Selectively Virtuous

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If you’re in Lal Chowk at any given time of the day, in the midst of the general commotion, you can often hear a voice on the loudspeaker slicing through the noise. “License plate number JK 123, please move your vehicle.” Shortly thereafter, a car is randomly picked up and towed away. Some say it’s a good step; it will make all those people who park illegally think twice before doing such a thing again. And so, through the cacophony of Lal Chowk sounds, one sound, that of the “legal loudspeaker” blares the righteous verdict onto the unsuspecting cars, their owners—and the general public.

Wouldn’t it be interesting though if such a loudspeaker existed for every time other illegal activities were taking place, not just in Lal Chowk, but throughout Kashmir? Those times when someone accepts cash under the table—imagine such a deal exposed publicly, over the loudspeaker, the minute it takes place. Those instances when someone is hired because he or she is a “friend of the employer”—in comes the loudspeaker, revealing perhaps a long tradition of similar employments, each sealed with a custom-made Sufaarish.

But in Kashmir, we’re unfortunately selectively virtuous. Pictures float on Facebook of “Kashmiri girls” smoking cigarettes, with comments underneath by young Kashmiri boys, expressing their utter disgust at what “Kashmir has come to,” perhaps typing these comments as they light one themselves. We hold events on World Earth Day, have environmental awareness campaigns, but leave a trail of trash once the event comes to a close.  The police officer would rather smash the side view mirror of the Maruti car driver, than blow his whistle at the Ambassador that sped past and nearly killed the pedestrian crossing the street. We complain about the beggar on the street corner who openly asks for your money, but not the salesman at the storefront who discreetly takes it by selling you a faulty item.

Some believe authorities have commissioned private tow truck companies to pick up illegally parked vehicles from Lal Chowk. If we actually took the time to go through the string of “illegal activities” taking place right under our noses on a daily basis, it might not be too farfetched to say that these trucks would have much better business than they do now. Perhaps what we need is just more loudspeakers, more trucks in different locations, each designated to publicly announce the illegal act underway. So many of us are just so quick to externalize every wrong we see. That it’s always the “other person” who would do such a thing, never us as individuals. Perhaps what we really need is to spend less time pointing that loudspeaker at someone else, and more time thinking about why it could be pointing at us, and what we can do to change that.   

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About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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