Stories of demons who require a human sacrifice as appeasement are rather commonplace. Classically, the wailing ‘helpless’ terrorized population meekly submits one of its members to the monster at specified intervals. The sacrifice, though mourned, becomes a matter of fact occurrence. The people of Kashmir too have to offer this bizarre fealty from time to time, which seems to have become an unwritten clause in their contrived allegiance to India.
Every time there is a killing, the oft repeated script plays itself out: people protest, hartals and bandhs bring life to a standstill, and the mentally and morally challenged political leadership makes inane noises, or tries to score some brownie points out of the event depending upon whether the politicians belong to the treasury or the opposition benches. The separatist leadership is also temporarily stirred out of its hibernation and manages to come up with some clichéd comments on the latest episode of killing. Enquiry commissions are set up by the authorities as a routine exercise and as routinely rejected summarily by the populace. The anger is quarantined by means of curfews which are gradually tapered off as public anger gets exhausted. Life limps back to normal, and then even the limp is forgotten as the pace of routine life asserts itself. Till the next killing.
The pattern of these killings has remained unchanged and there is nothing surprising about that, considering that these are an attempt at containing any aspirations that the local population has. What is surprising, however, is that the reaction to these killings too has remained unchanged. The only change there is, perhaps, is that over the time there has been a perceptible attenuation of the reaction. More often than not the reaction is now a more localized phenomenon. This speaks of the effectiveness of the measures that the authoritarian state has evolved over time, but at some level it is also indicative of the fatigue of the local population which in turn is yet another manifestation of the success of authoritarianism. The unchanging nature of the reaction is quite unfortunate though and that too has contributed to its attenuation.
Of course there is not much that can be done about these killings per se but at least the response of the general public could have evolved to deal in a better manner with the aftermath. Like for instance, a system could have been established to help the families who lose their loved ones in this brutal manner, to deal with their trauma. These families, catapulted momentarily into the discourse by tragedy, are forgotten all too soon. The pictures and heart-rending details of these shattered families make it to the front pages for a few days after the killing, and then they are left alone to deal with their grief as well as their indigent conditions. This callous attitude is ultimately a bigger tragedy than the killing itself. The suffering families will understandably harbour feelings of anger towards the perpetrators of their tragedy, but their feelings towards the callous attitude of the society are bound to be much more complicated and confused.
It would be easy to blame the ‘leaders’ as usual but this indifferent attitude speaks more of the failure of our community as a whole. Shared pain is not only healing in itself but also elevates a people to a higher plane and makes them a more mature and noble community. This requires selflessness which seems to be completely missing in the Kashmiri population. A selfish approach on part of a population which takes no share in the grief ensures that this grief remains compartmentalized which leads to disillusionment and fragmentation which in turn ultimately leads to dissolution. Such a people are condemned to exist as a collective of selfish individuals rather than a collective whole, and it shouldn’t be surprising at all if they cannot face up to their tormentors. The common refrain in Kashmir is that the ‘civilized’ world has remained a mute spectator to the miseries and atrocities inflicted here. That may be true, but then, it is equally true that the Kashmiri people themselves present a miserable picture when it comes to helping and assisting their own in times of loss, grief and suffering. Not to talk of gaining sympathy, this behaviour is more likely to invite contempt.
Revisiting the demon-to-be-appeased story that we began with, the ‘helpless’ voluntary offering of a sacrifice to the monster is in fact a selfish gesture by a community. Each time it offers a hapless individual as sacrifice, it does so just to buy time, to gain some miserable years of life for the rest of the population till it is their turn to be the ‘offering.’ The analogy is quite befitting so far as the Kashmiri nation is concerned.