What is the result of clamping down on the rights of the people?
I am currently reading Curfewed Night, a book by Basharat Peer. The book is the author’s memoir and reportage of life and conflicts in Kashmir. Last night, I read part 2, chapter 13 of the book; Price of Life.
In the chapter, the author wrote about the death of people framed and accused to be militants. These accused innocent men and youths would be shot at and sometimes, would be forced to go into fields full of mines, just so they will be killed by the explosion.
The Indian government then offered families of innocent Kashmiri’s conflict casualties a hundred thousand rupees, plus a low-level government job to anyone of the family members. This is seen more as an insult than an act of sympathy. But more often than not, the hardship, bleak future and abject poverty forced the Kashmiri to accept the offer, even though they thought it was unethical. They accepted the official price of their loved ones’ death just so they can move on with their lives.
It is interesting to note that the offer was taken up by parents and wives, the sections in the community who had to take care of other family members. These people forwent their honour so that they can feed their remaining loved ones.
However, the same cannot be said of the disgruntled youths. When their friends or relatives were blown up by the Indian army, their world shut down. They were robbed of everything dear to them. They had nothing else to live for but everything to die for.
To these men, life has no price. No amount of money could buy their loved ones back; the rupees could not buy their submission to the Indian authority in Kashmir.
Instead of money, these mourning lads found comfort in the company of militants. The militants exploited the sufferings of the people and sent them to fight the Indian army. Thus thee wars in Kashmir were perpetuated.
I thought about the distraught mothers, wailing wives and broken fathers; I could not imagine the excruciating emotional pain of having to accept compensation offered by the government. How hard it must be to accept that one of your kin has died for a hundred thousand rupees and a piecemeal job with the bureaucrats.
I then thought about the numbness of youths who signed themselves up with militant groups. The abject hopelessness and frustration; the anger and disappointment that had taken control of their lives.
All because the Indian government decided it was best to come down hard on these suffering Kashmiri rather than to pay attention to their plight.
The perpetuation of the militancy movement in the Kashmir conflict offers an inference. A movement on a mission or fight for change does not cease upon the crackdown on its key players or those affiliated with them. On the contrary, attacks on participants resulted in other participants becoming more determined to fight; it even attracted new participants.
Dissatisfaction over oppression is a powerful and uniting factor for people who share in the movement’s cause. To a certain extent, it is a unity forged by blood and sweat. As such, it is able to withstand challenges.
With power and authority, comes responsibility. It is never a wise move to come down hard on a movement. The more the government tries to suppress it, the more it will go out of control. Instead of defusing it, the clampdown on a movement may well turn to be the inspiring lifeline for those who share the ideologies of civil disobedience. What more if the aim of such civil disobedience is to see a change for a better system.
We all have the right to do what we think is best for us, as long as the right is exercised in a lawful manner. However, everything has its own price, even our rights have a price tag.
Intimidation and detention without trial may well be the price for exercising the right to disobey the authorities a civilised manner. The pain of paying the price cannot be compared to the priceless end objective, which is a change that will benefit all the stakeholders of the nation.
The power that be loses if it shuts its ear and dismiss the movement’s cry. And it is a price that any responsible government should not be willing to pay: losing the confidence of the electorates.