Fresh Commission on 2010 killings can neither ensure justice, nor addressing the anger they fuelled

Just another eyewash

There couldn’t have been a bigger mockery of probes and commissions ordered by Jammu and Kashmir government than the announcement, belatedly after four years, of a fresh commission of inquiry (COI) into the 2010 killings without an official word on the previously appointed commission to probe into the first 17 killings that summer starting from Tufail Matoo. Four years ago, the government had ordered the CoI, selectively, into the killings of 17 youth out of about 128 civilians killed by police and paramilitary forces during the summer agitation of 2010. The previous CoI was headed by Justice (Retd) Syed Bashir-ud-Din and was given the task to complete the probe in three-months up to October 2010. The Commission had recorded statements of witnesses into the killings and even the accused cops and forces. According to some media reports, the Commission had sought an extension to finalise its reports and some policemen and CRPF personnel had been indicted of killings but instead it was unceremoniously shelved. The announcement of a fresh commission has not only come four years after the incidents but, more so, close on the heels of a humiliating defeat of the ruling coalition partners, revealing sadly that it stems little from concern for issues of justice and more from vote bank politics. In all likelihood the fate of the fresh commission to be headed by Justice (Retd) M.L. Koul is not likely to be any dissimilar from the earlier probe.

Last two decades of large scale human rights violations and occasional such probes ordered to mollify anger have revealed the futility of such exercises. First of all, the outcome of these probes is not binding upon the government to follow and implement. A vast majority of such probes have been lopsided, characterized by poor investigations or hurried conclusions primarily in a bid to bail out the policemen or security personnel accused of crimes against humanity. Many more have not even been finalized like the previous commission report on the 2010 killings. Those commission reports that have indicted the personnel have either not been made public or continue to simply gather dust on the shelves of the government departments. A few instances are illustrative, some during present chief minister Omar Abdullah’s own regime. The Bomai-Sopore killings probe of 2009, which as learnt through media reports, indicted the army personnel of killing 2 youth in cold blooded murder were never made public. Justice Muzaffar Jan report on Shopian rapes and murders had also indicted the police personnel of deliberate tampering of the evidence, on the basis of which the state high court had later ordered arrests of 4 cops including a superintendent of police, with the observation that evidence could not have been tampered with without a motive and added, “either they (the cops) have done it or know who has done it.”

Such quick action was so unprecedented in Kashmir’s record of human rights abuse that CBI was hurriedly brought in to give a fresh twist to the entire case, add confusing web of lies and further botch up the evidence with whistle-blowers ultimately being nailed and the story of the initial tampering of evidence totally forgotten. In the Brakpora firing case of 2000 soon after the Chittisinghpora massacre , the Justice Pandian Commission report did not only hold the CRPF personnel guilty of the crime but also called for a wider probe, bringing into ambit the intrinsically linked cases of Chittisinghpora killings and the subsequent Pathribal fake encounter. Neither such a probe ever came into being, nor were the recommendations of the Pandian Commission report on Brakpora firing taken to its logical conclusion. Two years later, the Justice Kucchay report on the DNA fudging in the Pathribal case was in December 2002 but its finding were not made public. Media reports suggested that it nailed a SSP for fudging the DNA samples. Later, the state government set up a ministerial committee to study the Justice Kuchay report in March 2003. The committee found that “only those persons would be interested in destruction and falsification of evidence, regardiing identification of blood samples, who must have taken part in the actual act of killing the five civilians in the fake encounter at Pathribal” and in 2003, the SSP was suspended. However, close on the heels of this report, the Pathribal case investigations were handed over to the CBI which indicted the army personnel but completely gave a clean chit to the police, without an explanation on why the police should have first gone to the media to proudly proclaim the Pathribal encounter as asolution to the Chittisinghpora massacre or about the police role in DNA fudging. As for the army’s role that has been taken care through judicial botch ups right at the supreme court level by giving army the option of dealing with the case through a court martial proceedings and six months back, the army personnel were exonerated through this departmental kangaroo court, revealing how institutionalised and systemic the official mechanisms have become in pursuit of justice.

In this backdrop, there is little to be expected from the fresh probe ordered by the state government. Needless to point out that 2010 killings go down as an emotional and psychological scar in the memory and psyche of the people that continue to fuel pent up anger, dismay and frustration. Any frivolous commission does not have the potential to address all of that.