The relentless pounding in my head grew stronger by the minute. Nonetheless I kept at it: mindlessly filling my laptop screen with snapshots of torture camps and unmarked graves. Stories of suffering and rape. Kunan Poshpora. The Country of No Post Offices. Manorama Devi. Irom Sharmila. Dantewada. Soni Sori. Inshallah Kashmir.
A friend once told me that we live in a country of gullible hypocrites. We believe everything, absolutely everything the corporate media feeds us. Freedom of the press! We proudly claim. But when a single dissenting voice is heard; we put our hands over our ears and sing Tra-la-la-la. Not my problem dude! My country, my government and my army…and our holier-than-thou attitude to them all.
Being gullible is not a crime. But what about hypocrisy? We balk in horror at the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib. When you hear about Papa II (IF you’ve heard of it); the situation is more complex. In your minds you think, they probably deserved it! These militants deserve third degree torture. Never mind that very often the lines between civilians and militants are blurred. Innocent boys are picked up and killed in fake encounters; or subjected to the same third-degree torture you condoned a minute ago (2168 unmarked graves stand testimony to this.) Or, worse; you convince yourself that they are lying. Our honourable soldiers will never do something like this. Fine. Let us, for a moment, presume it’s all a lie, a sordid attempt by secessionists to garner international eyeballs. What about the other stories? The tribal women being raped in Dantewada; are they fighting for a new nation too? Irom Sharmila, on a fast-unto-death for the better part of her youth, protesting against military atrocities in Manipur; does she want a separate country too?
Is that the reason policemen sexually assaulted Soni Sori and planted two stones in her uterus? There IS no hidden agenda. Thousands of citizens in different corners of the country cannot possibly share a common agenda. The Gonds and Meira Paibi seem an unlikely combination out to beguile the Great Indian Patriot. They have their own separate struggles. Burning issues with starkly different complexities. Yet they all have a common enemy in the brutality of the State. At some point you have to realise; at least some of them must be telling the truth.
I don’t hate the Indian army or the police force. When the air show flies on Republic Day my heart swells with just as much pride. But I also have eyes and ears. And it’s high time we stop treating the army with a holier-than-thou attitude. Anyone who commits a crime must be punished for it; three striped or not. An act which gives the wrong doer immunity for his crimes, allows him to shoot and kill on mere suspicion, is simply unacceptable in the larger interests of humanity. And that is why AFSPA must go.
There are people in our country who have lived their entire lives shrouded in pain. For whom the State is ‘the policeman with the Gun’. If we cannot even listen to their side of the story, hell, they’ll never believe otherwise.