Rarest of the rare’
While BJP has togged herself up in commando boots and is stalking to jump at (what it calls ‘mission 44+’), two significant developments hit the headlines. In less than a couple of weeks something exceptionally unusual was flung at the ‘politically conscious ’people of Kashmir. From frigid imperviousness was flashed “concern” for something called supremacy of human dignity. This new face-lift has to be read in the context of the situation unfolding at now.
First ‘rarest of the rare’. First time the army threw away the Goblin propaganda tools and wore its heart upon its sleeve (at least it seemed to us). It clearly took the `responsibility’ for the killing of two innocent Kashmiri youth in Chattergam, Budgam, on November 3. Unprecedented. Never before in 25 years have the people here witnessed top brass and the Delhi government admitting such grave crimes committed by its troops. Ghastlier crimes investigated by State Human Rights Commission and even by India’s premier probe agency, CBI, _where criminals in uniform were identified and indicted_ were always denied brazenly under the ‘attempts to malign the reputation of disciplined army’ rubric. The Chattergam army responsibility is hailed as ‘path-breaking’. Second ‘marathon’ to ‘accountability’ equally holds the rarest status. An army court, on November 13, awarded life sentence to six soldiers, including a commanding officer and a Major for killing three youth in a fake encounter in Machil, North Kashmir in April 2010, passing them off as ‘dreaded foreign terrorists’. The sentence, however, is yet to be approved by the higher authorities in the army.
Rewriting its image anew by resorting to such kind of remedial therapies is a good decision. If from the black-hole of impunity guilt confessions and feelings of remorse start ejaculating out , the “transiting to transparency” needs to be welcomed. But with it comes the test to palpate the intent. Has the new polished face been grafted because of certain political compulsions to benefit a political regime in Delhi? Or, in the fag end of militancy army is guided by long-overdue professional ethics imperative? Very soon every thing will become clear.
The timing of both the developments is extremely important. The court martial of Machil fake encounter was completed in September last and it was only when elections in Kashmir picked up momentum the verdict was made public. Second, army went in mourning mode first time. One need not be a genius to infer that the political party most suitably placed to extract maximum political benefits in this turn around is the BJP. But least Indian army, that boasts of secular sports , would like to be dragged in that kind of debate. That is where the army, as an institution, and BJP government in Delhi have to come clean and display sincerity. That the new posturing was not poll-oriented and on ad hoc basis.
Machil verdict has come a starter. But it should not traumatize our memory in having ended as an isolated case while justice eludes victims of other massacres. As human rights watch dog, Amnesty International, has rightly said the army court’s decision should be followed by justice for many other cases of human rights violations in JK. Nonetheless, as the past decades response of the military establishment to the credible complaints reveals, guilty personnel were allowed to run away with the crime, in many cases rewarded with promotions and ‘gallantry’ awards. For a state craning its head up in a civilized community of nations and believing in independent judiciary, according impunity to army from legal prosecution, as does the draconian AFSPA, amounts to institutionalizing human rights violations and running a parallel criminal justice system where accused delivers the judgment, acting plaintiff, advocate and jury in one breath. Though belatedly, former union home minister of India P Chidambarm deserves accolades in giving in to the call of his conscience. He termed, and rightly so, AFSPA as an ‘obnoxious law that has no place in modern civilized county’, for, he says ‘it incorporates principle of immunity against prosecution without previous sanction’.
That a state puffing of its ‘democratic’ credentials should itself erect a barrier between court and a soldier puts a question mark on its democratic claim. Remember democracy and AFSPA, by their very nature are incompatible. They cannot be sheathed together. Where one prevails, other wilts in suffocation.