Diary: Collective Crisis

by Tasavur Mushtaq

With each passing day, Kashmir is witnessing an increase in social crimes, particularly those against women and the elderly. If instances are investigated, they are not only varied but more complicated in nature. The last and the latest crime gazette released by Jammu and Kashmir Police in January 2022 reveals there is an increase of 15.41 per cent in total registration of criminal cases in the year 2020 over 2019.

Melon “Murder”

An elderly citizen was attacked by a fruit seller in the Qamarwari market of Srinagar after he refused to purchase an unripe watermelon in April 2022.

In the midst of the afternoon, an elderly person cycled out of his home in the Qamarwari area of Srinagar to offer prayers and make purchases. Once done with Namaz, he went to the market. Ramzan being the peak time for watermelon in the Kashmir, the old man stopped by a roadside fruit seller, a young boy. The routine conversation of rate ended to check the ripeness. As the vendor sliced the melon, the inside portion was not inviting. He asked for another piece, to which as per the reports, the vendor declined.

Not interested to carry the sliced one, the old man peddled his cycle to see some other option. But before his force could overcome the friction, the young seller followed him and tapped his back. As the old man looked back, the angry teenage seller attacked his vital organs with a sharp-edged knife. Unmoved, he left him bleeding on the spot, possibly dying. As told later by the family, the old man was writhing in pain, bleeding profusely, but nobody came to his help.

Moments later, a young girl had a pass through the area and was shocked to see her grandfather in a poll of blood. Without thinking, she bundled him in an auto and reached the hospital. The old man is fighting a battle for his life, unconsciously. His fault, as reported is, just asking for a better piece of watermelon.

Acid Attack

Acid Attacks devour the individuality and the identity of a woman and push her to live her life in the shadows. KL artwork: Kaisar Malik

In a span of four months, two girls in Kashmir were acid attacked. One in Shopian (October 2021), another in Srinagar (February 2022).

In Shopian, an attacker came around the afternoon and attacked an 18-year-old girl with acid. Her hands, face, feet and shoulders were burnt. The case was filed, the attacker was later arrested and the victim is hoping to have some healing. She has already undergone five surgeries to regain her face and skin. However, doctors have told her poor father that it may take around two years to complete the treatment. A poor man struggling to survive is fighting this battle, renting accommodation in Srinagar for her treatment. As per him, his only source of income is Rs 400 a month from the government school where he is working since 1995.  A mass donation message helped the family to a large extent, but the deposits have depleted and the family is again struggling.

In Srinagar, it was evening. The February sun was almost going down when an attacker came and threw acid on a 24-year-old girl. Earlier reports revealed that the accused threw acid on the victim over the rejection of his engagement proposal. Later, what the family told was that the two were engaged and the attacker was demanding gold and cash from her, over which the engagement was broken.

Reason one or two or many, but the point remains, the girl is fighting a battle of her life. With moral and money support emerging from every corner, the battle at the end remains at the individual level.

The Concern     

As witnessed, the cases reported over the last few years are complicated. From stabbing an old man in Srinagar to kidnapping and raping a girl in South Kashmir, the societal scenario is revealing a grim situation. On one side, a relative in the neighbourhood is giving the sedative to a girl and assaulting her, while in another part, the brother hatched a conspiracy to kill his sister, a would-be bride, for grabbing her property and gold. He strangulated her just a day before marriage and manipulated the incident as a case of “suicide”.

Day in and out, we witness crime occurrences. From politics to poverty, there are different reasons being told for the paradigm shift. But, no rationale can be enough validation for committing a crime.

This all begins in a family and later shifts to society. The conditions, in which we are, becomes a catalyst for crimes. While we live in a fancy world of fighting our images virtually, reality laughs at us. Continuing in the world of excuses and denials, we seem to be lost in our own fantasies resulting in fatalities.

The onus lies on individuals and intuitions, to step in and stop. An intervention at all levels can somehow help to heal.

Tail Piece

In Kashmir, the crime scenario has undergone a huge shift and increasing instrumentally, both organised and unorganised. This trend has far-reaching consequences for the social fabric of society.  In cases, when the criminals are brought to book, the justice system lets them off on bail. What is more, required of us to rethink and rebuild? It is time to put on our thinking caps and seriously ponder over these questions before crimes take over our conscience completely.

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