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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 28, July 3, 2010

On PM’s Trip to the Valley, Israel goes Killing

Saturday 10 July 2010, by Humra Quraishi

Sometime ago I had written that Sonia Gandhi’s advisers ought to have told her to move beyond Jammu. Towards those particular locales in the Valley where the affected families, of those slain in the fake encounters or those raped and murdered by the security forces, just about survive. And now I wish to dwell a little more on this aspect—though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the Valley, his advisers kept him away from meeting the family of the two Shopian women who had been brutally murdered and raped just a year back. Not only were they kept away but shooed about and even detained for several hours. What sort of democracy is this—if the affected family (in this particular case even a three-year-old child of one of the slain women) travels down, from Shopian to Srinagar, to meet the Prime Minister of the country, to ask for justice and for a fair probe, and they are treated like criminals?

If after all that hype, coupled with that maddening publicity, the Prime Minister’s visit to the Valley doesn’t go beyond those routine speeches, then you and I have to just about shrug and chant ‘Amen’!

Look rather dispassionately at this entire exercise—of VVIPS flying to and fro, from New Delhi to Srinagar—and, then, bring rationale into foreplay. What good does their visit hold out for the locals? On the contrary, it’s sheer disaster. The mobile phone lies jammed, the internet is deadened, roads are blocked off, human beings are shooed about as though they are worse than stray cattle, hartals are declared so business lies completely shut, academic institutions suffer, even non-violent protestors are thrown behind bars and treated like full- fledged criminals, the affected are cordoned off or just thrown about. Who cares if they sit a shade more affected!

So why should the Prime Minister or any of the Ministers fly from here to there? Surely they can render those speeches in Urdu or English from New Delhi and the small screen will splash them. But if they take the trouble of physically transporting themselves, then there are some basic expectations—to listen to the aggrieved, to interact with the non-violent protestor, to visit hospitals, orphanages and dwellings of the half-widows.

In fact, before I move any further it’s important to mention that Srinagar could be one of those locales in this part of the subcontinent which has the highest number of half-widows. A couple of years back we had gone somewhat hysterical focusing on UP’s lone half-widow—Gudiya— but Srinagar and adjoining areas could have hundreds of such hapless women whose husbands are in the missing category—so officially, not really, dead though nowhere to be traced. And there is no official agency helping them out to trace them. It’s this wide gap, between the affected and the administrators, that gapes as ruthlessly as ever before. Even the Prime Minister’s visit wouldn’t make settle any of the creases. But, then, in today’s settings creases can be settled from the Prime Minister’s Office by jottings on those relevant files or for those definite orders for fair and free investigative probes.

I was in and around Srinagar for a whole week lately and though there were hundreds of tourists and with that shopping centres in full-swing, the trauma and pain that the average Kashmiri goes through couldn’t be camouflaged. I’d interacted with several locals and each recounted the uncertainties and odds they face. I would be writing on this more in the coming days. Focusing on the apolitical Kashmiri’s struggle for sheer survival. That is, survival against insecurities and odds and bizarre situations.

THE killings by the Israeli Government are just one in the entire series and with that the Government of India coming up with a carefully worded formality ridden disapproval of it (or call it by any other term) isn’t enough. In fact, it’s far from adequate. For not to be overlooked is that definite tilt in the GOI’s foreign policy. That tilt towards the US-Israel combine. There ought to be boycott-calls and much more, to relay our outrage and disgust….

In fact, there has been much public/people’s anger against Israel but perhaps not enough to affect the Foreign Office and its tilt. There have been at least three public demonstrations near the Israeli embassy situated here in New Delhi —an embassy which looks more like a fortress with a complete security frill all around it, guarding the paranoid stricken sitting in its interiors.

Hundreds of us who could not participate in those demonstrations are sitting with simmering anger. Many outpouring it through the written word.

I received this particular write-up from Dr Shah Alam Khan, who is a doctor associated with the New Delhi situated AIIMS—All India Institute of Medical Sciences. I quote from it—starting off with “Attack on Freedom Flotilla–Come on Obama, earn your Nobel!”, Dr Shah Alam Khan hits out further:
When President Barack Obama was declared the winner of the Noble Prize for Peace 2009, there were mixed responses from the international and US communities. The Blacks were ecstatic, the Whites sighed, and the Browns like me only hoped that the Nobel Laureate, Obama, would usher in change in a world where his country is seen more of a tormentor than anything else. Unfortunately nothing changed. More American soldiers were commissioned in Afghanistan; more drones killed innocent civilians than the Al Qaeda members in the tribal areas of Pakistan; more “development” work was sanctioned to American companies in Iraq; and even more hysteria was generated against the weapons of mass destruction with Iran. It appeared that the Noble Prize for Peace to Barack Obama was as much a waste as it was a hoax in those six years when the real champion of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, was denied its bestowment (we were told that Gandhi was nominated six times for the Prize)…The Israeli attack on the Turkish boats carrying humani-tarian aid to the caged people of Gaza is an opportunity thrown by history towards President Barack Obama to earn his Noble Peace Prize. The merciless killing of nineteen innocent humanitarian aid victims by Israeli forces aboard the Freedom Flotilla is not new. Israel has been known for similar brutalities in the past. Who can forget the killing of innocent Muhhamad Al Durrah, the little boy who hid behind his father to avoid the Israeli bullets at a sleepy Gaza junction? Or for that matter can we ever forget the thousands murdered at the Sabra-Shatila camps in Beirut? So what is so big if Israel has committed murder again? To an ordinary citizen of the world like me, it is the audacity with which Israeli authorities perpetrated these crimes, right in front of world attention, knowing the consequences! It was murder planned and executed in broad daylight, right in our drawing rooms. The iron cold savagery of Israeli authorities has even taken its allies by surprise. Never have we seen such a global outcry over an Israeli atrocity... In the opening remarks of his Noble lecture, President Obama had said: “It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations—that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.” Undoubtedly strong, soul-stirring words. But actions to bend history in the direction of justice never come easy. We know President Barrack Obama is an excellent orator. He weaves his words to make the listener believe in him. His popular Cairo University speech to Muslims is an epitome of rhetoric manufactured to the tune of popular Muslim sentiments. But for how long? Words sound good only if they are followed by firm actions. Actions are fortunately impervious to rhetoric. They have the accuracy to hit where it hurts. We know what Martin Luther King meant in his I Have a Dream speech because his actions and subsequently his sacrifice were proof enough to nurture the meaning of each and every word—truthful and heavy with purpose.

It’s interesting that President Obama’s second book Audacity of Hope derives its inspiration from the famous painting Hope by G.F. Watts. Obama had attended a sermon by his mentor, Jeremiah White, who had then described the painting— “with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God... To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope... that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.” How much more will President Barack Obama wait? Palestine as a geopolitical entity is in rags. Its landmass divided by unjustified borders and fences. Its body scarred, bruised and bleeding. Every day brings new wounds and fresh death. The harp of hope for millions of Palestinians is long broken. The identity of Palestine has been untimely aborted by the cruel hands of the Israeli establishment…

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