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Editorial
MARGINALIA: Justice delayed and Denied
By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
In the nineties, Kashmir witnessed spate of disappearances, of young men and boys being picked up by security agencies and then went missing without a clue. In 2010’s, fresh stories of enforced human disappearances may be rare but it does seem to be getting fashionable now for official reports that should have been safely locked up in custody of supposed responsible officers to suddenly go missing. First it was the CID report related to the Al Faran kidnappings of six foreign tourists, strangely soon after the disclosures of five of the hostages likely to have been killed by pro-government gunmen in a book titled ‘Meadow: Where the Terror Began.’ And now, it is the investigation related to killing of Tufail Matoo, just two years after his death. If humans could vanish without any system of accountability, why not official papers! It is far more easier to make files go missing, than one could do with human beings, with a much lesser burden of conscience, if any of those sitting in corridors of power have any, to bother anyone.

Justice for Tufail Matoo was being vociferously pursued from Day one and it was virtually an open and shut case with an eye-witness giving a testimony and identifying the culprit who caught hold of Tufail and shot him with a tear-gas shell at a close range. But right from the very first day, official response has been one of denial, first through circulation of rumours, then manipulated conflicting media reports about the medical reports and then through a packet of lies including one about the accused policeman being off duty on that day, constantly intimidating those who were pursuing for justice in this case and dilly dallying tactics in the court for over a year. However, when nothing else worked in pursuit of obfuscating truth and trampling justice, the investigation reports have mysteriously disappeared.

There is something very systemic about the way impunity is provided to security forces, in its most absolute form and worst manifestation of injustice. It goes beyond the existence of humanly and democratically unjustified laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It exercises itself through complete blanketing of truth by means of hiding, camouflaging, fudging and magical disappearances – human or anything else. Earlier this week, an RTI application revealed the truth about the secretly tucked away government inquiry report into the Bomai-Sopore killings. The report indicted the army men of cold blooded murders and also revealed the brazen manner in which army refused to even depose before the enquiry commission, using AFSPA as the shield, manifesting the ugly ways in which truth is buried and justice denied.

The Bomai case and Tufail Matoo cases are landmark cases in Kashmir’s history of human rights violations perpetrated by security forces. Tufail’s was the first killing in the summer of 2010 triggering the anger of the people and resultant 130 brutal killings during a devastating period of 5 months, which led to the culmination of a prolonged fatigue and cynicism that are officially defined as ‘normalcy’. The Bomai killings, having taken place just 2 months after Omar Abdullah took over as chief minister, and the manner in which the case was handled shaped the political turmoil of the Valley in the years to come. Bomai was a precursor to Shopian rapes and murders of May 2009, atleast in the way official response to the incident panned out with a vehement denial and a drowning theory, a tale told by none else but the newly coronated chief minister. Shopian rapes and murders were not the first incident to have prompted people to organise a peaceful protest campaign. The people of Bomai had earlier shown the way with their month long agitation starting in February, forcing the naïve and young chief minister to order an inquiry, make some noises about AFSPA and actually manage to shift the army camp from Bomai to a nearby village, inspiring some hope among the people of not just Bomai but the entire Valley. The report was ready within weeks but was never made public till someone filed an RTI application less than a week ago. Why? The answer perhaps lies in the strikingly different tone and tenor that Omar Abdullah and his government assumed in the case of Shopian, where the campaign for justice was far more organized and sustained, and as apolitical, but for a universal slogan of justice, as was Bomai. Did issues of justice assume a new meaning for Omar Abdullah due to an inner newfound inspiration? Or was there some other inspirational power – divine or New Delhi? Whatever the reason, the tone had been set for a more vehement denial for justice and a better orchestrated mechanism for burying truth, and after the summer of 2010 was over, sweetening up the pack of brazen lies with a greater lie of ‘normalcy’ and of a decreasing graph of human rights violations.

Normalcy, however, is defined by prolonged legal battles ending up nowhere, much like the Pathribal verdict, or by fudged evidences and missing files. Human rights abuses assume a new form, perpetuated through innovative ways of random arrests and detentions including of minors as old as 9, book them under concocted charges or for stone pelting and writing something offensive in the cyber world. It can get as bizarre as detaining elder family members of boys who cannot be caught by the cops as happened less than a week ago, even as it becomes rare to hear of fake encounters and even rarer to come across fresh cases of persons who were killed or disappeared in custody. The chief minister loves to talk about Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a slogan that is now being emulated by some intellectuals and human rights persons, even as Truth still remains the biggest casualty, which could possibly mean that it is not only Justice that has been bracketed out of this new vision for TRC but also Truth, leaving it to people to Reconcile with the dismal ground reality. His superior boss in Delhi talks about zero tolerance to human rights. So far, we have only seen zero tolerance to campaigns for justice.


News Updated at : Sunday, December 2, 2012
 
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