Truth and reconciliation commission

A Jammu based newspaper reminded Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah of his promise to set up a truth and reconciliation commission. Immediately after assuming office, the chief minister talked about truth and reconciliation commission. However, the promise has not been fulfilled till date. It seems New Delhi did not give its nod for the commission and the idea was abandoned. But what could such a commission achieve in a state like Jammu Kashmir.  The authorities want to conceal truth; sometimes by scaring the victims and at times by offering compensation. There have been times when the authorities have ordered probes but the commoner on the street believes that probes bail out the perpetrators. Around two hundred probes were ordered since 1996 but the findings of a few have been made public. Truth is bitter and the authorities who are here to uphold what they call `national interest’ cannot afford to unveil it for obvious reasons. On the contrary every attempt has been made to conceal it. And when it could not be concealed for whatever reasons, it was distorted.

People across the globe are well acquainted with the truth about Kashmir. The chief minister knows and so do all others that more than 8000 persons in the age group of 18-35 were subjected to enforced disappearance during the past two decades. The chief minister took cognizance of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) reports in 2002-03 when he was not in power. He also agitated the matter and urged his legislators to raise the issue in the legislative assembly. The then law minister issued a statement on the floor of the house admitting around 4000 custodial disappearances. This is the truth. The chief minister is also aware of the extra-judicial executions that have been carried out with a purpose. He has knowledge of the rapes and massive devastation of movable and immovable property.

What does a reconciliatory commission mean by the way? The term reconciliation is coined when a person(s) urges the victims to forget the past, forgive the perpetrators and start a fresh. Is it possible in Kashmir? Can Kashmiris forget what they have undergone at the hands of the security agencies? How can they forget that 32 women were raped in a single night at Kunan Poshpora? How can a father who had to carry his only son to the graveyard reconcile? How can a mother forgive the persons who subjected her son to enforced disappearance?  How can a youth forgive the persons who caused perforation in his intestines? It is very difficult to forget the past and in Kashmir it is almost impossible. Then, what is the solution?

The failure of the government to bring the perpetrators to justice is painful for the sufferers.  It wreaks havoc with their psychology especially when the victims happen to be women and children.  A few cases merit special mention here. A sixty-year-old lady (name withheld) who was raped at Kunan Poshpora has confined herself to a room. Her social life has ended. Another woman is scared of looking into the mirror. She said: “Looking into the mirror is a painful exercise for me. It reminds me of that dreadful night. I see faces of my rapists in the mirror. It sends a wave of chill through my spine. My nightmare may end when I hear that the rapists have been punished.”

 An orphan whose father was killed  by the men in uniform looks hale and hearty. He is strongly built as well. A leading psychiatrist after examining him said: “He has grown abnormally. When a family loses its head, the children automatically assume the role of the head of the unfortunate family. It brings about hormonal changes in them. They grow abnormally. This, however, is not a good sign. Such children can be compared to a balloon inflated beyond capacity. It withstands the pressure for some time but ultimately bursts. We call it premature maturity.” The orphan hates violence but he is still awaiting justice. “I am waiting for the day when the killers of my father shall be hanged.” Will the day ever come?   

A post graduate (name concealed), a postgraduate in Zoology, 46, has not married. He was picked up by the BSF repeatedly to extract information about his nephew who was a militant. “They inserted a needle in my penis and connected it to a battery. The shocks had an adverse effect. I cannot think of marriage.” He too wants justice. When asked to forget his horrifying experiences, he shivers. “How can I forget it?”  

Torture is an issue that has been totally ignored by the human rights defenders and the media. According to Peoples Rights Movement (PRM), an organization of former militants more than one lakh persons have been severely tortured during the past two decades. PRM has recently launched a campaign against torture and is in the process of documenting testimonies of the victims. If one goes by the UN definition of torture then the entire population of the valley qualifies as victims.

The local human rights defenders have been accused of exaggerating the facts very often. While it will not be proper to rule out such allegations in totality, the authorities in the process of denying a fact admit it. Parveena Ahanger, whose son was picked up in August 1990, has been working hard to know about his whereabouts. She was offered a huge amount of money and persuaded her to withdraw the case from the high court.  Why did the authorities offer money? Isn’t it an admission on their part?

 On the night of April 30, 2003, a student of twelfth standard, Javaid Ahmad Magray, was picked up by the personnel of 110 Assam Regiment from his Soiteng, Lasjan. He was eliminated in a fake encounter the same night. The then government ordered an enquiry which indicted nine soldiers of the above mentioned regiment. The police investigations also found the soldiers guilty. FIR No 64/2004 was accordingly registered in police station Nowgam under sections 120 and 302 of RPC. However nothing moved. No chargesheet was produced and nobody was taken into custody. The aggrieved parents of the slain youth preferred a petition in the high court against inaction of the police. The court, for the first time, put the impunity under judicial scrutiny. The court sought the status report of the case from the state.  While this activity was going on in the honourable high court, a news report appeared in a section of press. The report said that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had taken sou motto cognizance of Javaid Ahmad’s case and recommended a relief of RS 3 lakh to his parents. Surprisingly the news of NHRC’s sou motto cognizance came after six years of Javaid’s murder. The slain youth’s parents have no knowledge of the NHRC involvement. “We were not informed. I came to know about it from a newspaper last month”, he said. This is the first time when the NHRC has acted `promptly’.

The probes have not yielded anything till date. The assurances of New Delhi and the successive regimes regarding zero tolerance on human rights have not been fulfilled. The Chief Minister’s Reconciliatory Commission is politically motivated. It is very difficult to uphold the truth. Can the incumbent chief minister afford to uphold the truth?

 

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