It was irresponsible to expose the victim to public glare and this cannot be left unaccountable
It is distressing to see how some politically motivated groups that believe in and endorse violent political movements all over India are hell-bent on seriously vitiating the already volatile atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley, which was fuelled this time by the condemnable acts of killing civilians by the armed force personnel.
The killing of the civilians who were not even protesting should have been avoided on all costs. The security personnel involved should be promptly investigated and prosecuted.
Even more distressing is the fact that instead of focusing on bringing the miscreants (who spread the false rumour) and the culpable army personnel and police officials who killed civilians to book, the above-mentioned parties have chosen to cynically use these tragic incidents to press their partisan case for “azadi” over the bodies of innocent Kashmiris.
The issue of Kashmir is political in nature and can only be resolved by political means. Pretending to substitute strategic work, which is required for a large political goal like “azadi”, by politics over deaths of Kashmiri civilians is an act of deceit.
The use of tragic deaths to resolve deep-rooted political problems amounts to nothing more than political blackmail. Besides, no one who understands the complexities of Kashmir as a political issue would expect any resolution of the issue, or even delivery of justice to those wronged, by a politicisation of the killings.
|The issue of Kashmir is political in nature and can only be resolved by political means.|
Had that been the case, the issue of Kashmir would have been settled long back, as many civilians have been killed. Maturity and objectivity is needed and should be stressed by all the actors involved, such that people are not pushed further into the unending cycle of violence that has led to an irreversible damage for decades now.
The complexity of the Kashmir issue is a fact. However, we are deeply and seriously concerned that a minor girl caught in the centre of this imbroglio has, for no fault of hers, except that she happened to be a Kashmiri (and also a female), been turned into a pawn to score some political points.
It is a cruel irony that many people claiming to represent the girl have been appropriating her ordeal for the larger political goal. If we all are genuinely concerned for the girl, we should not be speaking about her testimony in front of the chief judicial magistrate.
Instead we all should try to support her, irrespective of whether any sort of violation of her rights was done by armed personnel or the local boys. An attempt to bring the girl’s mother, who wasn’t even present at the scene and had no further facts to offer, was utterly foolish.
Making her testify to suit a particular version of the story is condemnable, especially knowing that it has every possibility to incite further violence. Also condemnable is the circulation of the video of the girl in police custody by someone, which, one may assume, was done to clear the air of rumours and prevent violence.
Whatever be the reasons, it was irresponsible to expose the girl to public glare and this cannot be left unaccountable. The demand of certain groups that the girl be released (to them) from the “custody of the state police”, which she was unwillingly dragged into in the first place by her accusers, is irrational.
We do not in the least believe that once the girl and her father are let out into the collective frenzy, the truth of the girl’s traumatic experience and her initial testimonies would be safe or would not become distorted under the collective pressure of a polity that only wants to see its own version of the events reflected in her new statement.
We are worried about the physical safety of the girl and her immediate family. We also think that it is best for the girl and her family that they be promptly shifted into the safekeeping of a non-partisan party, say a neutral NGO outside the Valley – either within Jammu and Kashmir or outside the state, according to the family’s wishes. This is imperative till the situation in the Valley cools down and the propensity for further bloodshed or rioting over the issue declines.
Though we believe that the girl could not be lying, we would rather pray that she is able to narrate her real ordeal without any pressure from any side. In many ways, through her initial statement that was leaked, or the reiteration later in front of a magistrate, she has ascertained the facts.
Based on these facts, the boys who threatened and manhandled her and are responsible for provoking public sentiment should be identified and held responsible for their irresponsible and condemnable act. We are more bothered about the innocent deaths and the life of the girl – her physical, mental, and emotional condition – than the politics behind it.
There have been cases of molestation being committed by the locals and armed personnel at various times in Kashmir. None of that should make us jump to conclusions or provoke us to violence.
We, as concerned Kashmiris, demand a few things, which include:
1. The state initiates a thorough investigation, which should be led by politically neutral individuals or those who are willing to keep political aims or beliefs aside for the sake of fairness.
2. Proper punishment is meted out to the culprits – the boys who beat up the Handwara girl and incited violence or the armed forces personnel who molested her (unlikely, but for the sake of fairness, it is not impossible), the person who circulated her video, and the armed forces personnel responsible for the killings.
3. The girl’s safety and privacy concerns are adequately addressed. Her family’s safety is ensured.
4. The girl is adequately compensated for the trauma and damage caused to her character.
We appeal to eminent people in and outside Kashmir and their respective fora to take up the case on the girl’s behalf and come forward to help her and her family find a temporary shelter outside the Valley. Continuation of the concerned girl’s education is another concern which needs to be addressed.
We hope people like Kailash Satyarthi (Nobel Prize winner and a great champion of child rights), Urvashi Butalia, and other leading and credible voices on human rights come forward to help the girl and her family.
1. Abrar Mustafa, self-employed.
2. Arshia Malik, teacher.
3. Ausifa Munshi, management professional.
4. Ifra, student.
5. Khalid Baig, entrepreneur.
6. Mushtaq Dar, sales executive.
7. Sabahat Malik, learning and development professional.
8. Sadaf Munshi, artist and academic.
9. Safeena Malik, homemaker.
10. Shafaq Shah, lawyer.
11. Shahid Hussain, procurement professional.
12. Shakir, environmental journalist.
13. Sualeh Keen, cultural critic.
14. Zainab Bin Shamim Imtiyaz, doctor.
15. Zeenat Nissa, women rights activist.