A year after Afzal Guru’s hanging the supreme court reprieve for the killers of Rajiv Gandhi, based on the recent court ruling of commuting delayed death penalties to life imprisonment, has once again put a question mark on the different yardsticks used by the Indian government and all its institutions in dealing with Kashmir. Interestingly, this verdict has come close on the heels of the shocking closure of the Pathribal case with not only the army court martial exonerating the five accused army personnel but the defence minister fully endorsing the decision as final. These cases are part of a larger pattern of arrogance in which the legal justice system, failing to meet the needs of justice for the Kashmiris, is just one spoke in the large wheel of injustices.
They betray the bitter truth that laws and democracy are bent and presented in a different way when it comes to Kashmir. In response to massive allegations of human rights violations, the Union government has completely denied institutionalized justice system to reach the masses in Kashmir but beyond this stonewalling of justice, a Kashmiri can also be hanged to satisfy the collective conscience of a nation even without proving his guilt, without following due process of law and with a secret haste. That the Kashmiris feel they are being simply conquered over by military might and jackboots, the Indian state may have to look within to grapple with its own ugly occupationist mindset that prompts the parroting of ‘Kashmir is integral part of India’ slogan without accommodating its people.
The increasing arrogance and belligerence of the Indian state has been further facilitated by politicians of Jammu and Kashmir whose feeble voices for justice have been prompted solely by political expediency not pushing the Centre to deliver. The lack of resistance within the mainstream leadership only adds to the quantum of arrogance of the centre. It is no darn wonder that the strong reaction to Tuesday’s supreme court verdict was missing a year ago when Afzal Guru was secretly hanged. While chief minister Omar Abdullah was then left clueless after his lie on ignorance about the hanging prior to the execution date was nailed, the opposition instead of bringing the issue to centre stage conspicuously abstained from the state legislative assembly few weeks after Afzal Guru was hanged and his body buried in Tihar jail. As for the crocodile tears shed by union minister for renewable energy Farooq Abdullah, he seems to be as usual caught in the grip of selective amnesia that forbids him from recalling his blanket justification of Afzal Guru’s hanging last year, calling it “in accordance with the law” and maintaining that all due procedures were followed. His son Omar Abdullah who first feigned ignorance about Guru’s hanging had to later admit that he was kept in the loop for maintaining law and order. Far from failing to engage seriously with the centre on issues of human rights and justice, they fail to even sound convincing enough despite their professed compassion for human rights and this is simply because there is a wide gap between the lip sympathy and action.
One plain indication is the passionate address of Omar Abdullah on the floor of the state legislative council on Monday maintaining that Pathribal episode cannot be pushed under the carpet. Claiming that he had taken up the matter with the prime minister, he said, “If five people were killed and they were innocents, somebody was responsible……..Bullets were fired by somebody. They have not committed suicide. They have not gone to the graveyard and buried themselves…” Such passion may have sounded impressive had Omar Abdullah not carried the baggage of holding a special press conference to proclaim that two women drowned in ankle deep waters of Rambiara nallah in May 2009, in the face of allegations of rape and murder that have not been fairly probed till date, then chickened out to announce that the two victims were his sisters and finally celebrate the vindication of his previous stand with a CBI cover-up of the incident. Could the chief minister explain why and who tampered the evidence in the case at the site where the bodies were found? Could the chief minister also explain how over 120 innocent youth died of bullet wounds and tear gas shells without holding the cops and CRPF personnel who fired those shots responsible? Or does he believe that unlike the Pathribal case, all these guns in the summer of 2010 just went berserk on their own? All he needs to do is track down the course of how these cases have progressed in terms of investigations and trials to realize how hollow his commitment on human rights and issues of justice stands.