Soldiers are not above law, Let the wrongdoers face music
Like the previous year, the cycle of innocent civilian killings continues unabated in Kashmir Valley. The first month of the current year has consumed 10 innocent civilians. In 2015, at least 41 civilians were killed while the number drastically touched to 126 in 2016, the year, when Kashmir Valley witnessed violent uprising after the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani.
Last year in 2017, 81 civilians fall prey to the bullets in Valley.
With the onset of 2018, one was hopeful that civilian killings may stop, but in January this year, 10 civilians lost their life and most of them fall prey to the bullets of Government Forces personnel.
The first civilian from Kashmir this year was put to death by unidentified gunmen when they shot dead Arif Ahmed Sofi in Herwan village of Sopore town in North Kashmir.
Four more budding youth from South Kashmir namely, Shakir Ahmed Mir of Qalampora Rajpora Pulwama, Javaid Bhat of Balpora Shopian, Rayees Ahmed of Narpora and Suhail Javaid Lone of Ganowpora Shopain were killed by Army soldiers.
This year also, some innocent civilians including young girls were critically wounded while some of them are still battling for life.
After every civilian killing, a probe is being ordered which never gets completed and is never made public. People here know in advance the outcome of the probe. Condemnations pour from even pro-India parties after civilian killings. Some parties use civilians while other support army to advance their political agenda.
At State Assembly, BJP justified Army action at Ganowpora while Opposition parties including National Conference and Congress not only condemned these killings but also demanded action against the guilty. Even, ruling PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti on the floor of the House displayed anguish over these killings. Mehbooba Mufti went on to extent saying that FIR lodged against army will be taken to its logical conclusion. She said there are some black sheep in the Army as well.
Omar Abdullah appealed politicians not to play politics over the dead bodies. While some ruling party members including Muhammad Ashraf Mir appealed to government to take action and don’t give escape route to the guilty army soldiers.
One interesting fact is that common people and the mainstream politicians never remain on the same page. When on the floor of the House, politicians were condemning arrmy action, netizens on social networking sites were poking fun at them.
“We know the outcome of the probe. We also know probe is ordered to hoodwink people and we even know that Jammu Kashmir government can’t touch the collar of an ordinary Indian soldier,” wrote a netizen on facebook clearly showing that people have lost faith in government probes.
Another netizen wrote that after an FIR, the accused is being questioned and arrested, but FIR lodged against army are of different nature. Accused army soldiers are not being questioned, let alone arresting him.
A Human Rights activist claimed that from 1990 till date, over 35,000 FIR’s stand registered against Government Forces personnel belonging to Army, BSF, CRPF, Territorial Army, CISF and others. But so far no arrests have been made.
“The cases against men in uniform particularly against army soldiers are either been closed or ignored because Ministry for Home Affairs Government of India don’t allow Jammu Kashmir government to prosecute these Forces personnel.
In recent Shopian killing police yet again named 10 Gharwal soldiers in the FIR who killed two budding youth, but still no arrests have been made,” the HR activist said.
He said that registration of FIR against Army for Shopian carnage is mere an eyewash while the probe ordered will never be completed and guilty never be punished. “Even, culprits responsible for Machil fake encounter were released.”
Another activist said that in the rarest of rare cases, a BSF commandant Bridi and head constable were arrested by police in the killing of Nishat youth Zahid Farooq, but both the accused were later on handed over to BSF.
“It is a useless process to register FIR against Government Forces personnel as State Police lacks power to prosecute them. So, to pinning hope on the justice system here is a futile exercise,” he maintained.
The civilian killings according to a politician will continue till action is not initiated against the guilty soldiers. “Once you award stringent punishment to soldiers, others will take lessons and will think thousands time before aiming at a civilian,” he said.
“Soldiers knew they are at will to operate and even their seniors can’t take them to task. If reports are to be believed, after every killing, seniors usually try to shield their juniors. This fact emerged after the killing of two Nowgam youth at Chattargam. Senior army officers left no stone unturned in persuading a family to accept the compensation. Another glaring example is Major Gogoi who was encouraged, hailed and awarded for making a civilian Farooq Dar human shield. Dozens of videos that have been surfacing on the social media show how army soldiers are being hailed for bashing and thrashing innocent Kashmiri civilians.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is correct when she says every untoward incident including thrashing and killing of civilians derails political process in Kashmir. If Government of India is sincere and serious in restoring normalcy in Valley, then it must identify and award punishment to those soldiers who think they are above law. It must initiate a dialogue and provide political space to the pro-freedom leaders in Kashmir.
(Neyaz Elahi works for Current News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)