This is further maintained by the fact that scores of Kashmiris are still in jails in India, being either booked under spurious and arbitrary charges such as sedition or having been booked under the infamous Public Safety Act which has been termed as a ‘lawless law’ by the Amnesty International.
The idea of justice has been time and again violated by India in Kashmir. India portrays its actions as those of a protector and sustainer of the people and, in reality, does the stark opposite. It is not a hidden fact that India’s policy of doing injustice with, instilling fear in and intimidating the minorities and the under-privileged is permanent, or has been so for the past 67 years. A lot can be written about this but only one aspect is being discussed here.
The rules or parameters for humane intervention and compassion from the Indian state dramatically change as soon as the case involves a Kashmiri or, in general, a Muslim. This is evident from the fact that politicians across the spectrum root for mercy for convicts who have been languishing in different Indian jails for many years, citing humanity and compassion as reasons. But when it was the case of Afzal Guru, whose mercy petition came for consideration to three successive presidents of India, it was vehemently opposed and media rooms were always full of people condemning him and ruling out any signs of compassion being shown to him.
The fact at the root of all this is that the Indian state always uses a Kashmiri to show the masses that the state is ensuring their safety by giving a ‘befitting reply’ to the terrorists and those ‘compromising the territorial integrity of the motherland’. In such cases, a Kashmiri is always shown as the other and someone conspiring with the enemy. This is further maintained by the fact that scores of Kashmiris are still in jails in India, being either booked under spurious and arbitrary charges such as sedition or having been booked under the infamous Public Safety Act which has been termed as a ‘lawless law’ by the Amnesty International. And in other cases, involving Indians – civilians or politicians – the calls for compassion come even for hardcore criminals like the rapist-murderer Dhananjoy Chatterjee and even the killers of Indira Gandhi. “If she (Sonia Gandhi) was compassionate, why did she not make such a demand for Satwant Singh, who killed Indira Gandhi or for Dhananjay Chatterjee, who kept begging for mercy for 20 years?” Subramaniam Swamy recently said, commenting on the respite given by the Supreme Court to the conspirators of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
The recent decision by the Tamil Nadu state government ordering the release of four men convicted of conspiring the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi points to another factor in this play of injustice. This was preceded by India’s top court ruling to commute the death penalty of the convicts to life sentence. Ironically, this decision of the Tamil Nadu government was welcomed by the same politicians in the name of ‘death penalty is barbaric’ who did not even once speak out for clemency (or justice!) for Afzal Guru or the people who signed the black warrant of Maqbool Butt. It could be argued that staying for 23 years in prison, waiting for the death penalty to be enacted, makes a case for release on compassionate grounds and could give the impression of a compassionate ‘collective conscience’ of India. But, on the other hand, the flimsy grounds on which Afzal Guru was handed the death penalty to satisfy this very ‘collective conscience’ and the way in which many people celebrated his execution does paint an entirely different story. While the legislators of different states can move resolutions in favour of clemency to convicts from their states, the legislators from Kashmir have to be more loyal than the king in this regard as they cannot even move a resolution seeking the mortal remains of those hanged, not to speak of a resolution seeking clemency. Considering all this, it will not be an overstatement to say that the anti-terrorist or the security policy of a particular government of India is showed off in terms of how inhumanly it has treated Kashmiris in particular and the Muslims of India in general.
When the state sees over a massacre of a minority community in 1984, or in 2002, and stands a mute spectator to violence against minorities in 1992 or 2013, it is not an attack on the soul of democracy, it is not an attack on the collective conscience of the nation; but when a Kashmiri is subjected to a judicially approved murder, it is hailed as an antidote to save the collective conscience of the nation. An organisation of Muslim students gets banned and branded as a terrorist organisation, immediately after an unrelated terrorist attack in the USA, and the ban is reimposed by the state despite being deemed illegal by the courts. On the other hand, even after the role of the extremist Hindutva parties in terror attacks has been established, the state is ever so reluctant to ban them. The whole lot of what Muslims in India get is a ‘minority cell’ in a political party, which has the job of making sure the presence of burka-clad women and skull-cap wearing men at the party rallies. And if the party does indeed come into power, a ‘minority affairs’ ministry is a sure-shot, which has the job of computerising some wakf-boards and publishing reports on the dismal affairs of the minorities in India which never get implemented.
All these facts point towards an anti-Muslim or more prominently anti-Kashmiri sentiment in the popular, decisive discourse when it comes to justice delivery. India has a lot to do to rightfully lay claim on being a Secular, Democratic Republic.