After reading the responses of our leaders on the reported deaths of infants in the government run GB Panth hospital, one just can’t fail to notice their insensitivity towards human suffering.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah feels satisfied that he has fulfilled his responsibilities by ordering an inquiry and giving an assurance that, “The hospital’s budget would be raised and more ventilators would be provided to the hospital.” Minister for Medical Education R S Chib on the other hand has found it more expedient to use the age old excuse of attributing the high infant mortality rate to “natural circumstance or due to the ‘untreatable diseases’ like encephalitis etc” and as an added precaution, even taken the convenient refuge of statistics by claiming that “the percentages of deaths which have taken place in last 6 months are more or less the same.”
Yet, if one feels that the attitude of the NC led government is disgraceful, then the response that of other political parties is no better. Chief spokesman of PDP, Nayeem Akhter tops the list of ‘one- upmanship’ for not losing the opportunity of using even this tragedy to ‘score’ a political point through his perverse comment that, “The government led by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah used to kill youth on the streets, now it has decided to kill them in infancy.” CPI (M) state secretary M Y Tarigami has expressed his anguish by stating that “we can’t afford to remain mute spectators when our innocent infants are dying due to human negligence” and for the PDF Chairman Hakeem Muhammad Yasin this tragedy is a matter of “serious concern”. Condemning the alleged negligence at GB Pant Hospital in the “strongest terms,” Langate MLA Er Rasheed has decided to stage a sit-in outside the hospital. But isn’t it strange that all these entities who claim to be the ‘messiah’ of the people and pride themselves for their ‘grass root’ level contact with the masses, chose to speak out on this long drawn and ongoing tragedy only after the media highlighted it! Were they unaware of the long history of the sorry state of affairs in GB Panth hospital? If they indeed were, then is it not a sad commentary on the character and quality of those who profess to have entered politics solely to ‘serve’ the masses?
The reaction of the separatist leadership too has left much to be desired. Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman Syed Ali Geelani has once again obfuscated the issue in an attempt to use this tragedy to reinforce his pet ‘grand conspiracy’ theory and blamed the government of killing children of the valley in cold blood, terming the GB Pant mess as an extension of policies adopted for genocide of Kashmiris. However, his perception is not shared by his compatriot, the Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who by stating that, “If Government has no money, let them ask us. We will collect lakhs from people to save our kids,” appears to view this tragedy as nothing more than the consequence of inadequate funding of the health care programme. The Chairman of Peoples Conference, Sajad Lone has made a valid observation that “A Chief Minister who cannot be sensitive to the care and safety of this nation’s children cannot be capable of bringing this state out of a deep infrastructural and administrative rot that has diminished the incentives of peace and empowerment,” Unfortunately, he too has deviated from the core issue by using this tragedy to profess his own ideology. With scant regards for the feelings of the grieving parents, he went on to rub salt into their wounds by stating that “It is time for Kashmiris to wake up for the sake of their children and if not for their dreams of prosperity and dignity, strive for their right to life.”
There is no denying that while the onus for this unfortunate tragedy rests with the state government, our political and the separatists leaders cannot absolve themselves of complicity because they failed to intervene earlier, thanks to their ‘key hole’ vision which is further blinded by self serving interests. While the political parties seem more focused in scheming how to either retain or grab power, the separatists apparently see nothing else but ‘azadi’. And herein lie some simple questions- don’t the politicians and separatists have who claim to be working for improving the lot of the masses have any responsibility towards the wellbeing of the people? Is it ethical to peddle ideologies that promise a brighter future but fail to address the problems of the present? Will they speak out only when it suits their interests? For how much longer will the political parties remain preoccupied in their never ending verbal duel of trading charges? When will the separatists stop working overtime to find ways by which they can link the origin and existence of every malaise as well as its panacea to the ‘azadi’ issue?
Whereas every viewpoint, whether it be that of a political party or a separatist amalgam needs to be respected, one cannot overlook the fact that with each passing day the common man’s faith in Kashmir polity and leadership is diminishing. And so I write in anguish- not the type our leaders have expressed on the GB Panth tragedy, but that which comes straight from the heart of an aggrieved commoner, because there can nothing more repulsive than encashing upon human tragedy! A news item carried by South Asian News Agency (SANA) on May 10 reads, “A day after the chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed his readiness to face separatists in elections the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani dared him (Omar) to allow the amalgam to hold a public meeting at Lal Chowk here to make it clear as to who represented the people”. A brave exchange of words indeed, but ask any parent what they wish for, and I’m certain there will be only one answer- not ‘azadi’, ‘autonomy’, ‘merger’ or ‘self rule’, but basic facilities that ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children!
We all know that even though none of them have done anything worthwhile for the masses, the NC, PDP, other political parties as well as the Hurriyat can still draw large crowds. After all, what other option does the public on whom views are thrust have? And though our leaders may feel elated by the physical presence of large congregations and conclude that their ‘popularity’ is the result of the public service being rendered by them, the truth lies elsewhere. The truth is that the silence of the masses is not an endorsement of their popularity but a silent indictment of the leaders and the prevailing public sentiment can be best described in the couplet of Ghalib:
“Rahi na taqat-e-guftaar aur agar ho bhi
Toh kis umeed pe kahiye ke aarzoo kya hai”
(I don’t have any ability to talk left, and even if I did …
On what hope do I speak out for what I aspire?)
Author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org