Killing fields of Sopore

Genesis of such out rages lies in the barrel of gun that men in uniform enjoying culture of immunity use
The CRPF is on a killing spree in Sopore, 4 young men gunned down just hours before chief minister Omar Abdullah spoke about ‘uplifting souls’ while listening to a musical bonanza of Beethoven’s and Tchaikovsky’s classics by Zubin Mehta in the sprawling lawns overlooking the Dal Lake, one amid protests over the killings on Wednesday. The area including Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam, is turned into a prison inside out with curfew imposition and incidents of police and CRPF entering homes of people and beating them up and provoking more outrage with compelling designs of forbidding and crushing protests, even barring anyone from coming in and reaching out to the naturally angered people of Shopian. The killings last Saturday should not have taken place in the first instance and official lies cannot wash over the acts of omission of the men in uniform who have been clumsily trying to defend themselves by first branding all the slain men as ‘terrorists’, later half of them and finally the only unidentified man, even as eye witness accounts do not match the changing official narratives being thrown up one after the other. Wednesday’s bloodshed is just as unprovoked and reveals how unrepentant security men, with no remorse over the loss of life due to their glee of unmindfully pressing the trigger, can repeat their inhuman follies ‘uplifted’ by the multi-tiered pattern of impunity that protects them – starting from the package of lies, confusing statements to botched up probes and use of Armed Forces Special Powers Act to evade prosecution. 

The protests and outrage of the people, which is a natural fallout of this pattern of human rights violations with a clear cover of impunity, cannot be crushed through brutal and repressive means, nor de-legitimised by a pack of lies or by putting the entire onus of the provocation of protests on an octogenarian separatist leader jailed inside his barricaded home turn prison. A more dispassionate introspection would reveal that the genesis of this outrage lies elsewhere – in the barrel of the gun that men in uniform use with great liberty without being held accountable for their acts. Such brazen unprovoked killings would naturally spark anger anywhere in the world. The magnitude of this anger is expected to be manifold in a place like Kashmir where an unsettled political dispute and the baggage of recent history of repression and innocent killings coupled with a collective memory works as a major catalyst in propelling anger whenever such fresh incidents take place. 

The job of the government in eventuality of such incidents is to ensure calm by winning the confidence of the people, not through repressive measures and putting the entire onus of maintaining law and order on the people themselves; none on the security men who have turned into tyrants operating with unlimited impunity. Instead the general tendency is to imprison the people with curfews, stifle protests at the cost of going brutal, put leaders under house arrest (extending the home prisons from the houses of separatist leaders now to the mainstream opposition as well) and instead cracking down on those who still manage to raise what is officially considered as ‘ugly whimpers’ of protest. 

Such measures only seek to push the people to the wall and prepare conducive grounds for militancy and its glamourisation. The way the killings took place and the way they were handled reveals the likelihood of some vested interests within the official agencies at play. Whether this is by design or default, the repercussions are dangerous and therefore require a more serious approach from the government than the simple tactic of being evasive and switching to denial mode. The belated measure of the nod for replacing the CRPF in Gagran post in Shopian, where the killings took place, by the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police is neither going to bring in calm, nor address the issue of human rights abuse. It would only amount to shifting the disease from one part of the body to the other as has happened on earlier occasions including the Bomai-Sopore killings of 2009, when public protests forced the government to shift the army camp from the affected village to a neighbouring one and adding to the vulnerability of a fresh set of people. The problem can only be addressed by showing actual zero intolerance to human rights abuse by taking immediate action against the guilty men in uniform and allowing the legal justice system to take its due course without any official hindrance, political patronage or the protection of extra-constitutional laws.