Multiple Attack On Mirwaiz Umar Farooq And The Silence

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Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of moderate faction of Hurriyat conference was attacked by right wing Hindutwa forces three times in five days. On November 25th, he was heckled, roughed up and punched in the face by the activists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad while speaking in a conference in Chandigarh.

The attack was followed by another by the members of Bhartiya Janta Party on November 28th in Kolkata while he went to attend a seminar on Kashmir. But then, the worst of the attacks came on November 30th in Delhi, the national capital, when his vehicle was attacked by members of Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha and some Kashmiri Pandits when he was going to address a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC).

Needless is to say that the organisers of all these meetings, press conferences and seminars had all necessary permissions and approvals to hold them.

Sadly, the very fact that these attacks came in the middle of the ongoing peace process in Jammu and Kashmir, despite being disturbing in it, is not all about them. The disquieting reality of participation of the right wing Hindutwa organisations in all of them coupled with the delayed response of the police and other security forces betrays the fact that the attacks were premeditated and not spontaneous reactions to ‘anti-India’ speeches made by the Hurriyat leader.

Further, the stoic silence maintained by the government of India and its reluctance to punish those behind the attacks exposes its step motherly treatment of Kashmir and its leaders. The only response to the attacks came in the form of a joint condemnation issued by the three interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir appointed by the Government of India. They derided the attacks as ‘a violation of our democratic norms to attempt to silence the voices of dissent in Jammu and Kashmir, and a gross violation of the rule of law to use violence against individuals participating in seminars’.

The interlocutors too, however, stopped short of asking for any concrete action against perpetrators of these violent and criminal attacks. So did the mainstream political parties. This was not the end though. The worst was yet to come and it came from none other than Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who rubbished the attack saying ‘these do not deserve a reaction”. He added insult to the injury by asserting that the attacks were “a reaction to Hurriyat's politics and policies."

One can just marvel at the polar difference between the observations of the interlocutors for peace in Jammu and Kashmir, with no powers more than that of condemning such attacks and appealing for peace, and the ‘constitutionally elected’ chief minister of the state, responsible for ensuring rule and law in the state.

The statement, in a sense, reflects not only the personal (or political or both) views of the chief minister of a state that has yet not recovered from the grief of killings of more than 100 protestors, most of them teen agers, by security forces which are ostensibly there to protect the very people. The statement reflects the general apathy of ‘Indians’ towards Kashmiris. This is an apathy shown by the victors towards the vanquished.

By what other logic can Government of India maintain such an unbreakable silence towards violent attacks on one of its own citizen (Kashmir, even if disputed, is yet a part of India) doing nothing more than attending seminars and press conferences expressing his views. Is not the right to freedom of expression, including the right to protest using peaceful and democratic means, a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of India?

By what other logic can government of India let the perpetrators of such attacks go scot free? Seemingly it has abdicated its constitutional mandate of ensuring rule of law and protecting citizens in favour of some religious fanatic hoodlums. The government could have beefed up the security for the Hurriyat leader at least after the first attack if that was not the case.

It is high time that the government of India wakes up from its slumber and pulls its acts together. It would do well by cracking down on those attacking democratic gatherings with impunity repeatedly and bring them to books. Only that can restore its credibility as being serious for resolving Jammu and Kashmir issue by constitutional and democratic means.

Till it does that, the attacks have shown that the consensus arrived at all party meet in the wake of protests in Jammu and Kashmir that "Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations" was nothing more than empty rhetoric bereft of any meaning.