Do we really care about Farhat?

Death by killing no longer seems to be ahumanitarian reality; it is asymbolic fact
By  » [Haseeb A Drabu]
In death we lose, in life we lose. In victory we lose, in defeat we lose. In action we lose, in inaction we lose. In status quo we lose, in change we lose. In war we lose, in peace we lose. In participation we lose, in boycott we lose. In summer we lose, in winter we lose.
The security forces kill us at will. Brutal. The Union Government defends this “ teenocide”. Ruthless.
The State Government rationalizes it. Treacherous.
Oppositions make capital out of it. Conscienceless Secessionists glorify it. Heartless.
Now we are at a loss to understand what is happening in and around us. This is a loss greater than all the others put together.
Farhat, a young lad, is killed. His is another name. Another statistic. Another event. One cannot but get enraged. And feel the impotence of not being able to do anything about these daily slaughters that take place in some part of Kashmir or the other.
How can it be that such deaths fail to dumbfound us anymore? How come it doesn’t churn our stomach and turn our lives upside down? It doesn’t because we now seem to have lost the sense of the real. “ Humanity”, as Baudelaire wrote, “ has been lost in a forest of symbols”. In the surreal sphere of symbols, the death of Fayaz, Wamiq, Zahoor and hundreds of other boys get wrapped in coffins of symbols.
The death by killing of our youth is no longer a humanitarian matter; it is a political issue. Indeed, death has lost it real significance and has gained symbolic connotations. The tragedy of death has been subsumed by its symbolic representations.
For the security forces, death of a youth is quashing the symbol of dissent and defiance. The future trouble makers, if not the prospective terrorist. For the Indian civil society, it is the symbol of getting even with the “ agitational terrorists”, or are they “ cheering seditionists” now! For the mainstream political parties it is a symbolic reminder that AFSPA – the only reason for these deaths – should be repealed. For the separatists, it is a symbol of sacrifice at the altar of freedom and the nationhood that they haven’t even thought through in any detail.
For the man on the street this death is a symbol of the powerlessness of this government. For the family, death is an irreparable loss and end of the world.
Of course, one understands that there are consequences to resistance: loss of social position, loss of wealth, loss of life. But it has gone beyond that. For every such tragic death has now begun to represents life for the vendors of ideologies and peddlers of solutions.
This is why the death of a man condemned to capital punishment, though infinitely rarer than that on the streets, draws out our passions, emotions and attention on a much larger scale and intensity.
Of course, we are confounded by the audacity of the “ just” system to do what was done. But more importantly, he was a symbol. Afzal Guru had come to symbolize every value and aspiration that we all stand for. So his murder symbolized the murder of our “ aspirations”, and our “ issue”. In generic terms, our resistance.
On the obverse, they made an example out of Afzal Guru, a symbol, of what happens when someone challenges the sovereignty of India. In all this, the facts got lost somewhere in ocean of India’s collective conscience.
Why do you think stone pelting boys were mowed down by bullets on the streets? The throwing of a stone generated a reaction to kill simply because the act of stone pelting symbolized an existential threat to the “ sovereign”. If it was pelting stones yesterday, any non- violent and harmless act tomorrow will provoke the same reaction! The point is that the reaction to a stone is a bullet not because the stone is dangerous or that it can kill but because the act symbolizes defiance. In all the deaths, political defiance is the common thread. Ironically, all these little boys straddling the streets are not political; they are boys who hold strong personal beliefs that have political implications.
The cycle of death, deprivations and disaster is now becoming an end in itself. This state of affairs has created its own language, its own history, its own aesthetics, and its own moral code which is at variance to our inherited and evolved ethnic identity.
This is bringing forth a very serious shift in our politics: from a very specific ethno- national politics of identity to a much more generic politics of ideologies.
A shift that is impoverishing politics not only by undermining critical public reasoning but also by negating the very raison de’tre of the collective struggle and suffering for the last twenty five years.
All this is happening at time rather crucial transitioning time. It is not adequately recognized that the current generation has grown under vastly differing circumstances than those who have led the struggle.
The new generation has grown up in, and with, oppression and occupational siege. Their notions of ethnicity are very different; they relate to Kashmir differently and so too to India and Pakistan.
It would now seem that the only unifying force today is the opposition to the oppressor and its oppression. The incessant self- ironizing is a dominant factor in establishing a connection between the people and the situation that they are in.
If indeed, this is so, then it serves to explain the reason for the pervasive cynicism, sense of despair and hopelessness. No wonder then, resistance is getting articulated and depicted through protests that are necessarily short- lived.
There has to be, as was in the beginning of the movement, a positive, proactive and assertive element to the resistance. In other words, we need to stand “ for” something; a state position, even if an idealized one. It is this positive element that is missing.
We are at an international crossroad, and yet we have developed the isolationist reflexes. We have been engaged in an ethnic- national movement but are shy of showing solidarity with others involved in the same struggle. We have our own models of accommodations and internal assimilation that are so novel and non- intrusive that these can become global models, yet we remain insular. We can create a vibrant modern economic system yet live in autarchy.
We have wasted many youths, years, and yearnings.
Let us not waste any more. This is not an adventure to pursue for a few years to get into government. It is a commitment to a cause.