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Jan 6, 2011
Open Space

Rights transgressed, Justice refused

Burhan Majid

Like a banking corporation, nations and communities also draw their balance sheets as to what changes (political, social, economic etc.) a particular year had on them.

This year’s reckoning of events, however, has a gruesome impact on the inhabitants of Kashmir- a Himalayan valley. As the years go by the plight of people over here increase manifold. Part of the loss can be calculated in terms of money, while as rest cannot be quantified. The figures of the recent decades run as - tens of thousands of people killed, innumerable disabled, property worth millions of dollars ruined. The enforced disappearances, custodial killings, fake gunfights, psychological wreck of the population because of the uncertain prevailing conditions, atrocities meted out to the families, torture and raped.

It is the story around these facts people from this part of world are nowadays known to rest of the world. Within a time span of four months, this year, over 100 youth were killed by the Indian police and paramilitary troopers stationed in the region while containing, though unsuccessfully, the public protests for independence.

This alone can suffice to help epitomize the enormity of the brutality being perpetrated on the Muslim dominated population of the region.

In fact the resentment among the people goes deeper day by day owing to the inaction of those at the helm of affairs. Time and again the local government failed to protect its people. There is a strong evidence of the failure of the state apparatus in guarding the peoples’ rights. It failed to punish the men in uniform responsible for the widespread abuses, given the presence of the draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), thus ensuing impunity for them.

Take the instance of the public protests which erupted in June 2010. Had the government been serious in booking the guilty troopers responsible for killing the three youth of Nadihal village in a staged gunfight, the protests wouldn’t have triggered. Had it nailed the policemen responsible for killing 11-year old Tufail Matoo, the situation would not have reached to a point of no return. So how situation went out of control and why people choose to come on roads doesn’t need any explanation.

To cover its failures, government ironically arrested and detained those who protested the excesses.

The third generation Abdullah presently holding the throne of the state had one gift for the beleaguered people who queued to vote for him in 2008 Assembly elections.

He appointed a commission of inquiry to probe the first seventeen killings of the unrest. The nature of the killings, however, was too prima facie that they seldom require any investigation by any commission. Though the commission was to submit its report within a period of two months, the report is yet to come due to the extensions which, as usual, it may again seek.

In fact the process of appointing commissions is being used as a time buying phenomenon by the governments in power.

Anyways, the death now stands at 112. Will the commission be extending its canvass beyond 17 or has to restrict its work within the allotted 17 is still to be known.

Until now we have only come across cover-ups. Kunanposhpora, Chittisinghpora, Pathribal and most recently the Shopian. Cover-ups, it seems is the norm of the state in order to shield the culprits.

So in such a scenario what should people rely on?

People have lost the hope in the governments no matter who heads them. Promises like “zero tolerance on human rights” even from New Delhi stand breached so long as the troopers accused of murdering the innocent civilians are not prosecuted.

In the 2009 Shopian double rape and murder case, the police had to be pressed for first information report (FIR) to be registered. A judicial probe ordered in the case could not deliver justice to the victim family. Though it indicted the police officials in the case but India’s premier investigating agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) bailed them out.

However, its bailing out of police officials in the case raised a question mark on the credibility of judicial commission and its functioning. One is surprised to see the reports of judicial commission and CBI in a particular case at a variance.

Some valuable admissions made before it are worth notice.

Let I quote one wherein the police witnesses had admitted: “That had an FIR been filed immediately after the occurrence and proper investigation started, there would have been no public protests and no loss of life of citizens”.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah could not do anything in this case also except making some unprecedented hurtful remarks after remarks with a rhetoric in between that “the victims were like my sisters”.

The matter of the fact is that the state governments ordered, hitherto, a number of commissions to enquire the rights violations by the Indian army troopers. It is widely believed that the purpose of such commissions, whose findings are just recommendatory, is mere an eyewash.

State apart, the people are also tired of the judiciary. Everywhere on the globe this branch of the government is regarded as the guardian of people’s rights. Unfortunately the courts in the state are robbed of the independence in the matters of rights abuses. The judiciary here has failed to provide a bulwark against the abuses by the police and the army troopers.

The inaction of the courts owes its reason first to the existing black and draconian legislations in the State. Vesting the military and paramilitary personnel with wide and sweeping powers, these legislations contain rigid and hard procedures for their prosecution. Second to the blanket terms like “public interest” and “national integrity”. Under the disguise of these even the most inhuman crimes are justified by the government.

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