Official lies cannot wash over the acts of omission of the men in uniform

Brazen unprovoked killings

The Chattergam killings once again expose the vulnerability of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Valley, in a very militarized set up with mechanisms of impunity including laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, encouraging a vicious cycle of repression and as a consequence to that extreme frustration and anger, pushing people towards further peril. As always the officials are busy trying to cover the tracks with suitably manufactured stories and use of media to obfuscate the truth. While some sections of the media totally lost the plot by trying to project that two militants had been killed, the official narrative followed the cautious regime of blaming the four car borne youth, two of whom were killed and the other two injured in the army firing, for not stopping at the check points erected by the army personnel on patrol.

The eye-witnesses and the family, however, have countered such claims and said that the soldiers caused sudden alarm pushing the car borne youth to panic and bang into an electric pole after which the army-men started unprovoked firing. Even if the youth did not stop at the barricade, as is the official claim, it does not give the soldiers plausible reason to open indiscriminate firing with an aim to kill the innocent youth. Official lies cannot wash over the acts of omission of the men in uniform who have been clumsily trying to defend themselves. The eye witness accounts do not match the changing official narratives being thrown up. The killings are cold blooded murders and totally unprovoked and so the guilty must be brought to book immediately.

The manner in which the government seeks to wish away these killings with package of lies and evasiveness, it reveals how unrepentant security men, with no remorse over the loss of life due to their glee of unmindfully pressing the trigger, are being encouraged to repeat their inhuman follies. Their morale, not for good but for omissions, is bolstered by the multi-tieredpattern 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. 

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 more recent memory of the worst ever floods in Kashmir in which the governments both in the state and the centre left the victims to fend for themselves for including rescue operations but for the delayed and slow efforts of the army for a short period has further widened that gap of mistrust

. Anger over such incidents would therefore naturally spill out on the roads but cannot be crushed with brute power, reckless curfews and the usual fare of lathi-charge and teargassing. This general tendency is to imprison the people with curfews, stifle protests at the cost of going brutal, putting leaders under house arrest and instead cracking down on those who still manage to raise what is officially considered as ‘ugly whimpers’ of protest must stop. 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 into denial mode. The government should not allow the incident to become a convenient tool for manipulating voting patterns in the forthcoming elections, as has been the norm in the past.