ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Amazing Turn of the Argument

Sumanta Banerjee’s “Déjà vu at the Celebration of Massacres” (EPW, 29 August 2009) makes a series of valid comments at the way massacres are perceived and presented in the public domain. He is sharply critical of the way massacres are made possible through the active or silent support for the perpetration of violence, whether in Germany or elsewhere – closer home in India in locations such as Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir, against which there has not been enough opposition outside these regions. Instead there has been a kind of tacit approval, in the name of national “security”. In all of this I am with him. But then to take off, as he does, upon his theme by attacking, almost mocking, at the “mothers” of the disappeared (in point of fact the association implied is called the Association of the Parents of Disappeared People (APDP)) for being “shamefully myopic” as they confine themselves to speaking against state atrocities upon their sons but do not appeal “to their other sons who have joined the jihadis”, to stop killing innocent people. This, to my mind, is an amazing turn of the argument whose intent I am not clear about, as indeed the personalised attack on Medha Patkar.

The APDP was an outcome of the large number of disappearances of sons, brothers and husbands, often picked up by security agencies who could sometimes be identified by name and rank, and then disappeared. It was an attempt to bring together individuals from the affected families who went from court to court, and prison to prison, often outside J&K to search for their missing family members. Starting off from here they have gone on not only to support others like themselves but also campaign for justice – in particular for state accountability from the army and the security forces, the only “institutions” of the Indian state with a name and form that they know, a state that also claims to be committed to a rule of law. This struggle – if supported by large numbers of the Indian people in whose name the state claims to act – could become a larger campaign for accountability from all sections of society including those who have taken to armed conflict.

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