The Case(s) of Selective Silence and Outrage: Notes on the Panzgam Civilian Killing

The Case(s) of Selective Silence and Outrage: Notes on  the Panzgam Civilian Killing

By Jamsheed Jameel
When the alleged attack on army base camp occurred in Uri last year, many were skeptical about possibility of such an attack (which seemed possible only with the intervention of a super hero). A similar incident happened at Panzgam where 4-5 major army installations exist within a distance of four kilometers. In this attack three army personnel and two militants died. The structural presence of security forces makes it almost impossible for any militant activity in the area considering the geographic terrain occupied by Indian army, in hills, forests and all routes that traverse through their gaze. What happened that early morning will remain a secret.
Later on, an elderly civilian was killed in cold blood. This, in Kashmir, is probably  in the nature of a “naturalized” level of  violence and human rights violation, where people no longer believe that an institutional inquiry will be initiated and justice will be dispensed.( Probably nobody would have gone to even file an FIR). Even if someone would have gone, there is systemic denial for such things as the police would need permission from MHA for the same under AFSPA. We are not concerned here with that aspect, but with a later revelation that the civilian who was killed, father of Indian Army soldier, was part of a group of people who were demanding the mortal remains of the two militants that were also killed the attack. Further,  the deceased had worked as a porter with army for 25 years.
Two important questions arise here. One, does joining the Indian army or per se Indian security forces make a Kashmiri Indian or at least do they pledge such allegiance. Two, why doesn’t such  an incident evoke the same reaction from Indian media or India when it comes to Kashmir while no stoned is left unturned if the same incident had happened with an Indian person.
In the year 2015, nearly 5000 young Kashmiris gathered for army recruitment  for 50 odd posts. Such were the conditions that the army had to lathi charge some of. Some media persons and intellectuals portrayed it as Kashmiri youth’s open declaration to India nationalism. But that is far from true. The case of Mohammad Bhat, 57, who was killed,  constitutes a supporting but tragic example. People say that he was there from the morning waiting for the dead bodies of militants not soldiers and some nearby people even say the whole day, he was murmuring ‘Yeme Kazi Chen Deva Asse Yeman Wapas’(why are they not giving us the bodies of Martyrs ). That precisely tells us the moral and political reality and practical necessity of people in a conflict situation where life is not about the choice but strategies of survival even when these go against foundational ethics and political morality of a person.  Those joining the Indian army have precisely the financial motives and may even join any army in world. This is neither a moral corruption nor an endorsement of any political allegiance by young Kashmiri. But the political choice is quite evident when a person chooses to stand behind the funeral of militants and not a soldier.
Another sad and tragic example from the recent past might be employed here for illustrative purposes- the case of Mohammad Akhlaq, the Muslim man lynched to death by an enraged mob for the mere suspicion of consuming beef.  When Akhlaq’s was lynched, the first response by the police was to send the meat sample for forensic laboratory rather than sending the dead body of the victim to post mortem. That is not something erroneous or derailment of standard procedures but a complacent state policy; a predicament of popular practice against religious excluded and untouchables of India i.e. Muslims and Dalits in connivance with the  corporate and state media.
When the buck stops at Kashmir, Kashmiris have to undergo the torment for being a Muslim and Kashmiri and  are symbolized as traitors and untrustworthy in the  Indian lexicon. When a soldier dies,  new frames are evoked in India showing the crying wife or little innocent children of soldiers. The popular impulse against such acts undermines any crimes that are committed by these soldiers and these tiny tears though valuable and sacred in their own way, cleanse them of all blood on their hands. But when the same army kills father of its own soldier, this can’t be part of  the discourse on Indian TV channels; the tears of their kith and kin will be shown. The reason is simple: this will expose the double standards and hypocrisy of  the Indian state and the media.
There are so many flimsy things happening in media where the experts hired on primetime shows seemingly are allowed to speak anything except truth. They are themselves conscious that if they speak truth, they will lose their job of speaking on TV shows. But when it comes to their private spheres, most of them have their natural impulses and are as normal as our people on streets who protest the Indian rule. Same is true with police or army personnel when on vacation they vehemently join the popular protests and glorify the courageous intervention of militants in Kashmir. But all of this changes nothing in  the pseudo polity of the Kashmir conflict because everything is made to mean a status quo and  no one seems to matter as an actor of change in structural assets of Indian State. It acts like a macrocosmic image of a factory where if all the laborers die of fatal accident, new laborers will replace them to keep the factory working.   Such a behavior is not abnormal but  an everyday form of life in protracted conflicts where no near time breakthrough solutions are visible. But this is part of everyday forms of resistance where the people who have a stake for example livelihood dependent on state, try tactics that are less visible. This dilemma forms part of political culture that is mainstreamed now in India while in Kashmir it is reactionary to Indian propaganda and mechanization.

—The author can be reached at: mirjamsheedjameel@gmail.com

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