Why this custodial dead?

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That a young man from Awantipura has died in police custody is very unfortunate. Even though the police itself had recommended a probe, following which the government ordered a magisterial inquiry into this custodial dead, but it goes without saying that people of Kashmir no longer trust official assertions about such probes and inquiries. The reason being pretty simple: countless such probes in the past have hardly yielded anything. Most of the time such probes were either not concluded, or their findings were not ever made public. So the government may think that it has done its bit by ordering a probe, but the unfortunate reality is that its credibility crises makes such inquiries only a face-saving exercise which people have no reason to buy or take seriously.

This abject disregard to the fundamental and constitutional rights of the common people here from the very agencies about whom it is constantly said – “they are here to protect and uphold the law of the land”, is disheartening, and in fact very scary. Because, what has follows each such episode of custodial killing is either outright official denial or pledges of a fair probe. But then everybody knows how such investigations are conducted and then what happens to their outcome. Needless to say that this brazen disregard for people’s life and liberties costs the state whatever goodwill it is able to generate in Kashmir.

Today if people of Kashmir are mad at the police for this latest custodial death, 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 (police included) 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 incidents like the instant one. And mind it, it is not an isolated incident; Kashmir history of past three decades is dotted with countless such happenings wherein innocent people have been brutally targeted by the government forces. Indeed their human rights record in Kashmir could easily implicate the state as being responsible for ‘democide’. The political elite in Delhi and elsewhere do not require to be told what it would mean for it nationally and internationally.

That such a behaviour of the government forces or “security agencies” as they are called, wherein innocent people are carelessly targeted without any fear of reprisals, is unacceptable. This message should 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 and giving the people a sense of belonging. Too much blood has been spilled here and too many violations have already been committed. Now that the government talks of peace process and reconciliation, it needs to be visible on the ground too. And the only thing that can make it visible and relate the whole process with the lives of 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 have to prove their worth. The government and the “security agencies” have to understand that they are facing a credibility crisis here. The fake encounters, custodial killings, uncalled for harassment, illegal detentions – they have to undo a lot of bad legacies. Shutting eyes to the realities is no solution. Need is to face the facts and take corrective steps.

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