Operation cover-up

The ruling class in Kashmir refuses to learn lessons from past occasions of Kashmir coming to a boil especially over the unending issue of human rights abuse. Instead of taking the collective responsibility of each incident and ensuring a certain minimum common mechanism of legal justice through fair probes, every incident of alleged human rights abuse is met with a cacophony of discordant noises and contradictory statements, all coming from the ruling elite or the official agencies. The recent Shopian killings are no exception. First, there were conflicting statements of the police and the CRPF and then finally a kind of near unison on the identity of one of the slain announced and proclaimed as a militant with a name, tag and affiliation even without an iota of evidence. The theory is outrightly rejected by the locals who maintain there are eyewitnesses to the Shopian killings and claim that the unidentified deceased was not a militant but a ‘Bihari labourer’. It is pertinent to point out that the term ‘Bihari’ is used in common parlance for all migrant labourers from outside the state even if the person in question may belong to some godforsaken place in Chattisgarh or Tamil Nadu. Therefore, the government assurance to resolve the matter by cross-checking with the Bihar police should hardly be a solace. The matter does not simply end at this tug of war of words between different security agencies and the protesting public. 

The political bigwigs too have joined the bandwagon and are out clashing with one another with their frivolous statements. Minister forMedical Education Taj Mohi-u-Din overstepped his brief while both advising Omar Abdullah to come out with a statement as also endorsing the official lie of one of the slain being a militant, even though his own party has maintained better discretion on the matter and simply washed its hands off by calling for a probe like the typical case of lip sympathy. Ordering any probe is the prerogative of the government, of which the Congress is an important component both in the state and at the Centre and such claims and confusion would only betray their hollowness and hypocrisy. This, however, leaves the National Conference no holier with a chief minister whose only opinion of such cases comes either in the form of tweets or conveniently laced in ambiguity. His uncle and additional general secretary of the party Mustafa Kamal goes a step further in stirring hornet’s nest, only for the benefit of juicy media columns or at best coffee table discussions. His latest missile on this particular issue is directed at Taj Mohi-u-Din, for his avoidable outburst, with an additional aim of bailing out his nephew’s government by invoking the song of helplessness against the monster of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). ‘What can the state government do against the CRPF in the face of AFSPA’ is Kamal’s plea of helplessness. 

True, AFSPA indeed has become a tough nut to crack and remains a major stumbling block in the dispensation of justice in cases of human rights violations where the men in uniform, particularly the armed forces, stand accused. However, the state police is not quite covered by this extra-constitutional law. What is it that stops the state government from taking action against the accused policemen in cases of human rights violations. Kamal and chief minister Omar Abdullah may not have to look too far, only at the track record of human rights abuse during the present tenure of their government to realize the pending long list of abuse where the state police personnel stand tainted – from Shopian rapes and murders to hordes of 2010 killings and beyond. The human rights track record of the state police is not something that the state government can call any better than that of the armed forces. Then this whole talk about AFSPA means little if the pattern of impunity goes beyond the law, right in the hands of those who hold the reins of power in the state. 

The noisy statements are, therefore, unnecessary and rather counter productive for they seek to create an impression that this is a deliberate ploy to mislead the world opinion and resultantly become a cause for greater provocation in a Valley angered beyond a point, and this trend must be arrested at any cost.