By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal:
Two Major Generals and 3 army brigadiers are among the 500 security personnel accused of human rights violation, according to a report prepared by a prominent Kashmir based human rights group. The report heavily relies on officially recorded documentation, judicial cases and testimonies of eye-witnesses and on the basis of such information concludes that there is an official policy of not genuinely investigating or prosecuting the armed forces for human rights violations.
There is no reason to dismiss the report as insignificant or as simply motivated by rumours or some ‘vested interest’, which is the usual way that official circles respond to allegations of human rights abuse.
The report draws its conclusions mainly from the way investigations and litigations in cases of human rights violations by security forces have progressed.
And, it doesn’t take rocket science to deduce that the security forces not only enjoy absolute impunity from punishment for their gross acts of violence and repression including cold blooded murders but an entire official machinery is pressed into service to go into denial mode about such violations.
History of last two decades in Kashmir is replete with fudged evidence, delayed or denied FIRs and creation of confusion with a spate of rumours in the first instance. If at all, such devices of lies and camouflage fail, the probes are delayed and after much dilly-dallying the reports are either buried or sent to the lost property box, where they can perish and vanish till eternity. Alternatively, the official agencies can keep dragging their feet, play wild goose chase in shielding their guilty men and become naively ignorant about their whereabouts till they depart this world. It took sixteen years of persistently pursuing the case of murder of human rights activist and lawyer Jaleel Andrabi, at various levels, only for the case to end up with one of the prime accused, and probably also a vital clue to rest of the culprits, mysteriously dying in California. Not many in Kashmir are willing to buy the official theory of the accused Major Avtar Singh killing/ injuring his entire family before he shot himself dead. The story of the gory death drama may well be true but skepticism does point to the diminishing levels that faith of the people in official agencies has reduced. The Indian security or intelligence agencies may have nothing to do with Avtar Singh’s death but there’s a general tendency in the Valley to blame them for everything under the sun, and this cynicism does not operate in a vacuum. It exists mainly because the government is unable to fulfill the aspirations of the people of knowing the truth and seeking justice; rather it pro-actively subverts truth and the rule of law. And, as long as truth remains a casualty, there is little one can do to arrest this growing cynicism which persists despite the frolicking tourists and Bollywood starlets, much to the joy of shopkeepers, hoteliers, houseboat owners and the youth enamoured by the film world.
Interestingly, like the methodical system of corruption that goes about smoothly in and out of government circles across the country, there is something very systematic in the way guilty men in uniform are shielded, even rewarded with promotions and other benefits, and truth is wished to be buried, hidden or hushed up. Just like the way that more than a week ago, the investigations and reports in the Tufail Matoo murder case suddenly went missing or the way in which the files pertaining to Al Faran kidnappings got burnt in a fire incident. This methodical convenience never sounds convincing enough. But the idea is less to convince, it is to confuse and sometimes diffuse a volatile situation arising out of protests and campaigns for justice. The patterns of impunity, whichever way they are exercised, are not even legal enough because if law would take its own legitimate course, then there would be fair trials against the accused men in uniform, without using the iron curtain of AFSPA or other means of obfuscating truth.
The more systemic this vicious circle of denial of justice becomes, the only thing we get convinced about is that this is one place where the rule of law has long back been replaced by the rule of force.