Guru’ Hanging: Power and Collective Conscience?

Guru’ Hanging: Power and Collective Conscience?

As Kashmir shuts on the fourth anniversary of Afzal Guru’s execution, it might be time to stock take and review the Government of India’s approach to Kashmir. Guru’s hanging can be held to be emblematic of this approach.  The hapless victim, for all intents and purposes, appeared to have been executed to serve larger political ends and political point scoring. The name given to this sordid politics was satisfying the ‘collective conscience ‘ of India. While it’s not clear what was meant by this phrase but the connotation that can be drawn here is that for the people in India Guru, implicated (falsely as many say) in the attacks on the Indian parliament, hanging needed some sort of a morbid closure on the issue or case. From an ethico-moral perspective, this reasoning does not make the people of India smelling of roses. What society would attain closure by bloodletting? But then this may be beside the point. The hanging, in the final analysis, was political and it was foisted upon the people of India in almost a make believe kind of morbid fantasy. The sad irony is that the people fell for it and accepted the reasons trotted out by powers that be uncritically –lock, stock and barrel. Guru became emblematic of the conflict in and over Kashmir and the ways adopted by the powers that be in dealing with the conflict. The operative word here is ‘dealing’. Essentially, the approach towards Kashmir- historically and contemporarily- instead of conflict resolution has been dealing with the fallout of the conflict. The same applies to the Guru’s hanging. The GoI then took and implemented the decision to hang Guru with apparently the premise that the fallout would be dealt with. Short termism is inherent in this approach but the more insidious consequence is that this approach renders the conflict in Kashmir more truculent and more intense. But again, the powers that be do not appear to care. The central assumption and premise appears to be power. That is, Kashmir can and will be dealt with power and the methodologies of power. And as long as India’s sovereign remit is maintained over Kashmir, the rest is mere detail. In essence, power is given precedence over people and their aspirations. This is best reflected in Guru’s hanging. What validated it further is the fact that the hapless victim’s mortal remains were not and continue to not to be returned to his family!

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