A culture of impunity Theatrics cannot be an alternative for action or even a policy

A culture of impunity
Theatrics cannot be an alternative for action or even a policy
A mere circular by Kashmir’s divisional commissioner asking security forces to be sensitive to the people during their routine checking and frisking operations is not sufficient when an entire culture of impunity exists across the state, especially the Valley. When the personnel have been trained and conditioned to treat not just the armed insurgents, just a handful in numbers, but the entire public as an enemy, no sensitization can take place without demolishing the rampant culture of impunity. Far from being able to rein in the security forces against whom the state government is incapacitated to take action in cases of excesses, there is no serious attempt to even take action under law against errant state police; rather all out attempts have been made in the past to de-sensitise the police by offering complete patronage and protection even for the involvement of the personnel on heinous acts of torture, murder and rape. This is demonstrated by the manner in which cases of 2010 killings have been lingering on in courts or at the very basic level of filing preliminary reports even as the state government has admitted that majority of the 120 youth killed during the 2010 summer agitation were innocent. It is mostly personnel of the state police who have been accused of those killings. The shielding of cops is also manifested by the manner in which all out attempts were made for tampering evidence and cover up in the Shopian rapes and murders of 2009. The state government has yet to even begin a serious effort to sensitise the state police in dealing with the public as excessive obsession with either security or VVIP duty has weakened the normal policing and the responsiveness of the cops to the needs of the public. 

It is evident that the culture of impunity exists beyond the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). How does then a mere circular bring about a change in the attitudes of the security personnel accused constantly of harassment to innocent people and also shocking murders and other heinous crimes? While a holistic assessment of this dangerous cult of impunity is yet to be officially assessed, though the various functionaries of the government including the chief minister have been voicing concern about AFSPA in a bid to play up the gallery, there is as yet no clear state government policy with regard to the draconian act. While chief minister Omar Abdullah for long has been talking about partial revocation of the AFSPA, the proposal is still in air and has not even been submitted to centre or followed-up at the official level, much less even within the state government to garner some kind of a consensus on the issue. While his party’s additional general secretary and his uncle Mustafa Kamal talks of phasing out AFSPA in a time bound manner, his father and party patron Farooq Abdullah has outrightly rejected any withdrawal of the army or revocation of AFSPA. A clear government policy on AFSPA would be expecting too much when these three bigwigs of the ruling party may need to consult each other over the issue. Theatrics cannot be an alternative for action or even a policy. If at all there is sincerity in the talk about sensitizing the men in uniform towards ordinary public, the state government rather than resorting to paper tigers would first have to begin with reining in forces that are accountable to the state and then evolve a policy on AFSPA and the enormous presence of central troops in the state which could be followed up with the Centre on a consistent basis.