The Loss of Pain

This article was first published in Bloggers Park (Jan 2012, edition)

It is a weekend and to add icing on top it is new year’s eve (the last weekend of year 2011) and where am I; in Kashmir’s biggest hospital (SKIMS), among the dead and those waiting to be. You would say I don’t have a life, yep true my life doesn’t matter the last time I managed to run a check. I Am a Kashmiri and to make things worse a Muslim, not a good combination to have in this part of the world!

 

This particular hospital is very famous (or should I say infamous) among the Kashmiri’s, a local (kind of) legend has grown around this hospital according to which, “from here either you leave cured or you leave dead”. Some sections of the society blame this particular characteristic on the name itself {Sheri (Loin of) Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences}. Many a times the issue of name change has been raised and there was once Shakespeare saying, “What is in the name”. In this hospital almost every 6 hours there are couple of deaths in a ward.Here I saw people wailing over there dead and the whole atmosphere of ward, with almost 50 other patients, turning very gloomy and heavy and at the same time a small room in the corner is upbeat with smiles flying around and smiles turning into laughs occasionally due to some funny joke being shared. This upbeat room belongs to no other but the doctors! You might be thinking, how unsympathetic, rude and ill-mannered our doctors are. But the question that is rising in my mind is, “How and what made these people so immune to other peoples pain?”

 

This same question had risen in my mind couple of months ago when Amnesty International in its report had disclosed the discovery of the Mass Graves in Kashmir valley and the subsequent response shown by the international fraternity, politicians and the media at large. Even the general masses behaved as if nothing significant had been uncovered. Is it because the people have seen too much bloodshed and no amount of killings will move them now or is it because of the fact that these deaths didn’t affect them personally? While I was brooding over this, there came another possible reason, perhaps people were just too busy earning their livelihood and making ends meet. The later seemed to be more logical and human, as I couldn’t accept the first two causes which would simply mean that we no longer are humans! Accepted the fact that the masses are fighting for their livelihood and hardly have time for anything else, what happened to the institutions which the masses had entrusted for upholding the social and human morality. It seems that these institutions (elected representatives, NGO’S, Media etc) have themselves become morally corrupt and chose economics over morality. All chose not to speak about it, but when someone else (Mr. Steve Baker, British parliamentarian) tried to highlight the issue and bring it in notice of the world fraternity the Indian Parliament raised the issue of their authority of discussing India’s internal issue (even when India is the largest beneficiary of British foreign aid) rather than discussing the issue itself! And simultaneously with help of some jokers an attempt (I must say a successful one) was made to divert the attention in some different direction by raising some non issues like, Cinema’s, Liquor and skillfully transforming them into issues, they also raised some genuine only to help them in diversion like AFSPA . So what do we do when entrusted breach our trust; we introspect a little, take the reins in our hands and show them that we can’t be taken for a ride.

 

Whenever I hear the term Mass Grave in no instance the scenes from the movie “Behind the enemy lines” flash in front of my eyes. The movie got 1 award and 2 nominations because of good acting by Owen Wilson & co. and the importance of the issue which it brought among the masses. Now trying to bring forth magnanimity of the issue in Kashmir let me put forth some figures and facts. The Issue of Mass Graves in Kashmir is not a standalone issue but with it is entangled the issue of torture and enforced disappearance. When we talk about torture it is the most underreported phenomenon in Kashmir, it seems that both authorities and people have accepted it as a norm. If you go to any village almost every single person has been tortured be it physically or emotionally not just men but women, children and even old. I happened to read recently about the torture of a 60 year old man on www.projectcensored.org narrated by Parvaiz Khurram, Liaison of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK), “I have documented very horrible cases, but this is the most horrible.” The army kept a 60-year-old man in solitary confinement for one month. During that time, he wasn’t given anything to eat, but his own flesh. They cut the flesh from his body and served it to him. This was all he was given to eat for a month. Recounting the torture Parvaiz said, “This was something that shook me. We have hundreds of Guantanamo Bays here. Why is nobody talking about it?” there are more gruesome stories like these; Kunan Poshpora: a village, where woman were mass raped by Indian army

http://www.thekashmirwalla.com/2011/03/kunan-poshpora-a-forgotten-tragedy/,

Sopore Massacre on 6th Jan 1993 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,977469,00.html

These are only a few and there are many more but the thing is who will report them to you!

