| The shameful and condemnable killing of a youth Arshad Ahmed Shah in Sopore and bullet injuries to four others by men in uniform should make the government sit up and take notice, not by simply ordering yet another cosmetic inquiry but by instituting a fair probe and unraveling the truth on a fast track basis. Apart from ensuring justice that this case deserves, the government must first of all find out why lies and rumours are pedaled to either defend the men in uniform for their brutality or to create a complete confusion. Official lies cannot wash over the acts of omission of the men in uniform. Police has maintained that after returning from encounter site where one militant was killed, their convoy came under stone pelting by protesting youth and the security forces retaliated by opening fire, in which one person was killed and four others were injured. However,the family of the youth and some eye-witnesses have nailed the lie, maintaining that it were not the paramilitaries who opened the firing but the Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police and they have also claimed that no protests were going on at that time and place. This is not the first time that such confusing and mismatched narratives have propped up. It has become the wont of the official circles to circulate both contradictions or the ‘invocation of terrorist’, ‘suspect’ and ‘heavy stone pelting’ to justify wrongful killings. In this particular case, if there is an element of truth in the allegations ofthe family of the deceased and some eye-witnesses, the police is not only trying to cover up its tracks by building up the ‘stone pelting’ narrative but also shifting the onus to other para-militaries and evade the blame. This is not the sole case of this kind. It was easy for the police to bury the truth in the Shopian rapes and murders by fudging all preliminary evidence and floating a slew of rumours accusing other security agencies and finally get away without an explanation. Official lies and rumours have become a part of the systemic pattern and culture of impunity that men in uniform enjoy for crimes against humanity. This impunity, obviously goes beyond the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the mammoth scale of killings in 2010 are an indication, where simple probes have been ordered without an outcome.
It is important for the government to swiftly act and sift fact from fiction in the fresh Sopore case before truth gets totally obfuscated and buried beneath layers of lies and rumours. Whether or not a protest was taking place in the area forcing men in uniform to retaliate, it cannot be deemed enough a provocation for snuffing out lives of ordinary human beings and thereafter unleashing a reign of repression through curfews and other curbs including raids and arrests. The job of the government and its agencies is to restore calm, not cause further provocation through excessive use of force and brutal methods like the Sopore killing. At a time when the government is trying to put up a façade of intolerance to human rights violations by ordering fresh commission of inquiry in the 2010 killings, after doing nothing in these cases for four years, it cannot resort to similar tyrannical methods of cracking down on those who still manage to raise what is officially considered as ‘ugly whimpers’ of protest. Such measures only seek to push the people to the wall and prepare conducive grounds for further unrest and for glamourisation of militancy, which must be avoided at all costs.