Every incident of gross human rights violation follows a pattern. People take to streets and strongly protest – believing, though falsely, that their erecting resistance dykes can stop the perpetrators from embarking on the dangerous path or at least shame them. The state government pushes the panic button and deploys huge number of forces, giving the impression of martial law hubris. Under the threatening gaze of the forces, armed to the hilt with lethal weapons like pellet guns, pepper gas, grenades, slingshots and machine guns, all outlets of democratic expressions are curbed, with leaders and activists of opposite ideology either put on house arrest or imprisoned. To show its ‘seriousness’ and ‘sincerity’ in having the law measure the necks of the culprits in uniform, authorities announce probes. But as in manipulating art many other things lose their virginity, probes have become too adulterated to buy any interest. Ironically, the head of the government, who orders such inquiries, too has lost faith on their outcome. In an interview with GK July 15, 2013, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah admitted that ‘Today in the aftermath of the incident like Bandipora when you announce that you will have an enquiry and look into the matter, who trusts it? Most people turn around and say well what is the point of the enquiry? Like other enquiries it will meet the same fate. We are put on the defensive. Very few enquiries have been taken to their logical conclusion or the findings of these enquiries have been shared with people since 1996 to 2013’.
This candid admission in itself reveals that enquiries whenever ordered are just eye-wash. They have two purposes to serve; one to cool down the tempers of people and second, to hoodwink the world community. The recent probe following Gool killings, as past experience beckons us, will not turn different. As before armed forces personnel, whether regular or paramilitary, will get away with the heinous crime, knowing fully well that their fellow troopers have got away with much worse like Sopore, Bijbehara, Handwara, Hawal massacres. The inbuilt culture of impunity that AFSPA shield promotes, with political class and media defending the indefensible, the troopers get ‘morale boasted’ to carry on with their ‘job’. And they do it just the way they did at Markandal Hajin, Gool and presently in Shopian.
Do we need probes where troopers are unmasked, their brigades identified. When people are fired upon from whispering distance, not as last resort to control the crowd but with deliberate intent to kill and violating Standard Operating Procedure (which forbids troopers to shoot above the waist), and the horrible scene is video graphed live in broad daylight, what remains there for holding inquiries? When a trooper after hitting a protestor right at the head in frenzied joy shouts ‘Bachu naach, ab bi naach’ (GK July 30, 2013), is not that ‘circumstantial evidence’, that bullying arrogance, that frank admission from the killer himself sufficient enough to punish the killer in uniform? Still we have New Delhi saying, ‘if forces personnel have indulged in excessive use of force, we will look into it’. A deliberate attempt to cover up the gross abuses of human rights and, indirectly, emboldening the guilty.
May be state government, while ordering enquiries, is sincere but the fate of these probes reflects a widening gulf between what they say and what on ground people reap. If state government finds itself helpless in seeing probes reach to logical conclusion, there is no point in peddling the canard and thus invite the ridicule. When a youngster from Baramulla, Tahir Rasool, was killed by army in February this year, Omar in state assembly not only announced probe, but vowed to punish the guilty cop. Last year a college going student from Uri, Altaf Ahmad Sood, was killed by Central Industrial Force guarding power plant. Omar visited family of the deceased and assured stern action against the accused troopers. Even though CIF is not enjoying the legal protection of AFSPA, Omar failed to pledge his commitment.
All this make one to conclude that probes are made not to punish but protect the perpetrators of crime. Omar Sahab’s blaming the killed Imam of Masjid (Gool carnage) for ‘provoking people to attack BSF’, too reflects that he in decisive moment follows Shinde’s track. During the four and half years of NC-Congress coalition rule 54 probes of human rights violations were announced. From 2002 to 2008 when PDP-Congress co-opted in power, 110 inquiries of were announced. Not only was any guilty cop held accountable, even inquiries were never made public. Mind it the Chief Minister of the state happens to be the head of the Unified Head Quarters. That clearly reveals that apart from Congress, both NC and PDP are part of the system they are glued with and at the same time vomit out their anger and rancor at. Duplicity can not have more its faithful and vocal peers and patrons that NC and PDP. In one breath they sell probes and in another do everything to let them pile up in dustbin. Sheathing prosecution and defence together they have guaranteed their political survival. People are not that credulous as not to understand that these theatrics are meant to anesthetize them and build their career on the people’s amnesia.