In denial mode

The absolute mismatch between the written reply on human rights cases in the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly based on statistics of the state’s home ministry and the reply of the chief minister, who also heads the home ministry, to discussion on Governor’s address some weeks ago demonstrates two failures on part of the huge state administrative apparatus. Firstly, it is reflective of the poor functioning of the government where the authenticity of compilation of data comes under a cloud with conflicting and contradictory statistics emerging from one department alone. Secondly, and more importantly, it reveals how the government switches into a denial mode on the question of one of the most crucial issues Jammu and Kashmir is today bogged with. While chief minister Omar Abdullah on the floor of the state legislature, some weeks ago, had maintained that there were just 94 killings and 11 reports of rapes in the last one year, the official data released in a written reply to a query by a legislator claims that the killings were as high as 465 and no rape reports or cases have been registered during Omar’s tenure as chief minister. Interestingly, according to the statistics of the police department, only 10 cases of rapes have been registered in the last two decades of militancy. Forget the yawning gaps, the denial mode reflects a certain mindset that tends to trivialise the issue of human rights. Chief minister’s own admission about reports of 11 rape cases, in striking contrast to the nil figures suggested by the home ministry’s written reply, is less a statement of regret and more a celebration of a suggestive ‘improvement’ in the human rights track record. When the CM doled out those figures, he was merely boasting of his ‘impressive’ record in comparison to the human rights record during his main opponent Mufti Mohd Sayeed’s tenure as chief minister. During the latter’s three year rule, 75 cases of rape and molestation were reported, he had been quick to add, even as comparison’s between a one year period and three years can be odious. Besides, it is not an issue of which government has managed a hair thin better human rights record; the problem rather is that in the last two decades there has been an unchecked continuum of human rights violations including murders, rapes, molestations, tortures, custodial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests.

These happen because the conditions of excessive militarisation and impunity enjoyed by security forces and other non-state counter insurgency operators are conducive for excesses. The tendency to deny these and the wrongful justification of laws that give extra-judicial and extra constitutional powers to men in uniform further fuels and encourages this vicious trend of human rights abuse. Though the government alone cannot be blamed much for human rights abuse perpetrated by armed insurgents, or those at the hands of some civilians; the inability of the government despite having engaged a huge paraphernalia of security apparatus in ensuring safety and security of common masses questions the very futility of having them here. The presence of troops and other armed state sponsored groups is so disproportionate that it virtually works out to one armed personnel for every 20 civilians. Even then, there is a complete disability to protect the lives of the ordinary citizens raising pertinent questions about the purpose of having such a huge fleet of men in uniform. Instead of heeding the voices of reason that raise concerns about human rights abuse as also the unjustified disproportionate presence of security forces with unlimited powers, the government instead tries to overlook all kinds of excesses by the simple act of making sweeping statements and celebrating minor responses as a generalised picture. The action taken in the Zahid Farooq killing, though appreciable, does not reflect the general picture. Rather it stands in striking contrast to the huge fabric of history of human rights violation cases.

Last year, when Omar Abdullah’s initiative had led to the shifting of an army camp from Bomai following unrest over killing of two boys, it was equally publicised and boasted off as an achievement, even though justice in the case still remains elusive with no army personnel having been even booked for murder charges.

Denial is almost used as a policy by the government, not only to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses with concocted and contradictory figures but also by treating minor positive actions as the universal truth. If a beginning indeed has to be made in tackling this continuum of abuse, it must first begin from the official records. The government should atleast accept the ground reality as it is and come out with some kind of authentic and reliable documentation rather than get egg in its face with figures that not only fail to add up but also fail to match.