 

In July 2011, the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) released a report documenting 2,156 (according to Amnesty the number is 2700) unidentified bodies in 38 graveyards People are fearing that the dead in the mass graves are those who were reported disappeared (enforced disappearance) and to add to their fears 574 bodies (out of 2700) have been already identified as disappeared locals – 17 of these have already been exhumed and shifted to family or village grave sites. So if we are to deduce that all the disappeared people found their way to mass graves then the numbers are going to increase many folds, almost 8000 people have been reported disappeared till now. Recently more mass graves have been identified and investigation regarding them has started. Here would like to mention that till 2004, 16500 bodies were recovered from mass graves in Bosnia (considered to be this centuries holocaust, even a movie “Behind enemy lines” was made regarding this issue). Now you can imagine the magnanimity of the issue and amount of human rights violations that is happening in Kashmir. Even now should we turn a blind eye and accept anything and everything in the name of national interest and security. Don’t you feel that it is our moral duty to raise our voice against the injustice and human rights violations?

 

It will not be wise to blame security forces only for all the rights violations (Mass Graves) out and out; no doubt they are responsible and should be held accountable but there are others equally responsible. If the media had showed a little bit of interest and investigated the story a bit they would have added a new dimension to the story. They didn’t do it that doesn’t mean we can’t do it, so let us try to retrace the footsteps leading to Mass graves. As the mass graves and enforced disappearance are linked so following one should reveal something about the other. If we try to figure when did people start disappearing (or when did the process of disappearances intensify, at the same time let me clarify the process is yet to cease) it overlaps with the birth of Ikhwan (the dreaded pro Govt. brigade). Now let’s try to answer another question who created Ikhwan and we reach the erstwhile people who are in power even now in the state. So it is not so surprising after all to figure why they created a comedy circus to divert and distract the attention from the burning issue of Mass Graves. They were trying to cover the footprints which led to their home.

 

Even after all this pondering was not able to figure what made the doctors immune to others pain. Finally gave up my so called intellectual quest and decided to ask a Doctor. So I went ahead and shot the question, “how & what makes you so immune to others suffering?” bemused , staring at me, doctor not knowing what to say say he could just utter “What!!!” so understanding that he never expected this question, I slowly broke it down to him exactly what and why I want to know. So doctor took some time and finally said that it is due the combination of a lot of things; during degree it is made sure that you don’t freak out seeing a dead body so you are given a lot of exposure wrt dead bodies and experiments, then when you join hospital as an intern you have long, hectic work hours and you tend to work on lot of seriously ill people all of whom don’t make it. It is sort of conditioning, which is very necessary to make you emotionally strong as it is very much needed in this profession. Hope we as a society are not being treated to same sort of conditioning by the media and other institutions to make us emotionally strong and with a promise that we are going to enjoy the loss of pain!

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A Country where Chetan Bhagat is known as a writer

Strange how in a country there are people who consider Chetan Bhagat (1) an extremely good writer and at the same time there are others who wouldn’t even trust him with dictation. Such is the country and such are its extremes.

The country boasts of its diversity. Diversity in weather, which goes from freezing cold (almost -50 degrees) to frying heat (above 50 degrees)! Diversity in topography & geography (has Deserts, green meadows & even snow clad mountains). It has Diversity in Culture, Diversity in language, and diversity of Religion. The diversities are so intense and diverse that if you travel in any direction, it seems as if you are watching a nonstop marathon show, with artists wearing colorful dresses, speaking varied array of languages. In short I can say you are in for an entertaining and enthralling ride.

But still it is the same country where Minorities are confused whether they are followers of an independent and unique religion or their religion is just an offshoot of what the majority follows, thus they end up doing what everybody else is doing & celebrating what everyone else is celebrating (2). Some months back leader of a political party publicly called for Muslims to be made to proudly pronounce their Hindu linage otherwise not to be allowed to vote in elections! (3) It is country which is a regional (somewhat international) economic power & strong contender for permanent seat at UN security council and at the same time the condition of women is appalling, second only to Afghanistan! (4) The country has more than couple of people who figure in the list of world’s richest people and still we find farmers who cannot make ends meet and thus are forced to put an end to their lives only. It is the country which has the world’s costliest home (5) when most of its population doesn’t have anything to call home. It is the country with Freedom of speech as one of the six fundamentals rights granted by constitution, countless news channels and news papers seem to validate this and still it is the same country where a whole region is blocked unlawfully for more than 100 days and no one bother to report (6). It is the country which claims to be the largest democracy in the world yet there is uproar in parliament over cartoons in a text book who no one finds offensive, makes us wonder who do they represent (7). It is the country which boosts of its tolerance, of never being the aggressor or attacker yet its most renowned painters is forced into a self imposed exile and there after bids adieu to this world in a foreign country (8). It is the country where a newly born baby girl in the family of super stars (Actors) makes headlines and trends on twitter but discovery of mass graves in the disputed part of country doesn’t raise any eyebrows forget about getting covered properly in mainstream media (9). It is the country where Soldiers are above law and civilians have very little hope of getting justice. It is the land were a person is sentenced to death on mere circumstantial evidence to satisfy the national conscience (10) and same is not applied to it soldiers when found guilty of murdering civilians in cold blood (11). It is the country which boosts to having Unity in Diversity but when it comes to addressing the grievances of its diversity they just don’t acknowledge the presence of any (12).

