18, Feb 2019 | Teesta Setalvad
India lost 44 of her bravest sons when terrorists attacked a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Kashmir on February 14. The country was left juggling extreme emotions ranging from numbing shock to inescapable grief and even bouts of blinding rage at this senseless massacre. Many people though took to coping with these emotions in unhealthy ways… ways that dis-honour everything that the lost CRPF men hoped to protect and defend… India’s people and the bonds that keep them together through trying times.
There is no denying that the ghastly attack was an act of cowardice and instigation by terrorists who have no respect for either human life or the complicated and blood stained history of the region. These terrorists are people who benefit from perpetuating fear and instability in one of the most politically volatile regions in the world! Every right thinking individual must therefore unequivocally condemn the attack.
We must also question their insiduous design in using incitement and a perverted version of faith to incite hate within us, against fellow Indians including Kashmiris. Fairly widespread reports of such attacks in north and western India, Kashmiris being hounded and even served termination notices for social media posts (within 48 hours, without notice or discussion) suggest there are parallel ‘gangs’ at work functioning through surveillance, threat and intimidation.
As India responds, once again to a brute act of instigation, we must not, cannot forget that revenge is not justice. Attacking innocents, peddling messages that cause fear and hate to rise achieves the ends they seek. Therefore making hateful comments about people who happen to, in this instance, share the same religion as the terrorists, inciting people to attack people from Kashmir or destroy their property and places of business in a misguided attempt at avenging our fallen heroes is equally condemn-able!
If we allow terrorists to divide us, we aid them in their quest to destroy the idea of India. India’s democratic principles and Constitutional values are their greatest fears. That is what they hope to destroy. So let’s not allow them to do that.
Let’s take a lesson or two from our Army and the CRPF, both institutions built on secular, Constitutional standards. A huge board in the Jaipur Cantonment reads, “Want to do something for a Soldier, Be an Indian Who is Worth Fighting For.”
While a section of Indians, empowered by the current political environment, on social media and on the streets are becoming the hate response that the JEM terrorist wants, India’s CRPF, the paramilitary force crippled by this attack, physically and emotionally, has been calmly issuing advisories:
There is more. The CRPF Madadgaar Twitter handle posted a tweet mentioning their toll free number 14411. They can also be reached via SMS on 7082814411.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed has taken responsibility for the attack. These terrorists use extreme acts of violence to manipulate our emotions and pit us against one another. What’s a more befitting reply to them than to rub it in their faces that no matter what they do, India will remain united?
This is the time for grieving. Then there will be time to begin the process of healing. Yes, the scars will remain and so will the grief. But we owe it to those who were slain to heal and fight back… not with violence… but fight back the urge to give in to our darker emotions, those that are born during our weakest moments. We owe it to them to regain our strength and remain resilient in face of this horrifying tragedy.
India is a proud and resilient democracy. And while we stand united in our grief and outrage, this is also the time to ask sober questions. Questions that do not deflect from the horror or condemnation of the attack, but seek to build our strengths in fighting terror of all kinds. Questions that seek answers from the government that rules today, its response and motives, especially in polarising mass sentiments following the attack. That is an inalienable right of all Indians which needs to and must be exercised.
This is also the time for all Indians, especially the vocal, urban-centric ones to reflect on the conditions and structures of our paramilitary forces (CRPF is one such force), police and military and those that make up these forces. It is from the vast strata of the socially and economically dis-empowered, that our jawans are drawn. Justice also means fair reparation (not just compensation) for the lives so violently lost. The families of such soldiers need to be reassured by India and Indians that they are central to the process of healing and justice.
Finally, we must press for substantive justice. There are procedures in both national and international law for bringing to justice perpetrators of terror attacks. Let the law take its course. Only then can justice prevail.
*Feature Image: Tricolor draped coffins of the CRPF personnel. Courtesy Udaipur Kiran.