Shameful politics

Kashmir Times. Dated: 4/11/2018 12:40:19 PM

The issues in focus for a bandh call are erroneously parochial and dangerously threaten to hamper peace, harmony

The call for Jammu bandh over three issues of Kathua rape and murder, Rohingyas and an alleged directive on eviction of nomads smacks of dangerously divisive tendencies. All the three main issues raised by the Jammu Bar Association which has given call for the bandh reflect parochialism and communal bias. Though call for bandhs coupled with employment of peaceful strategies during the strike are democratic rights of individuals and groups in the country, the provocative content of the charter of demands put forth by those calling for the strike equally determines the democratic or undemocratic nature of the agitationist mode. The Bar Association, which now claims support of a bevy of fringe groups, has put forth three major demands - handing over of the Kathua rape and murder case to CBI, ouster of Rohingyas and opposition of some unverified 'order' by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to not evict nomads without consulting the Tribal Affairs department. All three reveal signs of a flawed sense of victimhood.
The so-called order pertaining to the nomads has been distorted out of proportion. According to reports in mid-February, the chief minister chaired a review meeting of Tribal Affairs Department, where she directed that "no harassment be made to any member of Tribal community by any Government authority till a formal Tribal Policy is unveiled". She said even in extreme cases of ascertaining their places of habitations the Department of Tribal Affairs be taken into confidence beforehand. It was a month later that a Jammu based lawyer who recently launched the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused in the Kathua rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl started flaunting the selective minutes of the meeting without mentioning the context of the remarks and started a massive propaganda with the use of media, trying to project nomads as cartels of land mafia whom the chief minister was protecting. The meeting on February 14 was widely reported and the remarks stemmed from several complaints of harassment of nomadic communities in the name of anti-encroachment drives. The earlier reports clearly show that the remarks were meant as a temporary provision till the finalization of a formal tribal policy, which is being constantly opposed by the BJP. The PDP-BJP coalition indeed is responsible for neither clearing the air over the issue following the propaganda and also for the long delay in the formulation of a rationale tribal policy which would ensure protection of tribals as well as that encroachments do not take place in the name of tribal rights.
As far as the demand for ouster of Rohingyas is concerned, it stems from xenophobic tendencies and a misplaced sense of victimhood as there is not a single instance of Rohingyas or Bangladeshi, working in Jammu region as poor labourers, posing any threat to the life and security of the region. By virtue of the lacunae in the Indian laws, which do not recognize this worst persecuted community as refugees, they are legally considered illegal immigrants. That only Rohingyas should be selectively targeted, while maintaining silence over all other illegal migrants, shows a clear communal bias.
The most shocking of all these demands is the one that reveals an attempt to provide a cover of impunity to the rape and murder accused by seeking the handing over of the case to CBI. Those supporting such a demand are misusing the concept of "presumption of innocence", which is considered the cornerstone of enlightened jurisprudence in a democratic society. But such a presumption has to be based on some evidence or sign of wrong doing as well as rationale and not blanket contempt for the state's investigating agencies and courts. The investigations are being handled by the Crime Branch, which just filed the chargesheet on Tuesday amidst stiff opposition by Kathua Bar Association, and monitored by the state high court. So far, legally and ethically, there is nothing to suggest any wrong doing. The legal justice system still provides for legal rights of the accused to challenge the investigations in court of law and even thereafter, in case they are convicted. These remedies are already existing. The demand is solely supported by a narrative that only one community is being targeted as accused. Such balancing of demographic identities is unknown in any criminal case and the law of any democratic country cannot be guided by such cheap divisive politics but only by evidence. Such a demand, therefore, sets a wrong precedent and also tends to vitiate and communalise the atmosphere.
There is a distinct communal and anti-Muslim flavour to all the demands that have gone into the making of the Jammu bandh call. Is this by default or design? Is the bandh call inspired by simple ignorance or political mischief? That there is some mischief at play with Jammu Bar wrongly mentioning support of groups and persons, who have vehemently opposed their politics, cannot be entirely denied. Whatever the reasons of the political ambitions being espoused by the bandh call, they hold serious threats of tarnishing the communal harmony and peace of the region and necessitate an intervention by saner elements with a sense of immediacy.



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