Palhalan killing and probe


The killing of a youth, peacefully protesting, in Palhalan and the usual path followed by the officials to ignore the heinous murder and justify the killing by blaming the separatists or other forces once again indicates that justice has a different meaning altogether in a place like Kashmir. The government has ordered a district magisterial level inquiry in the incident but that is unlikely to provide any sense of justice in view of the inability of such a probe to question the official role as well as past precedence regarding such cases. Such probes are biased, fail to address several questions or do not see the light of the day; very often the contents of these reports are not even made public. Last two decades of large scale human rights violations and occasional such probes ordered to mollify anger have revealed the futility of such exercises. First of all, the outcome of these probes is not binding upon the government to follow and implement. A vast majority of such probes have been lopsided, characterized by poor investigations or hurried conclusions primarily in a bid to bail out the policemen or security personnel accused of crimes against humanity.

Many more have not even been finalized like the first commission report on the 2010 killings and a year ago, it was followed by another Commission of Inquiry, about which nothing is known. Those commission reports that have indicted the personnel have either not been made public or continue to simply gather dust on the shelves of the government departments. A few instances are illustrativeme. The Bomai-Sopore killings probe of 2009, which as learnt through media reports, indicted the army personnel of killing 2 youth in cold blooded murder were never made public. Justice Muzaffar Jan report on Shopian rapes and murders had also indicted the police personnel of deliberate tampering of the evidence, on the basis of which the state high court had later ordered arrests of 4 cops including a superintendent of police, with the observation that evidence could not have been tampered with without a motive and added, "either they (the cops) have done it or know who has done it."

Such quick action was so unprecedented in Kashmir’s record of human rights abuse that CBI was hurriedly brought in to give a fresh twist to the entire case, add confusing web of lies and further botch up the evidence with whistle-blowers ultimately being nailed and the story of the initial tampering of evidence totally forgotten. In the Brakpora firing case of 2000 soon after the Chittisinghpora massacre , the Justice Pandian Commission report did not only hold the CRPF personnel guilty of the crime but also called for a wider probe, bringing into ambit the intrinsically linked cases of Chittisinghpora killings and the subsequent Pathribal fake encounter. Neither such a probe ever came into being, nor were the recommendations of the Pandian Commission report on Brakpora firing taken to its logical conclusion. 

The denial of justice stems from a biased mind-set and is revealed through scuttling of probes, fudging of evidence, concocting official stories and obfuscating truth. Besides, special laws are invoked to protect the central security forces like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, requiring central sanction for prosecution of men in uniform accused of atrocities. As for the involvement of police personnel in gross violation of human rights, the government uses all its powers to obfuscate truth even more or at best order cosmetic probes.

The Palhalan killing may eventually be not treated in any different matter, adding to the scale of psychological wounds of the masses in Kashmir and pushing them to acute frustration, restlessness and excessive anger. To treat this would require a mechanism to address the human rights issue and that should start from the basic change of mind-set in how Kashmir situation is viewed by the governments of the day as some kind of a war with its people. Inquiries and probes with no tangible results manifest the scale of institutionalised and systemic official mechanisms to deny justice. This cycle of denial must break.