Of Brazen Impunity

While the medicos of Kashmir are protesting against the alleged molestation bid on one of their colleagues by none less than a minister ruling over them, they might do well to take cognizance of a new clinical entity, that of Kashmir blindness. This is something which the Indian media definitely seems to be suffering from. In recent times the accusations of molestation against the Tehelka supremo Tarun Tejpal by a young lady journalist working for him and similar accusations against a former judge from Calcutta by a female intern made headlines and inspired numerous debates on the news channels. However when something similar came to pass in Kashmir the same news channels, which went hysterical in these two cases, only made a perfunctory mention of the incident. It is not the first time that this conspiracy of silence has been evident. In fact, it is the routine response of these channels in the Kashmir context. The moral indignation of the Indian public never materializes if an incident which would evoke general outrage if it were to happen elsewhere, occurs in Kashmir. It seems as if so far as the Indian media and the masses are concerned the whole valley of Kashmir is an outlawed place which does not come within the purview of law and justice. This attitude only confirms the feeling that the valley is indeed considered to be a vassal state or a colony by most Indians if not all.
The feeling is further reinforced by the impunity that everybody – the military and the paramilitary forces, the politicians and the bureaucrats – seem to be enjoying in Kashmir. The case of blatant murder by the armed forces, passing off the victims as dreaded terrorists, as happened in the Pathribal case, is closed by judges who are actually the perpetrators themselves. The Kunan Poshpora ‘collective’ rape never bothers the ‘collective conscience’ of the nation which poured on to the roads in support of Nirbhaya. Individuals involved in a sleazy sex racket in Kashmir find themselves not only exonerated but elevated to high public office.  Such is the level of impunity in the state that even as elections are just round the corner the coalition government goes all out to protect one of its ministers who allegedly makes a molestation bid on a lady doctor working in his department. Elsewhere such a brazen defense might not have been deemed desirable but in Kashmir the whole episode is treated as nothing more than a minor annoyance. Case upon case of collusion between corrupt ministers and corrupt bureaucrats has been coming to the fore but that has in no way dented the confidence, bordering on arrogance, which the political parties to which these ministers belong are demonstrating every other day. It seems that any and every scam in Kashmir is being interpreted as a return to normalcy and hence a welcome sign.
Take this latest outrage by a sitting Minister. While the state conveniently expressed its helplessness in tracing the minister, he finally emerged at his own chosen hour and had the temerity to insist upon the place of his appearance as well. Days after the supposed hunt for the fugitive minister remained apparently unfruitful he managed to appear only after managing anticipatory bail for himself. He went so far in his brazenness that as per news reports instead of surrendering himself immediately to the police he initially demanded that the investigating officer present himself at the circuit house. When that failed to materialize, he reportedly insisted on presenting himself at a place of his choice, the office of the SP south city as per news reports, and all the while the police personnel nervously and diffidently waited for him to relent instead of arresting him. Finally after five long hours the ‘honorable’ minister chose to present himself in full regalia to the concerned police station as if he were bestowing the honour of a visit on them rather than surrendering himself as an accused in a crime. The outcome of the whole episode is anybody’s guess and in any case it won’t matter even in the least because the instances of impunity are so commonplace in Kashmir that it has resulted in a state of apathy in the local population.
This impunity and consequent brazenness has come about because of the ‘special status’ that Kashmir enjoys which actually seems to be a euphemism for the ‘special status’ that anyone who plays a part in whatsoever capacity in keeping Kashmir securely bound to the rest of India enjoys. No wonder the accused minister flashed his ‘nationalism’ like a trump card while pleading his innocence and events so far have attested to the effectiveness of this trump card. As for any fallout of such an incident on the elections that is no problem. Accountability is not an issue in Kashmir because election results are always a predestined affair here. For, election in Kashmir is invariably a fixed match with the voters being mere extras – their role being mainly to provide a decorative background, like cheerleaders in a game of cricket.