J&K: Killings Bare Stark Reality

11 Sep, 2013    ·   4114

Shujaat Bukhari comments on the killing of four people in Shopian in the run-up to Zubin Mehta's concert

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir
In Kashmir everything comes at a cost. Even for organizing a music concert, blood is must to be spilled on the roads. Mired in controversy, the “Ehsaas-e-Kashmir” concert, featuring famous conductor Zubin Mehta bungled the Kashmiris for the whole day—partly due to the heavy security bandobast and partly for the strike call given by Hurriyat (G) leader Syed Ali Geelani. It was the day of a fight to prove that “Ehsaas” of Kashmir can only be pulsated through music and that the reality of Kashmir could only be seen through sobs and shrieks that are spontaneous at seeing the mauled bodies of youth, wailing women and long rows of graves that dot the Kashmir valley. Both sides could claim victory, albeit with a difference. But the fact is that Kashmir was largely disconnected with Ehsaas and at the Reality Show, people’s participation was thwarted by both the restrictions and the “confinement” orders of the leaders.

Kashmir is a laboratory where all the theatrics has been put to test. At the end of the day, victory has become a relative term used by those following competitive narratives. In case of Ehsaas, however, the things were bungled up from day one. The first and foremost question that was asked was why a foreign country would jump into the fire to prove that Kashmir was so peaceful that concert like this could be held? Concerts such as Zubin Mehta’s are surely for a class different from ordinary people. Not many people, even those so- called elites, who chose to be in the spruced up Shalimar garden on Saturday, were knowing why they were part of a programme, which was far away from their understanding.

Abhay Rustum Sopori’s Kashmiri touch might have struck a chord, but the overall package was of Beethovan beats. Now that the concert is over, the administration has heaved a sigh of relief and may be there is a sense of victory among the organisers, but this event too could not pass without blood spilling on a street. The way four people were killed in Gagren (Shopian) hours before the scintillating music was played in Shalimar, it came as a grim reminder about the harsh reality of Kashmir.
Both German Embassy and the Jammu and Kashmir government owe an explanation to people as to how they could justify the killing of at least three civilians, who have been declared by Police as “not anti-nationals”. About the fourth one, the investigation is not complete. The killings have surely taken place as a red alert sounded to ensure that no disturbance in caused on the day. So when Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel opened fire on these bikers, they must have this thing on mind. An atmosphere had been building up that this too was an “important” day like August 15 and January 26 and to ensure it went off smoothly, every step had to be taken.

What happens with each case like that of Gagren is that the authorities don’t lose a moment in reaching out to final judgment. The initial statement from the CRPF suggested that all the four had come to attack the camp. “We fired in self defence otherwise they would have killed our men,” the CRPF spokesman was quoted as saying.

The way the CRPF dealt with the “errant youth”, who according to both the families as well as Police were civilians again exposes the lack of a mechanism to deal with a particular situation.

By any stretch of imagination, the youth did not amount a major threat like a protest demonstration of hundreds of people, which cannot be controlled. It is actually the Standrad Operating Procedure (SOP), which is not in practice for the forces deployed on the ground. Time and again the government has reiterated that SOP was being followed. But in this case, if the SOP is to open indiscriminate fire in response to a single shot fired by a pistol (the investigation is needed in that as well), then the doors of justice are already shut.

Routine investigations and inquiries have now become a joke as far as upholding the human rights are concerned. The biggest tragedy with which the state as an institution is living is the lack of credibility and trust. Even if one would believe that a single militant, whose identity is yet to be ascertained had come to attack the CRPF, there are not many takers as the past experiences have shown how the encounters have been faked and stage-managed to get the perks and promotions. Examples of Pathribal, Machil, Ganderbal and Bandipora are enough to point a finger of suspicion. Now that the Police has confirmed that the three were civilians, how can the indiscriminate firing be justified? As the head of the Unified Headquarters, would Chief Minister Omar Abdullah be ordering a time-bound probe, ask the CRPF top brass to suspend those involved in the firing and ensure that justice is done?

The reply would be ‘No’, since we have seen that the UHQ is just a symbolic structure, which has failed to pull the strings of the forces on the ground. UHQ decisions have never been taken seriously so the impunity has increased over the past two decades.
What expands the room for this impunity is the lack of accountability and deliverance of justice to the victims. Unbridled powers given to security forces have trampled the rights of ordinary Kashmiris. That is why the concert could not evoke any better “Ehsaas” among Kashmiris and only could vindicate those who were clamouring that the reality lied somewhere else. It is ironic on the part of the government, that its bogey of “peaceful Kashmir” was punctured by non else but its own paramilitary force, which panicked and killed four in fit of anger or “incapability” to deal with just a militant. Those who opposed “Ehsaas” and made an effort to prove the reality should also be thankful to CRPF.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir