Militarisation with impunity in J&K has bred culture of violence, injustice for fake encounters

Injustice under AFSPA

The army court verdict in the case of Machhil fake encounter killing is welcome as justice has finally been done in a shocking case of violation of human rights. But it would be time to rejoice this verdict only if it signals the beginning of much needed system of justice in place to address the grave wrongs committed in Jammu and Kashmir in the name of insurgency. Justice cannot be an exception, it has to be the norm. A cursory glance at simply the Macchil fake encounter case is enough to reveal the deliberate policy of cover-up and denial of justice through false statements, evasive tactics and dilly-dallying. It took three years for the army to go agree to even a court martial proceeding and it completely denied permission to prosecute the accused personnel in a civil court, taking shelter under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Needless to point out that protests following this encounter in 2010 led to over 120 deaths of youth. Machhil fake encounter was first celebrated by the army as a major counter insurgency victory by announcing that 3 dreaded militants had been killed.

However, reports later pointed out that 3 innocent local men were picked up and killed by security personnel in order to get promotions, perks and awards. So, Machhil fake encounter killing is only a small spoke in the larger wheel of human rights violations by security personnel, encouraged by the errant system of promotions and honours on basis of number of kills and the immunity against prosecution enjoyed by the armed forces under AFSPA.

Militarisation and AFSPA has bred a culture of violence and injustice in the Valley that has all along been officially legitmised. Justice demands that thousands more seeking justice for fake encounter killings, enforced disappearances, torture and rapes be brought to book and dealt with in the manner in which the Machhil encounter verdict has progressed. Exception as this verdict turns out to be, it would be unfair to attribute motives, without any evidence, to the verdict designed to benefit the electoral fortunes of anybody in the ongoing elections in Jammu and Kashmir. However, with many BJP leaders trying to cash in on the verdict by calling it Modi government’s commitment to human rights and justice, it does evoke a bit of curiosity. If there is any element of truth in such statements, it would be dangerous trend, signifying the politicisation of the Army. 

However, unconcerned about such perils, politicians of all hues are busy politicking over the Machhil fake encounter verdict. While union minister of state and former army chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, has celebrated this verdict, he has maintained that AFSPA has nothing to do with denying justice. Public memory cannot be so short lived as to forget the 14 year long drama of false statements, fudging evidence, denial of prosecution, a hesitant court martial proceedings and a verdict without any transparent trial that the Pathribal fake encounter killings have come to signify. The Machhil verdict stands in striking contrast to Pathribal case. The fact remains that prosecution to nail the accused men in uniform in civil courts has been denied in the last over two decades under AFSPA and the few court martial proceedings that have been held are neither transparent, nor have ended up in punishment commensurate to the crime. Many like the Pathribal case have ended up exonerating the accused without an explanation; in the others the punishments have been the usual affairs of suspensions for crimes like murders and rapes. The politicking over AFSPA and Machhil does not end at BJP. Congress leader and former union home minister P. Chidambaram, who made tireless efforts in endorsing AFSPA and stalling all attempts to review the draconian law during his tenure, suddenly finds the law an ‘obnoxious one’, just few months after the Congress had to bite dust in the parliamentary elections. Justice, therefore, requires fair probes and trials not in one or two odd cases but in devising a complete fool-proof mechanism. This is important also because the petty politicking that has been generated over human rights abuse and AFSPA has consequences that will hamper the credibility of the army and be too dangerous for the country.