Army’s decision to close the case pertaining to the cold blooded murder of five innocent civilians in a fake encounter thoroughly investigated by CBI and pursued for prosecution has sent shock waves in Kashmir and beyond. It has also established beyond any iota of doubt that the security forces enjoy total impunity under AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and seize the draconian legislation every now and then to escape justice in almost every felony they are involved in.
It has been generally observed by various commentators that the very idea of trying the accused in a military court rules out justice being delivered to the aggrieved. The main reason cited is that any action against the personnel of the security forces even though for gross human rights violations will demoralise these people. This, according to certain quarters, cannot be done because of the fact that the anti-insurgency operations requiring total freedom of action for their success are still continuing. This is a stark admission of the ground reality that everything is not normal in Kashmir. Normally, the security forces would not need draconian powers to deal with a limited number of insurgents if the population of the concerned area is fully supportive of their actions claimed to be taken in national interest to safeguard the integrity of the country. The truth is that due to these gross violations of human rights, the entire population is extremely alienated. This can be vividly seen in the funerals of the militants killed in various encounters usually attended by thousands of people without any fear of the authorities.
The relentless pursuit of the case by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) had raised high hopes that the perpetrators of this heinous crime would be punished. The clean chit given by the army by closing the case has dashed all hopes of any justice being meted out from the Indian institutions. This has come right after the surreptitious hanging of Afzal Guru to satisfy the collective conscience of India and subsequent remission of death sentence to fifteen other convicts. It would be naïve for the Indians to expect Kashmiris to have faith in their “democratic” and “fair and just” set up after these events? Peoples’ faith in any set up depends upon the system giving out exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of human rights violations regardless of the rank and status of a person. There have been many instances in India where corrupt people have been hauled up regardless of their status. A number of perpetrators of crimes against women have been awarded exemplary punishment. However, the buck stops in Kashmir. Every wrong committed in Kashmir either by the uniformed people or the civilian persons is taken to be done in the all accommodative “National Interest”! The tragedy is that there is no leader of standing from the mainstream side who has the courage to call a spade a spade. They are attuned to eat a humble pie!
While talking of Pathribal one needs to remember that it was the sequel of an earlier and more gruesome event, the massacre at Chattisinghpora. That unfortunate and ghastly incident has not been as thoroughly and relentlessly probed by CBI as the Pathribal event was. This was supposed to be the only such action alleged to have been perpetrated by Kashmiri militants against the Sikhs. The most important aspect of this tragedy was its timing. US President Bill Clinton had just landed in India and during that night the incident blamed on Kashmiri militants took place. Next day, Bill Clinton in his address mentioned the gruesome event but qualified his condemnation by saying, “Whoever has committed it” thereby not going with the Indian claim that the Kashmiri militants had done it! In fact, subsequently, in his introduction to Madeleine Albright’s book, “The Mighty and the Almighty” he clearly accuses Hindu militants to have perpetrated the crime. The exact quote on page xiii is, “During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering thirty-eight Sikhs in cold blood. If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably be still alive.”
This passage which is in the original hard cover edition of the book has been removed from the subsequent editions probably under pressure from certain quarters. It is reported that the CIA had briefed the President about the actual happening which had prompted him not to blame anyone during his address but he had mentioned it in his introduction to the Albright’s book. This raises lot of doubt on the real happening and as such deserves a thorough probe. Sikhs in Kashmir have often demanded thorough investigation of the Chattisinghpora massacre but the government has preferred to be completely silent on the subject. Now that the Pathribal is in the limelight again and many feelers have been issued that the whole episode may be probed again, it would be just and fair if the gory event that apparently led to the killing of five more innocents and subsequent police firing on groups of protesters at Brakapora leaving another half a dozen people dead too is thoroughly probed by an impartial agency.