Shopian killings Probe must be fair without confusing political signals or politicization of human blood

The killings of two civilians in Shopian by the army personnel on Saturday are yet another grim reminder of the free hand enjoyed by the security forces in Kashmir and the inability of the government to rein in their unbridled powers or discipline them. Human killings cannot be justified by invoking draconian powers like Armed Forces Special Powers Act or in the name of ‘counter insurgency’ or self-defence. This unfortunately has become the norm in the Valley and must be opposed with the contempt it deserves. In the fresh incident, in which two young men were shot dead and another injured is battling for life, the police was quick to lodge a formal complaint against the army personnel but an official statement blamed the youth for pelting stones on the soldiers.

The army went a step further and maintained that mobs were going on a rampage and attacking security vehicles forcing the soldiers to press their triggers. The villagers, however, have refuted the claims and maintained that the army men caused the provocation by entering the village where the death of a Hizb militant in an encounter was being mourned and banners carrying pictures of militants had cropped up. The villagers also maintained that they had requested the army personnel to leave as removing posters would cause provocation. The soldiers left and reappeared. If this indeed is true, the removal of posters at a delicate moment in a sensitive place was unnecessary, even if not entirely condonable, and an obvious cause for provocation. The public sympathy for the militants is no secret and the appearance of a few posters posed no serious or immediate law and order situation or a security threat. Whether or not the youth began pelting stones first, the quantum of force applied against unarmed civilians is unjustifiable and uncalled for. Unfortunately, it has become a routine to deal protestors including silent demonstrators with strong arm methods and the brutal repression with bullets, guns and pellets. This is not only leading to loss of precious human lives but also enhances the levels of anger in the Valley, pushing more and more youth to pick up the gun or join in the street battles. This vicious cycle of violence needs to stop.

The Shopian incident necessitates a fair probe that remains a historic joke in the valley, where none of the cases of killings either by security forces or by militants have reached a logical conclusion in the last three decades. In cases where security personnel are involved in gross violations of human rights abuse, the accused soldiers either cower behind the iron curtain raised by laws like AFSPA or impunity is offered through systemic tampering of evidence and biased investigations. The government has ordered a magisterial probe in the incident and assured a report within 15 days but a history of such similar enquiries which have not seen the light of the day or the final reports have been ignored contemptuously brings little sense of hope for justice. Most such probes end up being an eye-wash, whatever their findings.

Illustrative is the recent case of Farooq Dar who was paraded around in April last year by the army personnel strapped to a jeep, in which a government appointed enquiry team also nailed the men in uniform. However, when a toothless institution like State Human Rights Commissions directed the government to provide compensation to the victim, the recommendations have fallen on deaf ears. The dubious stand of the state government on the issue of human rights violations also becomes murkier with two coalition partners talking in two different tones on every incident. On Saturday’s incident while chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed concern over the killings, some elected representatives of the BJP, the coalition partner in the state government, were openly justifying the manner in which the soldiers sought to crush even a slogan and stone with bullets.

While the state government needs to come out clearly on its stand, any politicisation of human blood must stop. National Conference in the opposition may not be off the mark in reminding the chief minister how such incidents of human rights abuse are contributing to increase in militancy but sound no holier in view of the ugly baggage it carries owing to the manner in which the party went out of its way in according impunity to the security forces and police in many cases of abuse that happened during its tenure in power. Loss of precious human lives is not a matter of politics or of disregarding murders as an aberration. Every death must be accounted for and each case probed fairly to deliver justice, both for the sake of respecting human rights and disciplining the security forces as well as for ensuring that conducive atmosphere can be created for a dialogue process.

News Updated at : Tuesday, January 30, 2018