Factual broad outlines of the latest tragedy, in Markundal village of Bandipore on Sunday in which two youngmen were gunned down by the Army, disturbingly resemble the agonising features of the Pathribal tragedy in which a group of innocent local residents were killed in a fake encounter. The army and the intelligence agencies have been under great pressure to hunt for the militants who killed 8 army personnel in a daring daylight attack in Srinagar last week, just as was the case after the Chhittisingh Pora massacre of Sikhs in 2000. In both cases, the army has sought to defend the killing of innocent civilians on the worn out plea that its personnel had ‘acted on specific information’.
The CBI investigation has since exposed the falsehood of this plea in the Pathribal case in South Kashmir and now the version put out by the state police in the latest case in Markundal in North Kashmir falsifies the account given by the army authorities. Significantly, the police have refuted the army claim that the night raid conducted in Bandipore area on Sunday was a ‘joint operation’ of the army and police. Eyewitness account points to cold blooded murder. Police version also has it that this action of the army was not within the prescribed parameters ‘standard operations procedure’ (SOP). Presently, night time search operations are beyond the scope of the SOP.
Circumstances of the tragedy aside, lives of two more young Kashmiri boys have been snuffed out. Two more families have been thrown into distress. The tragedy goes on lengthening its shadow even as the high and mighty from New Delhi make it a point to come here to ‘share’ the concerns of the local population and to ‘respect’ their aspirations. It is a vicious circle in which the people find themselves trapped so haplessly. Local politics and local ‘authority’ have been sufficiently castrated to render them ‘safe’ for unimpeded free run of armed personnel.
In fact, the hapless population is getting it both ways. Incidents of ‘unidentified gunmen’ killing unarmed civilians continue to occur just as the civilian causalities resulting from ‘security operations’ continue to take place unabated. This vicious phenomenon is common to both what happened in the Pathribal case and now at Markundal. ‘Unidentified gunmen’ massacred Sikh victims in Chhittisingh Pora in 2000 and shortly thereafter the security personnel ‘acting on specific information’ gunned down innocent civilians.
It needs no great knowledge or expertise to conclude that if the quality of ‘specific information’ remains unchanged from what it was in the year 2000 when civilians were killed in a fake encounter to what was witnessed on Sunday in the North Kashmir village the entire intelligence system must be rotten to the core. With recent disclosure of how intelligence agencies manufacture their ‘input’ to security forces (in Gujarat) to manipulate ground situation for ulterior motives, happenings in Kashmir are that much more disturbing.
Irfan Nabi and Tariq Ahmed are two latest additions to the gory list of innocent victims. It is staggering to recall the heavy toll of 2008 and 2010. Nearly two hundred precious lives were consumed by bullets fired by soldiers. Not a single case has so far been investigated. Names of Irfan and Tariq have, meanwhile, entered the lengthening list. Impotent expression of rage by the men in authority has ceased to impress. Their own hands are as full of blood as that of the perpetrators of the crime. Abdication of authority and moral obligations by the men in authority is proving too costly for the ruled. Too many precious lives are being lost in this deadly game.
Local rulers stand exposed thoroughly. The bloodshed over the past five years can in no case be justified. The cost of foisting incompetent rulers for such a long time has already become unbearable. It is impossible to predict the course of coming events. However, straws in the wind are disturbing enough.