MARGINALIA: Closely guarded secrets of human rights abuse

There’s still optimism in the air. Or has it already vanished? The State Information Commission in Jammu and Kashmir has now sought details from police about encounters by security forces and human rights violations by police personnel since 1990. So does the Right to Information have the potential to reveal all the dark long kept secrets about role of security personnel in brutalising the society and of their higher ups in shielding them, showing us how this ugly, unjust system of repression and impunity works, and how it feeds into passion for greater repression by men in uniform and the anger and dismay of those affected? On the face of it, it comes across as very sexy; underneath, it’s purely sleazy. Just a glance at how official and quasi-autonomous bodies have dealt with the issue and what the final outcome has been in each case is enough to make anyone skeptical.

What about all those routine FIRs that are lodged and the investigations that follow or do not follow? What happened to cases in which men in uniform continue to be indicted, atleast so on official papers? What happened to the case diaries of the crime branch, which according to the recent book Meadow, revealed that the foreign back packers picked by by Al Faran in 1995 were killed by pro-government gunmen and that there was some power higher up in New Delhi that was sabotaging all possible interlocution and deal with the kidnappers to rescue the hostages? Last week we were told, they have been all burnt in a fire in 2010, vanished like the hostages, without a trace. How convenient can that get for a government conspicuous with its silence on the issue ever since the book made these startling disclosures? Indeed there is a method to this madness of stonewalling any information about human rights abuse by the well protected men in uniform. No dearth of reasons and no scarcity of brazen lies or crafty stories to keep the long kept secrets under the garbs, as if knowledge is forbidden, as if it would lead to a catastrophe.

We’ve had similar experience in endless cases with so called judicial probes, State Human Rights Commission and sundry, starting by hyping expectations of people about justice, atleast about knowing the truth and then wearing everybody out with their pro-activism dissipating into prolonged inertia, achieving only a Cadmean victory. It’s a way of wrongly engaging people who have no confidence left in the system and institution of justice, so that whatever little traces of faith that are left are completely destroyed. What could be a bigger catastrophe than that?

Everything begins with a bang and ends in a whimper; high promises metamorphosing into denial, causing not just pain, anguish and anger but allowing cynicism to sink in deeply. With all these processes, the only thing that the official agencies and the government have managed to do is to convince the people of Kashmir that when it comes to human rights and militarisation, there is nothing that is going to be done. There can be a huge theatrics of rhetoric, debates, highly classified commissions and panels coming in the name of healing wounds and eventually inflicting mental torture for proving to be mere eyewash. Nothing moves and there is a rigid mindset at the top that forbids movement.

Doesn’t chief minister Omar Abdullah’s latest U-turn on Independence Day on Armed Forces Special Powers Act say it all. AFSPA’s partial revocation, which he labored with to make everyone believe was his dream project (apart from his previous beloved Truth Commissions), is now no longer feasible at the moment, he said last week, even as he has spent the entire summer celebrating the unparalleled tourism as a sign of ‘unparalleled normalcy’. Long before he began convincing us about these signs of normalcy, when anger poured out on streets and men in uniform went on a shooting spree, he developed a penchant for raking up the AFSPA issue at every public gathering and forum. And in doing so, he showed defiance against New Delhi, against the all supreme army. Then why is it suddenly not feasible when his government is bragging about an unprecedented normalcy? Is it that he’s realised who the boss is? While one can debate about the waning and waxing of this bit of inspiration in Omar Abdullah’s mind, one truth is certainly out there – that Indian government and its agencies will not allow its puppet sarkar in the state and other so-called autonomous bodies to rake up the filthy secrets of human rights abuse which can be best guarded amid a continuum of militarization and repression.