A UN resolution against Sri Lanka for its heinous war crimes was much needed, whatever may have been the political agendas of those who got its draft in the place and those who signed along the dotted line. According to the U.N. report tens of thousands of civilians were killed and war crimes committed at the end of Sri Lanka’s war in May 2009 against Tamil separatist militants. Several fact finding missions also found conclusive evidence of wanton atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan state on Tamil civilians and combatants alike. These included usage of banned chemical weapons, cluster bombs, rampant torture, summary executions and sexual abuse of captured women. India having voted in favour of this resolution should now use the same principle to show some amount of justice and fair-play in its own conflict zones where its security forces stand accused of gory excesses including rapes, molestations, torture, custodial disappearances and brutal killings.
However, by choosing to make a distinction between the Sri Lankan case and that of north-eastern states of India and Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress party in power has only revealed its double standards vis-a-vis human rights abuse. AICC spokesman Sandeep Dikshit, while bailing out India, has maintained that both northeast and Kashmir are cases of internal security necessitated by terrorism and militant related activity and the resolution has more to do with reconciliation and excesses committed in Sri Lanka. How does that make it any different from the Sri Lankan case? In some of the north-eastern states, despite the ceasefire and peace process in place, there is a continuum of human rights abuse with not even an iota of sign of such a reconciliation. In Kashmir, where militancy levels have been reduced to a great extent and until the few recent incidents, these incidents were brought to almost a naught, the human rights violations assumed a new form of unannounced curfews, restrictions, crackdowns, raids, arrests and of course killings of youth during protests.
Despite some occasional lip sympathy offered, none of these crimes have ever been investigated with any seriousness. The few cases that do get registered are not only marked by procedural delays, tampering of evidence and the stonewalling by Armed Forces Special Powers Act under which accused paramilitary personnel enjoy impunity from prosecution, but they are also registered after painstaking efforts by affected people or campaigners for justice. To say that Sri Lanka makes a different case because the last vestiges of the LTTE are wiped out and the UN resolution is a bid to pressurise the country into correcting its human rights record thereafter is grossly off the mark. Nowhere does the resolution mention the period of excesses to be probed. Besides, this position would bring India on the rather fragile course of selectively condemning only the violence post LTTE while justifying the most brutal actions against Tamils during the war against LTTE.
The hypocrisy of the Indian government vis-a-vis human rights stands fully exposed and no pretexts are sufficient enough to build up a case of defence against the indefensible double standards. The resolution does not simply expose the double standards of India but also the US which took the lead in pushing Sri Lanka to probe its war crimes. Wikileaks in 2010 revealed how the United States had backed the Sri Lankan government’s offensive against the Tamils first by violating the ceasefire and peace process of 2002 and later on obliterating the lines between a civilian and combatant. It was only in the later stages of the war against the Tamil militia that the US changed its line, not because it was suddenly inspired by human rights but because it wanted to check the increasing Chinese influence in the island country. Indian government had its own compulsions to vote against the Sri Lankan government but now that it has, it must show the same magnanimity it demands of its neighbour, in all its conflict areas – Kashmir, north-east and elsewhere. It must set up a mechanism for probing fairly the heinous crimes perpetrated by its security agencies. What is deemed right step for another country, can’t be too wrong for itself. After all, morality and justice, like charity should begin at home.