Punish the guilty

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Seven more civilians were killed by the government forces in Shopian – and again the state went about it as if nothing had happened. Some token regrets did come about from a few people here and there, but that is it; nothing more than that! As always, Kashmir continues to remain in the backwaters of Indian mainstream’s collective conscience. This is perhaps why not a brow raises anywhere about the civilian killings here even when over 400 odd civilians have been done to death in past few years. Most of these deaths are completely avoidable if only the men in Khaki and Olive Greens follow their own standard operating procedures (SOPs). But this does not happen – and the reason being that they do not have to fear legal reprisals for their actions; simply because there are none!

This has all along been the case here. Despite so many official claims about the so-called SOPs for the government forces being in place and that the men in uniform have been sensitized about the situational imperatives, there has not been much change in the situation on the ground. Even though successive Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers have time and again pledged the state’s “zero tolerance” to human rights violations, but as of now this promise from the highest political offices has been obeyed more in breach than in adherence. This abject disregard to the political pledges and violation of fundamental and constitutional rights of the people has come from the very people about whom we are being constantly told – “they are here to protect and uphold the law of the land!”As of now, the state’s armed forces have done precious little to justify this claim. Instead they are the ones who have shown complete disregard to the life and dignity of common masses here. Needless to say this unruly behaviour wipes off the chances of any possible goodwill in Kashmir and pushes Valley deeper into the conflict trap.

If the people of Valley are once again outraged by the firing incident at Shopian, their anger is more than justified. In fact no sane person having any love and respect for the human life and liberties could ever condone the highly reprehensible behaviour of the armed forces in Kashmir. Those who support such hideous behaviour by concocting jingoistic explanations are actually the psychopathic fascists, irrespective of what profession or political ideology they share. The anger and frustration of Kashmiri people, if judged without any political bias and prejudice, makes a lot of sense when seen purely against the backdrop of Shopian like incidents. And mind it, it is not an isolated incident; Kashmir’s recent history is dotted with countless such happenings wherein innocent people have been brutally targeted by the government troops.

Indeed its human rights record in Kashmir could easily implicate New Delhi as being responsible for ‘democide’ in Kashmir. The political elite in Delhi and elsewhere do not require to be told what it would mean for it nationally and internationally, particularly at a time when India is vying for a permanent Security Council membership to assert its growing clout in the world-body.

That such a behaviour of the army and paramilitaries and even the state police wherein innocent people are carelessly targeted without any fear of reprisals, is unacceptable, is an appropriate message and should therefore reach to all the agencies loudly. Respect of human rights should be major concern of the government and its armed forces if they really are interested in normalizing the situation here and giving the people a sense of belonging. Too much blood has been spilled here and too many violations have already been committed. Talking about bringing peace to the troubled Valley is not enough unless and until such measures as would ensure calm are visible on the ground too. The only thing that can make it visible and give a sense of belonging to the ordinary citizens is to check the violations of human rights by the government forces that are here to counter insurgency. Government forces can’t pass on their tyranny as aberration or a mistake, for the number and frequency of such “mistakes” belie any such labeling. As per their mandate, the armed forces are here to protect the lives and properties of people, and therefore they have to prove their worth. The government and its ‘security agencies’ including the army have to understand that they are facing a credibility crisis here. Shutting eyes to the realities is no solution. Need is to face the facts and take corrective steps. Let it begin by fixing responsibility for the Shopian incident – punish the guilty, at least for once!

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