The administration has asserted that “only” 76 persons were killed in State forces action during the 2016 unrest. It added that 1059 people were arrested. These included 318 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA). These are startling figures but more astonishing and astounding is the administration’s assertion that “only” four people were killed in forces’ excesses. While these figures issued by the administration might be questionable in terms of accuracy but the singular theme that emerges from these numbers is that the administration views persons killed as mere statistics. Deaths and killings appear to be a numbers game for the administration.
Grist to the mill to this assessment is added by the administration’s use of a the qualifying word “only”. The inference that can be drawn here is that the administration is rather relieved that “only” 76 people were killed. From a broader and a comparative perspective, the assertion by the state and the qualifying word would elicit howls of horror and revulsion anywhere else in the world given the value wherein human life is held to be sacrosanct.
But, alas, in this part of the world, sensibilities have become so dulled and callousness elevated to such a pedestal that killings are seen to be a routine and a prosaic matter. The administration, it may be extrapolated here, has internalized this dynamic and state of affairs. An eloquent testimony to this internalization is the addendum by the administration that, “only four people were killed in forces excesses”. That makes them four murders at the hands of government forces. Will there be justice for these four to begin with?
While it’s not clear how the state defines “excesses”, but the obvious question that springs to mind is: what is the threshold of force for the administration? In fluid conditions of mass protests, how does the administration define and decide the application of fatal force? Moreover, if only four persons were killed on account of forces excesses, what about the 72 who were killed – if, for a moment, the administration’s version is taken at face value? Are they legitimate kills! Murderable citizens!
The administration essentially appears to be indulging in specious reasoning in an attempt to exonerate itself and whitewash the killings perhaps in order to stave off potential legal challenges and political controversies. Having an almost Foucaldian resonance, the administration’s assertions cannot and should detract from the fact that more than 90 people had their lives snuffed out. This constitutes an epic tragedy which can neither be obscured by the administration’s semantic or discursive jugglery nor its statistical casuistry. Will this be acceptable or passable anywhere else?