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Editorial
‘Sons of the Republic’
J&K govt has an obligation to rehabilitate Kashmiri youth whose lives were ruined by systemic prejudice
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Sixteen-years long gross injustice is too serious a matter to be condoned or justified when it comes to counting its irredeemable human cost. The gravity of the crime, ironically committed by the law enforcing apparatus of the state, is compounded by the fact that, but for the rare intervention by the higher judiciary, the victims would have been rotting in some death cell and awaiting gallows. Thanks to the Delhi High Court, three innocent Kashmiris, falsely implicated in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case in the union capital, have been granted virtual fresh lease of life. Two of them, Mirza Nissar Hussain and Mohammad Ali Bhat were acquitted on Thursday while the former’s brother Iftikhar had been set free by the trial court two years ago. The judicial verdict makes it clear that the Delhi police had no case whatsoever against these persons and that the evidence produced against them was either fictitious or unsubstantiated.

In the conflict-ridden Kashmir, this case perhaps might be one of so many. Yet the circumstances make it a fit example to examine certain grave humanitarian issues arising out of it. Firstly, most, if not all, such remedial decisions have come from the judicial authorities located outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This fact sufficiently conveys the qualitative difference between the state of affairs existing here and in rest of the country. Emasculation of judiciary and its virtual disempowerment in J&K is a fact of life. The net result is that the judiciary has come to be bracketed with the so-called ‘security’ apparatus and in popular perception they are indistinguishable from each other. Judicial orders relating to life and liberty of citizens are being flouted with impunity, if not with contempt.

The second issue thrown up by the Delhi High Court verdict points to the inhuman consequences of stereotyping of Kashmiris by the official apparatus of the state and central governments. Profiling of Kashmiri traders, students, job seekers and ordinary visitors to other parts of the country has generated a sweeping culture of prejudice against them. The unabashed manner in which the Delhi police has been found to be going on a witch hunt against Kashmiris is a result of this very culture. This attitude of authorities has fuelled deep rooted social animosity against Kashmiris who are looked upon as suspects and treated as expendable material to cover up failures within the system. One needs only to go through a few of the recent judgements delivered by the Delhi judiciary to appreciate its deadly impact.

The third issue related to such cases is that of the state’s responsibility in compensating the victims of official wrong doing. While no authority or institution can restore the wasted precious youth of the victims the official machinery has not shown any inclination towards enabling its wronged citizens to put their lives back on the track. Two years have passed since Nissar’s brother Iftikhar had been set free by the Delhi court and he continues to go from pillar to post to relocate himself. In any civilised society he would have been not only adequately compensated for the loss inflicted upon him but provided with additional assistance to establish himself decently.

Not so long ago, the Supreme Court of India had made a lofty observation that the ‘republic cannot be allowed to kill its own sons’. It was in connection with the wrongful killing of a youth in Delhi by the police. To the countless victims of similar—and far worse—atrocities in this part of the ‘republic’ these are only high sounding hollow words. The apex court has found itself helpless in providing any redressal to the victims of even such a formidable case as that relating to Pathribal fake encounter. The charge sheet in the case has been made not by the ‘suspect’ state police but by the central government’s very own CBI. Yet, because the case happens to relate to Kashmir, the mighty Supreme Court was pushed aside and the trial of the accused army personnel was entrusted to the army itself.

The coalition government has been trying to extract political mileage out of its ‘generosity’ towards the youth-victims of the conflict. A lot of drum beating is going on about ‘resettlement of the misguided youth’ stranded across the Line of Control. A few families who have managed to reach here, via Nepal, have been left to fend for themselves. There is no word on their promised ‘rehabilitation’ within their native society. Add to that the plight of the victims of police high handedness, like Iftikhar, Nissar and Ali and a dismal picture emerges.

It is the moral obligation of the state to compensate victims of its high handedness. Only a few of the huge number of victims manage to seek or afford the cost of judicial redress. It is more a question of attitude than money or jobs. As of now, the desired attitude is simply not there.


News Updated at : Friday, November 23, 2012
 
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