Brutality on HR Day

Normalising abuses with a repulsive legitimacy in the name of security and national interests
The violent and brutal methods adopted to quell human rights related protests and demonstrations in Kashmir on the occasion of World Human Rights Day on Tuesday aptly sum up the denial of these basic rights to the people. Where even peaceful protests and free speech in pursuance of human rights is forbidden, it is not difficult to imagine the dismal human rights situation amid mounting allegations and absence of mechanisms of providing justice for brazen violations. On Tuesday, while most of the separatist leaders were detained or put under house arrest to prevent them from carrying out their various programmes, those who did manage to take to streets had to face brutal police action. By acting in such a brazenly shocking manner the government has signalled that it has scant respect for human rights and that these do not exist in Kashmir. The government has also bitterly exposed its obsession with scuttling dissent and crushing normal protests in the name of security, law and order. No hell would have broken loose if they were allowed to hold their peaceful demonstrations and conduct their seminars as part of their right to freedom of expression and protest as guaranteed by the constitution. It would only have been a greater tribute to the constitution that assures basic civil liberties and equal rights for all and would have demonstrated the existence of some democratic space in a stifling conflict zone. The cosmetic statements of several leaders from the ruling party on World Human Rights Day did not quite match the bitter ground reality. While some of them unequivocally called for demilitarization and doing away with laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the police and security forces were given a free hand to quell any form of protest, revealing the shameful hypocrisy on the vital issue of human rights. 

India’s track record on human rights, especially in the last two decades in Jammu and Kashmir has been shamefully distressing. Several international human rights bodies have already indicted India and warned Indian government and its security agencies against excesses but the situation has not changed. India stands committed to respecting human rights internationally. About a decade back, prime minister Manmohan Singh promised zero tolerance to human rights violations. However, the graph of violations has not waned. Nor is there any commitment to probe the cases of abuse despite that much hyped promise of zero tolerance. Extra judicial laws like AFSPA give a blanket impunity to the soldiers accused of violations and other methods of cover-up are common, like tampering of evidence, refusal to registercases and dilly dallying ways. Even with decreasing graph of militancy, which has been used as a pretext to curtail the civil rights of the public and perpetrate gross excesses, the human rights violations have not decreased; only their form has undergone change. While one may hear lesser of fake encounters and custodial disappearances now, there is a higher incidence of random and whimsical arrests, detentions, brutal action on protestors including point blank killings, even as many of these demonstrations are not even related to conflict,politics and human rights. 

While violations by non state actors including militants are equally condemnable, the comparisons would be odious for the very fact that the state has an obligation to protect the human rights of its citizens, not encourage excesses, much less offer protection to the perpetrators in uniform. Former supreme court chief justice Markandey Katju had observed in a verdict on custodial killing in Rajasthan that this was a far more heinous crime than a murder committed by ordinary civilian because the men in uniform are under a moral and ethical obligation toprotect the lives of the people. However, in Jammu and Kashmir such brazen violations are treated with apathy and there is a tendency to normalize the human rights abuse with a repulsive legitimacy in the name of security and national interest, which is unacceptable and needs to be challenged.