Thursday, October 1, 2009

The K-Word and a House in Disorder

The K-Word and a House in Disorder
By Saeed Naqvi
Dated: 10.07.2009

With Shopian, Kupwara and Baramula blowing up in our faces in Kashmir, two broad attitudes dictate themselves: (a) this sort of thing keeps happening in Kashmir and (b) we have to start putting our house in order because Kashmir will acquire a profile after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit even though the “K” word will be shrouded in confidentiality.

Let us pick up the narrative from Shopian, a small town with a population of 60,000 in Pulwara District of Southern Kashmir.

It has always been an intellectually alert town. Long years ago a friend of mine Shamim Ahmad Shamin, a proud Shopiani, edited a lively newspaper. Aaina or Mirror.

After the liberal politics of people like Shamim came to an end, the political space has been occupied by leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami like Maulana Mohammad Amin Shopiani and Maulana Ahrar Shopiani.

This is the setting in which the recent drama was played out.

In Kashmir, as elsewhere in India, an unstated caste structure operates. Nilofer, daughter of a high caste Saiyid or a Pir, fell in love with Shakeel Mir, a small businessman, of a lower caste than the Pirs. The Pirs disowned Nilofer.

On May 29, Nilofer and her sister-in-law, Aasiya, went out to tend the family fields adjacent to a river. The route they took was through the civil lines with a regular CRPF camp on one side of the road and a Special Operations Group on the other. The police station is nearby. An unnamed witnessed saw them return not by the regular bridge but trying to balance on temporarily assembled logs, a sort of short cut. At this stage the narrative enters the arena of speculations, allegations, possible political manipulation.

When Nilofer and Aasiya did not return home, Shakeel reported the matter to the police Nilofer’s body was found on a small island created in the river by the water having receded. Her clothes were allegedly torn and there appeared to have been a scuffle. Descriptions of Aasiya’s body – as alleged – were even more gruesome. Her body, found further down the river, was stark naked.

There are allegations aglore, mostly against the police: they sent the bodies immediately to the hospital for post mortem, they did not secure the scene of crime/mishap for on-the-spot inquiries; post mortem was conducted by doctors on temporary duty; Chief Minister Omar Abdullah absolved the police on the basis of this spurious post mortem; The SSP admitted he got involved in the case late because he was busy with his gymnasium exercises!

Later, the Muzaffar Jan Commission established rape and the whole set of police officers were suspended.

In Kupwara a girl of class 12 was raped and killed. In Shirin village near Baramula a similar incident occurred.

Trouble initially seems to begin with the predominantly Kashmir Muslim police. When crowds are not mollified, the CRPF is called out facilitating slogans of Indian “occupation”.

All these eruptions are manifestations of Political and Administrative failure in Kashmir. Suddenly all the promise reposed in Omar Abdullah appears to have dissipated in the space of a month.

Then Kashmiris are very aware of the fact that of the six months as Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah has spent 38 days in New Delhi!

The President of NC, Farooq Abdullah, is in the Union Cabinet, not in Kashmir. Worse, even his supporters are unhappy with his portfolio. Renewable energy is not a term his constituents know about. They call it “Gobar” or “Dung” Ministry.

The other day he was flailing his arms and complaining to his friends. “They think I have been insulted” he lamented. “They call me Minister of Gobar”. “These fools do not know that R.K. Pachauri won the Noble Prize generating power from Cow Dung!”

Even though there is no durable power center in Pakistan with whom a long term theme can be developed, the hot-house atmosphere in which Kashmiris live will be relieved with any resumption of a dialogue.

Alienation from the political class, army, CRPF, Police and the local bureaucracy is complete: a quick, band – aid, solution could well be a military adviser to Omar Abdullah. By all accounts an army officer who won the hearts and minds was the former Corp Commander in Kashmir, Lt. Gen. Patankar, currently with a New Delhi think tank.

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