Justice denied as the culture of impunity continues to flourish

Grim human rights scenario
The families of victims of both Chittisingpora and Pathribal observed the 14th anniversary of the Sikh massacre by unknown gunmen and stage managed cold blooded murders in a fake encounter by security forces respectively but with no promise of any justice. The Chittisinghpora massacre investigations have been forgotten despite repetitive demands of victim families and Sikh organisations to probe the case fairly. Those initially framed in the case have long back been acquitted for lack of evidence and there has been no process of following up the investigations either at the police level or through the much desired political initiative. The Pathribal case after its recent closure by an army court has only evoked some lip sympathy and excessive politicization but no action or initiative by any of the political groups, much less the government even as chief minister Omar Abdullah has vowed to get the case re-opened. However, two months after the shocking closure that fails to give an explanation of how conclusions of exonerating the accused security men were arrived at, there has not been any move in this regard. Particularly in the Pathribal case, there is potentially sufficient evidence to nail the army men including top officers for the murders and various state institutions of cover-up and botch up including the bizarre case of the DNA sample fudging.

Both the Chittisinghpora case, which has added to the long list of un-probed conundrums in Kashmir, and the Pathribal case are symbols of the much larger landscape of human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Valley. In many of these cases, the role of security forces and police is all too evident. The list of cases is far too long including murders, rapes, torture and custodial disappearances. Atleast six parents have died after their tiring battle to know the truth about their sons who went missing in custody of security forces. This is the worst form of human rights abuse. The common masses suffer on a daily basis, torture and humiliation. Cases come to the fore only occasionally, especially when brutal killings take place. And yet, the government has been maintaining criminal silence while the elected members of the state legislature get busy in pointing accusing fingers at each other; and in turn only proving beyond any shadow of doubt that as far as human rights are concerned, it has been a kettle and pot case with the changing governments. 

While it is nobody’s case to ignore the brutalities indulged by non state actors including militants, it need not be over-emphasised that unbridled freedom to security forces to perpetuate atrocities and repressions with blanket impunity is far more dangerous as it gives the state the ultimate power and liberty to annihilate people and impinge on their civil liberties and basic human rights. Dismay marks the human rights scenario in Jammu and Kashmir, despite all the encouraging health of vibrant statements for political convenience. While human rights abuse by non-state players like militants need to be condemned, the repression and violation of human rights perpetrated by the state or the state sponsored terror through its various security agencies and patronized armed civilians cannot be condoned but needs to be recognized as a far graver and blatant violation of human rights. It needs to be challenged more forcefully including the existence of laws that give extra-judicial powers to the security forces and the massive usurpation of the civilian space by them. It needs to be realised that when armed groups, whether in uniform or without it, are brought in close proximity to the civilians, the human rights violations would go up. Even as militancy has declined considerably, the human rights violations are common. In recent years, only the form of human rights abusehas changed from custodial disappearances and fake encounters to targeted killings during street protests and random arrests of youth. There is both the need to bring down this scale of human rights abuse and initiate mechanisms of justice in cases that are pending. Action must begin in first of all doing away with Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Second, the troops have to be reduced, without creating new grounds to retain them in civilian areas or even going a step further to justify any increase in the already obnoxiously monstrous size of the security forces. But since impunity exists even beyond AFSPA, there is need for a culture of governance where human rights violations, whether physical or psychological in nature, can be eliminated. Besides, there is need for government to assure setting up of an independent and fair tribunal to investigate all cases of human rights violations, or at least start with providing more teeth to the existing SHRC and existing investigating agencies to be held more accountable.