Killing of innocents

Tragically, within days of the State chief minister’s assertion that his government would not allow the blood of innocents to be shed in Kashmir, the trigger-happy security forces, armed with blanket powers under the draconian Armed Forces Powers Act (AFSPA), have killed an innocent civilian, father of eight daughters, in Kellar in Shopian district and injured several others without any provocation. A day earlier the CRPF opened fire on the people coming out of the mosque after offering prayers in Nowshera area of Srinagar critically injuring one youth. During the past few days a number of persons have been injured when the police resorted to firing to disperse demonstrators protesting against the awarding of death sentence to two Kashmiris in 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast case. Omar Abdullah has been repeatedly saying that he does not believe in words and should be judged on his actions. The events of past few months when his government has been on a path of confrontation with all sections of the people speak for themselves. He appears to be a prisoner of indecision and inaction and his government betrays lack of will and capacity to deal with the situation. While the gaph of human rights abuses is showing an upward trend, the state government appears helpless to retrieve the situation which is worsening day after day. Such human rights abuses are inherent in the situation with the militarization of the civilian space, presence of large number of armed forces and para-military forces enjoying immunity for their actions and the absence of any mechanism to deal with such abuses. It is the prevailing culture of impunity which is providing a free hand to the forces armed with blanket powers to resort to such human rights abuses. While their acts are beyond the purview of the National Human Rights Commission, the State’s own Commission remains a toothless organization. Not only it lacks the necessary wherewithal including its own independent investigation agency but even its recommendations are not mandatory. The State government has invariably failed to implement any of its directions. Even on the question of the revocation of the dreaded AFPA, a demand made by the vast majority of the people and backed by the working group on ensuring human rights set up by the Prime Minister and headed by M.A.Ansari, presently Vice President of India, the chief minister is vacillating.

Apart from the manner in which the State administration is dealing with the law and order situation by repeatedly resorting to use of brutal force and armed forces resorting to grave human rights abuses, the very denial of freedom to the people to hold protest demonstrations to express their anguish over such atrocities makes it obvious that the State authorities have embarked on a course of confrontation with the people. The indiscriminate arrests of political leaders and activists under the draconian Public Safety Act and even of youth and children on frivolous charges of stone-pelting amount to serious human rights violations. These are ominous signs of the state returning to the dark days of terror and intimidation. Instead of creating a conducive climate of trust and conciliation for initiating a process of dialogue reverting back to the policy of strong-arm methods to suppress the popular urges and aspirations is bound to prove counter-productive. The people of the State, who had suffered due to the prolonged conflict and violence, are yearning for peace and normalcy. That can be possible only through a process of meaningful dialogue for a lasting and just solution of the basic Kashmir problem. For that there is need to create a conducive climate by putting an end to all kinds of human rights abuses and overcoming the trust-deficit. The withdrawal of armed forces and para-militaries from the civilian areas, scrapping of draconian laws, strengthening of human rights commission, release of all political prisoners and restoration of civil liberties are the necessary steps in this direction.