Condemnable, unacceptable
Published on April 11, 2017

Democracy is for the people not at the cost of their lives

April 09, 2017 would be remembered as an ugly chapter of Kashmir’s history. The day was supposed to be a day of celebrating democracy as people of Srinagar Parliamentary constituency were to elect a candidate who would represent them in the country’s highest temple of democracy – parliament. This democratic exercise was turned into a crude, cruel and killer joke as the armed forces opened fire at several places killing eight people turning a day of celebration into a day of mourning for entire Kashmir. One fails to find the appropriate words to condemn these killings.

Eight killings in a day, the day that was supposed to be the festival of democracy. Condemnable, unacceptable. Whatever explanations the state government comes forth it, nothing can justify these killings. Election is a democratic process and democracy is supposed to be for the people and not at the cost of the lives of the same people. All those killed were unarmed civilians. Agreed some of them may have been protesting violently (pelting stones) but how does that justify the bullets. Fact of the matter is that human life has lost all value in contemporary Kashmir. The governments, that be, have miserably failed to protect the lives of citizens. The memories of 2008, 2010 and the very recent 2016 are very fresh and these memories are a tragic reminder of the very fact that the police and other armed forces have been dealing with public protests with a counter-insurgency mindset of nineties. In nineties, these forces were face to face with armed militants and that had just two options – kill or get killed. But now the situation is different. They are being confronted by young boys armed with bricks and rocks. How can ‘the kill’ mindset be acceptable in such a scenario? It is tragic that despite all the killings in 2008, 2010 and 2016, neither the government nor its armed forces have learnt how to deal with public protests.

Government will undoubtedly come with the explanation that violent mobs attacked polling booths threatening the lives of polling staff and the armed men guarding the booths. Yes, these things happened. But a simple question – hadn’t government anticipated such a scenario. If yes, why it hadn’t taken proper measures to ensure nothing of the sort happens. There were not one or two stray incidents but as per reports almost at 130 places such violent protests were recorded. Such widespread protests on the sensitive day of polling are a clear indication of administrative collapse. Either government had no understanding of the ground or it took the things too easy. In both the cases, all blame rests on the government and the district administration. Only few days back, the administration was confronted with such a situation when in Chadoora people marched towards an encounter site resulting into three deaths. Having such a fresh memory, how could the administration not thought of violent protests in the wake of elections. It is high time that the government takes loss to human lives seriously and investigates the reasons behind this administrative collapse and those found guilty of negligence be brought to book. Though such a step will neither bring back the dead ones and nor provide any solace to their mourning families but it may help to ensure that no such incidents are repeated in the future.  

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