Handwara: Signboard of alienation

Views from Srinagar

From Kunan Poshpora to Handwara, from Pathribal to Machil, truth continues to be a casualty, as the state institutions continue to throw a veil over it.

Dr. Javid Iqbal

THE tragedy that unfolded in Handwara denotes a state of alienation, where varied incidents get related ultimately to the raging conflict in the state. The effort to work out parallel narratives, and sow doubts in the minds of masses continues. In the maze of parallel narratives the truth gets lost, as the state continues to breathe the burrowed breath. The resultant systemic sclerosis breeds alienation, a state of disconnect between state institutions and the masses. From Kunan Poshpora to Handwara, from Pathribal to Machil, truth continues to be a casualty, as the state institutions continue to throw a veil over it.
Overwhelming majority of JK State does not want to live in a state of political flux. Only the resolution that addresses the aspirations of people could ensure stability and security in the state. As the state refuses to see the writing on the wall, alienation compounds. The establishment continues to stay in state of denial. Though the state is the most militarized zone in the world, widespread presence of jackboots far from ensuring security breeds insecurity. The insecurity has left an indelible mark on hamlets across Pir Panchal. If it is extreme north of Kashmir on boil today, it could be south Kashmir tomorrow, downtown Srinagar a day later. Unrest in one part or the other is a daily occurrence, though precursor may vary. Quite often, it precipitates a major crisis, Handwara provides an example.
A soldier on duty allegedly taking the garb of a predator, as a minor girl enters a public utility clearly indicates that the man on duty stays ensured that come what may, he will not be prosecuted. He is AFSPA protected, from a tribe of specialized species, let loose on people of Kashmir to ensure obedience of state narrative. The state narrative seeks to contend the dominant sentiment. Getting back to Handwara case, the girl put in a different version later, however it is proving to be a difficult sell.
Initially the video went viral on social networking sites, later it was formally released by army. While police is handling the case, army releasing the video makes no sense. IGP Kashmir is on record with a disclaimer—police, he says has nothing to with the released video. Moreover the mother of the victim related to NDTV that her daughter is under police pressure.
Legal luminary—Zafar Shah takes exception to release of the video carrying the statement, recorded in police detention. Shah’s objection is based on girl being a minor hence her statement requires the presence and sanction of her parents. Two, the video seeks to make a witness of a victim, witness of a scene where some alleged miscreants precipitated a law and order situation resulting in loss of precious lives. Witness made of a victim changes the entire dimension of the case.
As the victim of alleged sexual advance, particularly where the girl is a minor, she has legal protection, as a witness, she will be judged in different context. Three, release of video by the army resulted in mass media trial, even before legal proceedings would judge the case on its merit. Yet again a parallel narrative sought to put a veil over whatever the nuances of truth might be. State more often than not seeks to rubbish the truth by building parallel narratives.
The mother of the victim seeking legal help to gain access to her detained daughter, the husband, and her sister has put a question mark on the parallel narrative, state seeks to project. Seeking legal help dents the police version of the girl and her family seeking police protection. Even if it is taken as true, is detention the only recourse of providing protection? Why cannot such a protection be provided in the quarters, she lives in with her parents? Parvez Imroz led legal team was initially denied access to mother of the girl by law and order authorities in Handwara.
The team had been arranged by coalition of civil society (CCS) after receiving the call from the mother of the girl. Legal aid is a right; hence denial amounts to infringement of rights. The infringement continued as police prevented holding of press conference by CCS, where mother of the victim was supposed to address the media in CCS headquarters. Recourse to state High Court has provided a reprieve.
Justice Muzzafar Hussain Attar has passed an order asking the police to declare law and authority behind detention of girl. Hon’ble court has also directed that detained persons be produced before the nearest court, and the minor girl may not be produced before print and electronic media. The matter has been listed for further consideration on April, the 20th. Judicial intervention though a right step could have all ingredients of the drag that has marked many such cases in the past.
Handwara is not an isolated event, in all its nuances it is related to what continues to haunt Kashmir over seven decades, a situation where in one incident after another state narrative clashes with the unaddressed dominant sentiment.
—Courtesy: Greater Kashmir
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
[Author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist]

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