No justice, no closure What about other accused in Andrabi murder case?


The closure of the Jalil Andrabi murder case months after one of the prime accused shot himself dead in California amounts to complete denial of justice. More than one and a half decade after the human rights activist and lawyer was found dead, the official investigation and the legal battle had been going on at snail’s pace allowing enough room and space for the accused army officer, Major Avtar Singh, to take retirement from service and rush to seek refuge in U.S.A, which obviously points out to the tacit involvement of the entire state machinery in ensuring that he got away to safety without having to face the trial. It took the government ten years after Andrabi was kidnapped, tortured and killed, to just begin the simple exercise of seeking CBI’s help for the extradition of Major Avtar Singh. The manner in which Major Avtar Singh managed to safely flee to Canada and later to the U.S.A, the inability of the army to divulge his whereabouts for several years as the legal battle for justice progressed and the reluctance of the government to take up the issue of extradition, are all a reflection of the unfortunate government policy of patronising the men who misuse official position and violate the rights of civilians, resort to large scale torture and killings without being questioned. 
It is an obvious manifestation of the government’s inability to address or prosecute cases relating to security forces, which are deemed above the board. The court, while announcing a closure on the case, has not taken into account the argument of the lawyer that there are other accused in the case and that answers have not been sought as to how the accused managed to flee to safety when his passport had been impounded. These were serious questions, that would have challenged a well entrenched and systemic mechanism in place to shield guilty men in uniform, that the court could have sought answers for. The accused Major in an interview published a year before he allegedly committed suicide after killing his entire family had obliquely threatened to expose the larger picture of people involved in the Jalil Andrabi murder case. Avtar Singh’s extradition and arrest would have been problematic for many collaborators within the official ambit. His death, even if just a pure coincidence, may only have ended up as a boon for them. 

As for those seeking justice for Andrabi, closure of the case has failed to meet their aspirations to atleast see the culprits being brought to book. Instead just three days before the court announced the closure on this case, the state government has begun a pro-active policy of manufacturing old cases against those who campaigned for or sought justice in the Jalil Andrabi murder case. The JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik, who was released the same year and announced an end to militancy, has been booked for rioting, even though one doesn’t recall any significant report of rioting at the time Andrabi disappeared and was later found dead, more than 17 years on. The timing reveals that there is more to this sudden concocting of charges than coincidence.

The Jalil Andrabi case is not a case in isolation but it epitomizes the symptom and malaise of human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Valley. Andrabi’s case was well publicized and his killing sparked off international concern. The manner in which a highly reputed lawyer with commitment to human rights was picked up and killed by security forces shocked the entire world. That his murder was a clear cut planned and pre-meditated case of trying to gag any kind of reasonable voice for justice in the Valley is already established. Equally conspicuous is the manner in which the authorities try to shield the culprits accused of such blatant violations of human rights. This phenomenon is not restricted to the Jalil Andrabi case alone but is the usual norm in the last over two decades of armed conflict. The fate of other cases of violations has been similar in a democratic country, defying the basic essence of justice and democratic spirit. 
For thousands of people in the state who have been victimised in the conflict, justice has been one of the greatest casualties. What has only added to their miseries, shock and anger is the new pro-active policy of taking on the civilians who raise some kind of revolt for justice – by speaking, writing, protesting peacefully on roads or even engaging in stone pelting.

The saga of 2010 killings, where not a single policeman or security personnel has been touched for brutality, but any civilian who demonstrated anger in some form or the other has been nailed, is a clear manifestation of this policy. The Shopian rapes and murders, where the accused cops have been turned into victims and victims and whistle blowers find cases slapped against them is yet another indicator. This practice of overlooking heinous crimes committed with the patronage of the State and nailing people for frivolous acts amounts to double standards. The institutionalized system of impunity, denial of justice and victimizing those seeking justice is unfair and unacceptable for the simple reason that it defies all democratic norms and upholds the fascist polity of making the civilians accountable to the government, not government functionaries and agencies accountable to the public. The entire policy stinks, exposing the official betrayal of justice, the hawkishness and belligerence of a government that is at war with its own people as well as lays bare the hollowness of claims of zero tolerance to human rights abuse.