ENFORCING ‘CODES’ OF CONDUCT
Last Friday must have been a hectic day for both the Election Commission and the militants. While the former was preoccupied with various issues concerning enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct in Jammu and Kashmir for polls to the four Legislative Council seats under Panchayat quota in the state, the latter too were busy enforcing their own ‘moral code of conduct’ to check ‘waywardness’ amongst the youth by gunning down one and injuring four employees of a liquor shop inside a government-run hotel on the banks of Dal Lake.
Even before one could get over the shock of the recent militant attack at a hotel on Parimpora-Pantha Chowk bye-pass road near Lasjan on October 19 in which two of its employees were killed and another injured, we have yet another attack on employees of a liquor shop. There is no doubt that liquor is the ‘mother of all evils’ as well as a serious health hazard, due to which its sale rightly needs to be discouraged- not only on religious or moral grounds but also for medical reasons. However, is seeking such discouragement by instilling fear through barrel of the gun justified? Can the killing of a liquor shop employee and injuring four others be condoned by just saying- serves them right for selling the Devil’s brew? Would it not have better to discourage use of alcohol through logical reasoning and public awareness programmes instead of bullets? This is the question which we have to not only ask ourselves but also need to find an answer to.
While it is true that the people of Kashmir are suffering at the hands of the security forces, but then, isn’t it also true that violence perpetuated by the militants too is adding to their miseries? Are not innocents being killed or injured when militants choose to attack security personnel with guns, grenades and bombs in crowded places? So, why is it that those who claim to be fighting for the rights of the masses are endangering lives of the very people they have sworn to protect? And what makes our civil society so oblivious to such gruesome acts that it prefers to maintain a stoic silence while such killings continue unabated? Why don’t the militants realise the full import and sagacity of Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani’s candid and pertinent observation that “when (the) gun lost control, militant groups lost the moral standing” and desist from committing acts which pose a threat to the public?
Till now, the Hizb has done well by taking due care to identify itself with the people. Readers will recall that during the Amarnath land allotment row protests in 2010, when the separatists were repeatedly calling for hartals, it was the Hizb chief Syed Sallaudin who showed maturity by saying that "There should be a strategy and direction to the movement so that people don’t suffer and the ongoing movement against India continues. The hartal call can be given in a phased manner so that common man is not put to trouble and the education of children continues." He also went on to add that “Continuous strikes are not a good option. The movement should continue and educational institutions and economy should run simultaneously." But by hailing the Friday attack on the liquor shop, the Hizb is treading on dangerous territory as it gives an impression that the outfit tacitly approves violent acts by militant groups in which innocent civilians are targeted. The Hizb thus needs to guard against statements which go against the very grain of its pro- people philosophy enunciated earlier by its chief during the Amarnath agitation.
Presently, the separatist leadership is following a well conceived strategy of categorically disassociating itself from ‘armed struggle’ in order to impress upon the international community that violence has no place in the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ and is being pursued purely through peaceful means. The public criticism of violence by the separatist leadership may have given the Hizbul Mujahideen a feeling that it is being sidelined. And so, the attempt of the Hizb to widen the scope of its activity from “an armed resistance movement of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” to “fighting against the cultural aggression” could well be a desperate act to reassert its position and thus reaffirm its relevancy. Unfortunately, the Hizb does not realise that resurrection of the ‘gun culture’ to impose what it feels is right upon the people and execute those whom it considers to be ‘wrong’ is a dangerous trend as it breeds contempt for human life. It is also sacrilegious as its proponents show disrespect to Allah by usurping his supreme and sole right to judge and punish humans.
So, Syed Sallaudin needs to realise that supporting violence against one’s own brethren merely to ward off the fear of irrelevancy is in itself a recipe for self destruction. He also has to stop “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” No one can deny that the Hizbul Mujahideen has contributed immensely to the ongoing struggle in Kashmir and the people do appreciate the sacrifices made by this outfit. However, will the public continue to hold the Hizbul Mujahideen in high esteem if it persists with its support to acts of violence against innocents just to enforce a new brand of ‘moral’ conduct? I am not very sure and your guess on this will be as good as mine!