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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 1, December 26, 2009 - Annual Number 2009

On Shopian Tragedy, Mulk Raj Anand

Saturday 26 December 2009, by Humra Quraishi


One tragedy after another has been hitting the Valley and there seems to be a mockery of the very system, of the very democratic framework. And even if there have been peaceful-cum-non-violent ‘Gandhian’ protests by the Kashmiris, the ongoing indifference by those who matter, by those who are in the business of governance, those who are in the thick of political strategies, is most distressing. All that one hears is that some sort of quiet diplomacy is on, but what’s the point of this ‘diplomacy’ or those hushed talks if the people are getting so terribly sidetracked that alienation is complete? Yes, Kashmiris are alienated. Nothing very new or startling, as this process has been on for the last several years, worsening by the day.

You don’t have to go into those past blunders and messed-up situations, just this year’s ‘happenings’ and the manner in which they have handled are sufficient to show there is something terribly amiss vis-a-vis our handling of the human crisis out there. One unsettling development after another and yet the establishment seems in no mood to reach out or to come forward with a genuine relief package. And as a citizen of this country it’s my duty to ask some basic questions which have been unsettling enough...

Hundreds of unmarked graves are getting unearthed in and around the Kashmir Valley and yet we, the supposed alive and unburied, don’t seem to react. Why doesn’t the government give an explanation for this? Whose graves? Which human forms have been killed and murdered and then buried deep down? Who all have been killed and then quietly pushed into the folds? What does the Home Ministry have to comment on these unmarked graves?

Coming to the Shopian women’s rape-cum-murder, isn’t it crucial that we respect the sentiments of the people of this State? In fact, anyone who has visited the site cannot gulp down the drowning theory pushed forward by the CBI. Even those non-Kashmiris, who have travelled down from here to there, refuse to believe, refuse to acknowledge that theory—that the two Shopian women died because of drowning in those shallow waters!

I have before me this detailed report brought out by the ‘Independent Women’s Initiative for Justice’ and I had even attended the press conference they’d addressed and it’s very crucial that we pay heed to their findings. For, it’s not that from some air-conditioned den that they have come up with these findings. On the contrary, these six women—Uma Chakravarti, Usha Ramanathan, Seema Mishra, Vrinda Grover, Dr Ajita and Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal—had travelled to Shopian and visited the very site and spoke to the affected families and to the local residents. It’s a 34-page report so difficult to fit in the details but the crux lies in these lines. I quote from this report:

The Shopian rapes and murders epitomise the wrongs and injustices perpetuated on the people living in a militarised society. The incident not only manifests the extent of the fear psychosis, denial of security and democratic rights to the people, it also demonstrates the abject refusal of those at the helm of affairs to bring the culprits of gross violation of human rights to book. Shopian is not a case in isolation. It is a leaf out of history of human rights abuse and absolute impunity that men in uniform enjoy…

And whilst on this specific Shopian double murder case (I would say triple murder as one of the murdered women, Neelofar, was pregnant), these lines from this report:

In a bizarre turn in the investigations of the double rape and murder case of two young women in Shopian, Kashmir, it is believed that selected leaks to the press by the CBI, which is now conducting the investi-gations, first rape was ruled out and now it appears that murders too. Events have been shocking since October when the bodies were exhumed. The public is being fed with stories that have no basis—that the two women drowned in water that is not even ankle deep. And in the case of the younger, high school-going girl Asiya Jan, no rape has taken place as the hymen was ‘intact’...

The bodies of the two women were buried after a contro-versial beginning to the criminal investigations at the end of May 2009, following a great deal of public agitation in Shopian against the police and district administration, and with two sets of doctors having conducted the medico-legal requirements, one overseen by the DC. In October, more than four months after the burial, the CBI exhumed the bodies, and almost miraculously, the bodies were found to be in such a wonderful state of preservation that one of them was capable of revealing the state of the hymen. This amazing ‘fact’ was immediately flashed to the rest of the nation, waiting with bated breath for the CBI’s revelation, a revelation that restored the honour of the Indian state and its security forces: no rape, therefore no needle of suspicion or indictment of the security forces, and therefore the security forces vindicated. Having made that announcement, it was time for everyone to go back to their respective ‘strategies’ on Kashmir—Home Minister Chidambaram to announcing talks on Kashmir; Chief Minister to restoring ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir; the Army to its plans for building the Mughal road going past Shopian for which thousands of acres had to be taken over…

This is the reality of J&K: two women dead, no credible explanation for the deaths or for the mysterious appearance of the bodies at a spot which was thoroughly searched just a couple of hours ago, and was in full view of two vigilance towers of the security personnel. A trail of cover up was set in motion by the police immediately after, which included a refusal to file an FIR…

As mentioned earlier, I can’t fit in the details carried in this crucial 34-page report put together by these six women activists who have been watching and recording the developments of this particular case. And now they are all set to fight out, to get to the truth, and veto all those hopelessly bizarre theories getting churned…

If alive, writer Mulk Raj Anand would have been celebrating his 105th birthday this month. Some of those happenings like film shows and an exhibition on his life and times were arranged … No, not that I claim to have known him too well, but, yes, I had been interviewing him on various occasions and some of his views and perceptions did leave an impact.

About babus and bureaucrats Mulk had quipped:

Don’t know how they are capable of running the country when they can’t drive their own cars! They are so hopelessly dependent on drivers!

About the only way to recover from a nervous breakdown Mulk said:

Each time I was let down in a relationship I suffered a nervous breakdown and the only way I recovered was by writing a novel. That’s the way my novels were written. And I can say from my experience that even if you write two pages a day it will do well for your nerves …writing takes care of a lot of tension and stress.

About Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on his life, Mulk said:

When after much persuasion Bapu allowed me to stay in his ashram he stressed on three conditions—I should not drink alcohol, clean the latrines and not look at any woman with desire …I tried sticking to these, but, then someone carried stories that I was flirting with the American typist in the ashram and though there was no truth in it but he asked me to move out from the ashram…

On Mulk’s fascination for cottons and khadi (so much so he’d worn only khadi):

When I meet young Indians all dressed up in tight trousers and synthetics I feel sorry for them …many a time I have suggested to them to wear the good old khadi and cottons …after all, all these Westerns attires are not for our climatic conditions and I am totally averse to them…

On the so-called development, he’d quipped:

How the hell do we call ourselves developed when fathers and mothers put those matrimony advertisements for the sale of their daughters? Treat their daughters worse than cattle and yet we call ourselves developed and cultured people!

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