youth.
There are other fears. And they seem to be genuine in this age of technology. A 24-year old is being told that some 20 years ago his brother was militant and has died. This makes him ineligible for the passport. The thinking minds in the administration believe after getting passport, he would get direct access to the place where all dead are buried and then he will start talking to them. There are hundred percent chances that he might get information from the dead whether his brother got killed in genuine or fake encounter. Hence section 144.

However, the section that restricts the assembly of four people, has not prevented burglars to carry their worthy activities of robbing people during night. Even those residing in the Housing Colonies, conceived by illiterate land brokers with active support of learned clerks of SDA and SMC, complaint about surge in thefts and burglaries. The shopkeepers leave their shops in the evening as worried people praying for burglary-free nights ahead. People get depression by worrying about where to park their cars. Some have even sold their cars due to this worry. They fear if their car is stolen, where they will go to lodge a complaint.

At a time when police is busy in organising cricket matches and preparing ground for the big tournaments, there is no one with whom they could register a complaint about stolen cars. Not that by registering a complaint it will come back. But by registering an FIR there are chances of getting insurance money.

But peace in the cricket ground and the cricket has far greater significance than your complaint. It indicates that relations between the cricket playing kids and the organisers are at its best and it is an assurance to the world that it can sleep peacefully.

The State has arguments as well. The State authorities argue at length about arm-chair intellectuals, journalists and writers and accuse them of bringing abnormality to the State. They accuse them that they by their writings they ensure that situation should not remain peaceful in Jammu and Kashmir. They accuse the writers of being beneficiaries of the uncertain conditions in Kashmir. And they forget themselves.
It happens in places where state actors think that they are the state. They get the feeling that it is they who talk sense and all others are talking non-sense.

Nothing happens because of writers. Had writers been running the world, the United States and its billions of dollars should have preserved Iraq forever for the United States. So much was written on the American democracy in Iraq and the benefits of US soldiers patrolling the streets of Iraq, that too by the thousands of well-read, highly-educated writers on Iraq that the number of their write-ups exceeds population of Iraq. But that didn’t change perception on the ground in streets of Basra and Bagdhad.

Same is the case of Afghanistan. There is so much written material available on benefits of America's Afghan war for Afghans that if it is burnt in the streets of Kabul, it is suffice for Afghans to roost chickens on it for next ten years. But that didn’t change anything. The reality and perceptions of the people don’t change by writings, articles and Facebook posts. In a place where scars are deep, hearts are wounded and mind is in tumultuous State due to injuries and insults, write ups, articles, don’t matter. The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah didn’t quote write-ups in the State Assembly to say that Kashmir is an international dispute. He quoted historical facts. And historical facts don’t change by indulging in frivolous activities. It is the time to talk about resolution of what Omar referred to "an international issue" instead of finding normalcy in accident-related deaths.