The State first killed people. Then it killed truth. It now wants the linen soaked with blood & honor of hapless population washed through an arrangement called truth & Reconciliation Commission(TRC). The issue was first raised by Chief Minster, Omar Abdullah in the wake of discovery of unmarked graves. It has again been raised by him recently on the occasion of releasing a report on “Kashmir Youth Survey” conducted by Minstry of Home affairs .The underlying purpose is that the oppressed people should understand the compulsions of power politics because that is what “objectivity” demands.
By its very definition, truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing wrongdoing by a government, State or non-state actors in the hope of removing bitterness & bad blood left over from the conflict. These have, under various names, occasionally been set up by states emerging from periods of internal unrest or civil war. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established by President Nelson Mandela after apartheid, is popularly considered a model of truth commissions. Other States like South Korea, Argentina, Sri-Lanka, East Timor, Rwanda & USA, to name a few have also appointed similar commissions to ascertain truth & promote reconciliation between various groups.
It is often said that reconciliation without justice is only half the truth. But reconciliation is often about new beginnings as well. This presupposes that TRCs should be constituted only after the basic conflict is resolved or settled. In consonance with this fundamental principle it is essential to note that in all the above cases, TRCs were appointed after the basic conflict or unrest was resolved or the resolution was in sight. For instance in South Africa, the T&RC was appointed after the basic conflict of ‘Apartheid’ ended officially. Similarly in East Timor Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship was established only after East Timor got freedom from Indonesia.
But in the context of Kashmir where the basic problem has neither been resolved nor is the resolution in sight, why is the idea of a truth and Reconciliation commissions being floated repeatedly? Essentially for two reasons. First to pre-empt any action which will find the state being charged for war crimes or crimes against humanity at a later stage particularly after the discovery of mass graves throughout Kashmir Valley. Secondly to act as a tool or mask for local political satraps behind which political bargains will be made in which Power will be traded in return for amnesty. Agents of the State may be required to confess to their crimes but they will not be punished for them. It doesn’t take too much intellectual discourse or scholarly debate to imagine how reconciliatory it would be for a victim to exactly know who committed the crime, see him confess to it and then walk away free. It is like rubbing salt to the wounds.
Terrible crimes deserve appropriate punishments. Ignoring the past may not be a good idea, but war criminals should be brought to justice in public trials. This is the only way to ensure that dangerous men are not allowed to continue in society, where they may threaten and terrorize others when the opportunity presents itself again. Most importantly, it sends a message to others that justice will not be denied.
In this connection the observations of Honb’le Supreme Court in pathribal Fake encounter case deserve a mention. It has clearly said that AFPSA cannot be invoked in cases of rape & murder. It has further held that no prior sanction is needed in such cases, which should be treated as normal crimes and prosecution started under normal laws. These observations should become a stepping stone to climb on the larger stage of investigating the grave human rights violations comprising murders, fake encounters, enforced disappearances ,mass graves & rapes in Kashmir . And it can be said without any fear of rebuttal that the law will finally punish the guilty and those trying to obfuscate the investigative process through dubious means & malicious ideas are only bringing the hound closer to their door.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)