What else do I need to say than that it is a country where Chetan Bhagat is known as a writer and it is the same country where another writer raises her voice against government and its modus operandi she is declared a traitor and ant-national (13). Once it was this country only that lead the Non-Alignment movement and now its foreign policy lacks vision and spine. That is India shining for you my dear friends and sold to you as Incredible India.

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Note:-

1. Would like to clarify that I am not trying to pass any judgment regarding the writing skills of Chetan Bhagat, in fact have never read him. Used him as an example only due to the fact that mere mention of his name makes people to express extremely different (apposite) emotions.

2. Until Chandragupta’s reign (of Gupta dynasty) Hinduism (religion of majority) did not have idol worship. One more thing to take notice of is that during that period the more popular religions where Buddhism & Jainism and these continued to grow stronger with each passing day because of their simple teachings. So as to counter their growth idol worship was introduced and many scripture (which Hindu’s hold pious) were written, rewritten or edited. Both the founders of Buddhism and Jainism wanted to take their followers as far away from Hinduism as possible, so the question of these two religions being off shoots of Hinduism doesn’t arise. Same applies to Sikhism.

3. Dr.Subramanian Swamy (the party president of Janta Party) had made these comments in a very inflammatory write-up in DNA news paper, which even made minority commission of India to send him a notice. The write-up was so inflammatory that Harvard chose not to renew his contract as visiting faculty.

4. A report on woman welfare, made public last year, ranked India just above Afghanistan.

5. The billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s home, “Antilia” is believed to be the costliest home in the world

6. Last year the state of Manipur faced road blockage for more than 100 days which led to commodities prices sky rocketing, shortage of essential supplies thus endangering lives.

7. Recently there was commotion in parliament over one cartoon published in an NCERT text book. The cartoon by Shankar Pillai was supposedly meant to show the slow pace a which the Indian constitution was drafted.

8. M.F Hussain India’s most celebrated and renowned painter was forced to self imposed exile in Qatar after being harassed by Hindu right wings and died in London in June 2011.

9. In Jammu & Kashmir last year about 3000 mass graves were found and more are being discovered, Human Rights groups are calling for international impartial probe but the government is hiding behind one after other smokescreens. What was more appalling was the way the media took the whole incident, as if nothing had happened. And the same media went gung ho over the coverage of birth of Abishek & Ashwariya Bachan’s daughter.

10. Afzal Guru was sentenced to death in Parliament attack case on circumstantial evidence. Apprehensions have been raised by many over the fairness of the trail, even the judgment reads that he was sentenced to death “to satisfy the conscience of the country”.

11. Army personal were found to be guilty of murdering civilians in cold blood and later branding them as foreign militants in Pathribal Kashmir, but court instead of punishing the guilty left it to the army to take action against them.

12. After the 2010 summer unrest, in which more than 110 teenagers were killed, in Kashmir the central government formed a team (interlocutors) to ascertain the causes of unrest and suggest way forward so as to accommodate Kashmiri aspirations. Recently the interlocutors report was made public and some political commentators claim that the interlocutors didn’t even try to understand the real causes forget about writing them in the report.

13. Miss Arundhati Roy was poster lady of India till she began asking uncomfortable questions and thus was declared anti-national.

 

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor http://kashmirmonitor.org/06022012-ND-a-country-where-chetan-bhagat-is-known-as-a-writer-27587.aspx and The Kashmir Dispatch http://www.kashmirdispatch.com/others/03068401-a-country-where-chetan-bhagat-is-known-as-a-writer.htm#comments