It is about accountability not individuals

Naeem Akhtar

The crisis caused by the presentation of what Justice Kirmani of J&K High Court had called a Shame List, in the legislative Assembly by Muzaffar Hussein Beig is not about the names mentioned in it alone. It actually underlines a larger malaise that our state has been afflicted with, thanks to the policies of New Delhi.
The issue is reluctance of New Delhi to trust the people of the state either with their will or with institutions of the state be they at the local or the union level. The CBI investigation into the shameful incidents of exploitation of Kashmiri girls was a victim of the same mindset. Don’t go any further when some particular names cropped up. That is why Justice Kirmani wanted the shame list investigated under the supervision of the High Court.
No justice or rule of law when it comes to Kashmir. Protection of national interest comes first. And therefore cover up. Whether it is imprisonment of Sheikh Abdullah, without doubt the most popular Kashmiri of his time, his dismissal as prime minister or his reinstatement as a virtual prisoner of diverse interests, 22 years later without a single MLA of his party New Delhi has done it always.
When it came to democracy we were at the tail end of priorities. Election Commission of India might have carved out a place of distinction as a fair, honest and credible institution world wide, but in J&K it was tasked differently. It had to guard national interest stooges more than the ballot paper or the faith of people who opted for India in search of democratic institutions and in the face of more tempting choice. 1987 electoral fraud proved the last straw on the camel’s back and sufferings only increased for us.
Same is the case of the state’s constitutional relationship with the Union. None of its original elements is even recognisable. Through every accord, whether in 1952, 1975 or 1986, we have been stripped of powers, resources and dignity and no prizes for saying who the signatory from the state was. The historical role was always the privilege of the national conference.
On the Barkha Dutt show the previous night Farooq Abdullah broke into tears which reminded the viewers of a similar outburst of emotions on his swearing in the umpteenth time in 1996. This time he dedicated the valuable drops for his son instead of the country. Quite understandable because he was by his mere reputation a more eminent claimant to the distinction than his son. Everyone here knows who institutionalised the sale and purchase of government jobs as a commodity in the state and how innocent girls were baited into sex rackets. Dr. Abdullah deserved the Oscar for that.
The Division Bench judgement in the stinking scandal is not the only one the state has ignored. What happens to the almost daily orders of judicial relief in favour of the hundreds of PSA and other prisoners who are being rounded up as if to celebrate the “victory” of NC which had promised to empty the jails within one week of assuming power? National interest or National Conference interest, the two have become virtually inseparable.
Though very current, the Shopian atrocity has already become almost a legendry instance of the institutional breakdown in Kashmir. Again the national interest was sought to be served by refusing as much as to register an FIR for ten days. Entire Kashmir had to strike work, a few hundred to suffer injuries, some to lose life and the prime minister make a commitment from a foreign land. All to say justice would be done in what Omar Abdullah after “learning his lessons” called “an ordinary crime”.
But “national interest institutions” here are too hard a nut even for a prime ministerial commitment. It was not till the Chief Justice took it upon himself to monitor the case and reach out to people of Shopian that some action was taken. They might still have been striking work otherwise. And those who demanded the registration of an FIR and a fair investigation are meanwhile increasingly becoming a “threat” to national interest in spite of their mandate and being part of the system.
Shopian in fact provided the immediate context to Muzaffar Beig’s reference to the sex scandal and the suspect list that was cold stored when names of “sensitive” nature cropped up. The story is same as it was in the immediate wake of independence in 1947 when dissidents like the venerable Moulvi Yousuf Shah and Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas were forcibly exiled across the LOC, radio sets were “arrested” and anti national conference elements like Prem Nath Bazaz externed.
But things have changed since then. People have an alternative to the monopolistic hegemony of national conference. The arithmetical combination that the present government has in the lower house does not reflect in any manner the aspirations of the people. The combination must take note of the ground realities and the unrest.
Institutions must be allowed to function as they are doing in other parts of the country and not muzzled in the name of stability or national interest. Those demanding a fair treatment for the people of the state cannot be beaten into silence with that overused weapon of separatist tag for ever. That is the message from the PDP to the self appointed guardians of national interest as well as the “third umpires” in TV studios crying danger to national integrity or stability whatever suits the occasion. History will adjudge them GUILTY MEN and WOMEN of the country and this state and not those seeking justice and resisting cover-ups. J&K’s fledgling democracy needs more democracy to stabilize and not the stifling regulations or danda man to monitor it. It can survive only in the din and chaos that marks the parliament and other assemblies and not in an atmosphere where in the words of Iqbal “Yeh Dastoor e zubaan bandi hai kaisa teri mehfil mein: yahan toa baat karne ko tarasti hai zubaan meri”.
(The writer is the chief spokesman of PDP)

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