Kashmir: insensitive Indian polity

Definitely, Indian parliamentarians need to be credited for raising their voice in support of farmers’ agitation in Uttar Pradesh and against the state government led by Chief Minister Mayawati. Death of three farmers in police firing at Tappal, near Aligarh, on August 15 naturally gave concerned legislators substantial political fuel to make noise in both houses of Parliament the following day. They have raised certain valid points. The agitating farmers are not satisfied with UP government’s compensation for the 5,665 hectares (56.65 sq km) land it is acquiring for the highway and five townships.

Facing strong political pressure, UP government is expected to increase compensation from Rs 449 per square metre to Rs 570 per square metre. The agitators, however, want compensation at par with what was paid to farmers in Noida, that is Rs 880 per square metre. The UP government has also agreed to increase the compensation to families of those killed from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh and of injured to Rs 2 lakh. The farmers, however, still remain agitated and politicians supporting them are apparently leaving no stones unturned to “help” them. While Samajwadi Party (SP) has demanded dismissal of Mayawati government, the BJP has blamed the chief minister as “anti-farmer” and “pro-builder.”  

Lately, the Parliament has also witnessed stormy scenes on legislators demanding an increase in their salaries. Certainly, the respected Members of Parliament have the right to raise their voice on what they feel concerned about. Democratically, as elected representatives of the people, it is also their duty to draw the government and the country’s attention to issues which disturb them: whether it is the farmers’ agitation in UP, their own grievance over their pay-packet or some other problem.

One, however, remains a little stunned at the strong alacrity and vehemence with which the respected legislators have raised their voice over these two issues. Certainly, politics aside, there is a humane angle to their expressing anger over the death of three farmers because of police firing in UP. But why has the same political spirit not been displayed regarding the civilian deaths in Jammu and Kashmir? More than 60 Kashmiris, mostly young boys and girls, have fallen victims to state-controlled bullets in Kashmir since June 11. What has silenced the humane approach regarding deaths in Kashmir, which has been displayed strongly by our politicians over farmers’ death in UP? Till date, it has not been clear whether the relatives of those killed in Kashmir are ever going to receive any compensation or not. What has prevented the elected representatives in raising their voice demanding explanation on this?

Certainly, some political noise regarding Kashmir was noted a day after the shoe was thrown at J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah by a suspended police officer. The shoe missed its target and landed on the ground, without hitting anybody. The security personnel quickly took away the shoe thrower and the Independence Day programme continued as scheduled. Though Abdullah decided to pardon the shoe-thrower, 15 officers were suspended for the security lapse which led the incident to take place. This draws attention to another, largely ignored angle of the present Kashmir crisis. Fifteen have been suspended for the shoe-throwing incident in which nobody was killed or injured. What action, if any, has been taken against those allegedly responsible for the deaths of more than 60 unarmed young Kashmiri protestors? What has led the respected members of Parliament to remain virtually silent over these aspects of Kashmir crisis? If the death of three farmers in UP and agitation over farmers not receiving due compensation could prompt the legislators to loudly voice their stand in the Parliament, why have they not been engaged in a similar move over more than 60 deaths in Kashmir?

In case of UP, the parliamentarians have lived up to their democratic and political obligations as well as duties well enough to earn considerable media coverage and also pressurise the state government to pay greater attention to the farmers’ protest. What has happened to their obligations and duties, democratically and in the national interest where Indian Kashmiris are concerned? After all, they are expected to pay some attention to the turmoil that Kashmiris have faced in the recent weeks? If they can spare time and use political strategy to demand a hike in their pay packets, surely they can voice some concern about problems being faced by Indian Kashmiris.

The hard truth is that sheer political interest, focusing on their own personal and political gains, have prompted them to make noise over the farmers’ agitation in UP and their own pay hike. Sadly, the Kashmir issue does not fit in the priorities of most legislators – personally, politically and/or even from the humanitarian angle. Constitutional obligations, duties as well as values that elected representatives are expected to give some importance are apparently preferred being ignored where Kashmiri Muslims’ grievances are concerned. This reflects a severe lacuna in Indian politics at the parliamentary level which must be taken care of before it is too late!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 September 2010 on page no. 14

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