Niloofar Qureshi

Of Killings and Protests

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Killings and protests are a routine affair in Kashmir.  Probably that’s why the protest held by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) activists in Srinagar two days ago against the “continuous human rights violation in Kashmir,” or news of the dead body of 18 year old Nadeem Manzoor of Safanagri village in Shopian district (who had been abducted from his house the previous night) being recovered went largely unnoticed. However, there are occasions when providence brings together events in such a way that it forces us to introspect on the sad state of affairs in Kashmir. And Friday was one such day when the pre-planned protest by JKLF on the call given by the joint resistance leadership (JRL) against human rights violations coincided with the discovery of the bullet ridden body of a young civilian who had been abducted by ‘unidentified gunmen’ and subsequently killed!

One would have expected that the abduction and cold blooded murder of Manzoor would give additional support to the protesters as it highlighted the abysmal state of human rights in Kashmir where people are being frequently abducted and killed. However, it was not so because the separatists only consider the killing of civilians by security forces and police as human right violations in Kashmir. And even though Manzoor was abducted and shot dead by those who are officially referred to as “unknown gunmen,” but locals know very well as to whom the culprits are and probably that’s why no one expects the JRL to condemn this killing. However, the JRL’s silence unfortunately conveys the impression that the separatists’ campaign against human rights violations in Kashmir is more influenced by motivated interests rather than genuine concerns for ensuring human rights for all.

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which is fighting for safeguarding human rights of Kashmiris in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK), “aims through its work to engage with issues of importance on a civil society level, monitor and investigate human right abuses, and seek truth, justice and reparations.” And though it has been at the forefront by raising a number of serious human rights violation related issues like ‘enforced disappearances’ and ‘unmarked graves’, it too seems to have reservations in taking up cases of killings by ‘unknown gunmen’. Some defend the JKCCS inaction on such cases by saying that it is futile to lodge complaints against human right violations when the identity of assailants is unknown. However, this argument doesn’t have any logic since those committing human rights violations take utmost precautions to conceal their identity and as such most of these cases have to be filed against those who are circumstantially the most likely perpetuators.

However, the failure of JKCCS to even take up cases of human rights violation for which militants have accepted responsibility has raised very serious questions within the human rights fraternity regarding its impartiality. For example, in August Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) accepted that it had kidnapped several relatives of police men in response to the arrest of some of their relatives by the police. Though the kidnapped persons were subsequently released unharmed, but this act cannot be condoned on the grounds that it was a ‘tit-for-tat’ action because abduction and forcible confinement are very serious violation of the human rights. In all fairness, the JKCCS should have at least condemned this strong-arm tactics but it chose not to do so. When HM admitted its involvement in abducting army soldiers, police men and even civilians from their homes and killing them, the JKCCS didn’t utter a word of disapproval on these murders.

And even though this may not be the case, but its silence on human rights violations by militants conveys the impression that the JKCCS fully agrees with the HM’s viewpoint that these killings were justified as the deceased were responsible for death of militants, either by participating in gunfights or as they had provided information about militants to security forces! The JRL and JKCCS need to realise that since human rights are equally applicable to all, any display of subjectivity while taking up incidents of human rights violations only ends up destroying the concerned organisation’s own credibility. Defending human rights is a moral and societal responsibility and the international community doesn’t appreciate it’s manipulation in an attempt to use it as a tool for furthering political agendas.

This is also the reason as to why the appeals of JRL and JKCCS for international intervention to end human rights violations in Kashmir being committed by the state evoke no response. Thus, while the JRL may keep organising protests against human rights violations that are being committed in Kashmir by government forces, no one is likely to pay any heed until and unless it addresses the issue of human rights more objectively without any bias. Similarly, as long as the JKCCS continues to brush incidents of human rights violations committed by militants under the carpet, its efforts to bring the perpetuators to book are unlikely to yield any worthwhile results. The HM also needs to get over the erroneous belief that Islamabad or the Hurriyat can influence the international community to accept or ignore the militant group’s medieval policy of acting as judge, jury and executioner. Thus, as things stand today, if the government forces are guilty of committing human rights excesses in Kashmir, then the militants too are equally complicit.

And there is nothing to feel bad about because as the old saying goes, “charity begins at home!”

The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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