Bringing Peace To Kashmir

Bringing Peace To Kashmir

27 December 2013
Express Tribune


New Delhi: The wheels of justice are usually stuck, refuse to move, and when pushed, do so at an agonisingly slow speed. In the process, lives are lost, hope turns into despair and entire families lose their livelihoods and even the will to live. So, it is always a good occasion when the arms of the law catch up with the violators and ensure that they are brought to book. As has happened in the Machil fake encounter case in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), where the army has finally ordered court-martial proceedings against six of its personnel, including two officers, for the cold-blooded murder of three residents of Nadihal in Baramulla district. In a sea of rights violations, ranging from enforced disappearances to fake encounters to rape, every drop of justice is welcome. One, Bashir Ahmad Lone and his accomplices approached the three men, Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Muhammad Shafi Lone, with the promise of getting them jobs in the army. They accompanied him to Machil where he allegedly handed them over at a price of Rs50,000 each. They were then reportedly shot dead in a staged gun battle near the Line of Control and buried by the army as Pakistani infiltrators, with the army personnel recovering the ‘reward’ bounty of reportedly Rs150,000 each. On April 30,2010, the army announced that three militants had been killed in an encounter. The worried relatives, fearing the worst, approached the authorities for help in identifying those killed in the encounter. The police, under huge public pressure, launched an inquiry into the incident; the bodies were exhumed and found to be of the three youths from Baramulla. The agitation, in which over 123 boys died, continued for over two months, the army started the court-martial process, with court-martial proceedings now ordered against a colonel (the commanding officer of 4 Rajput Regiment), a major and four others. This will be significant only if it heralds a new dawn in the history of justice in J&K. The deaths at the hands of security forces, in one way or the other, have scarred the people of this border state, with repression and victimisation becoming the norm. It is imperative for the authorities to one, work towards ensuring an end to rights violations at the hands of security forces; to ensure immediate justice instead of the customary cover-ups; and to return the state to civilian control by withdrawing the army from the entire Valley, as necessary first steps before the larger political issues can be taken up. But even these minimalist first steps cannot be taken without full cooperation from Pakistan. Both Pakistan and India need to realise that there can be no alternative to peaceful dialogue. Pakistan has to realise that its policy of intervention has not earned it any goodwill in J&K where the new generation, born and brought up in conflict, is fed up with the violence and the oppression and wants out. The ‘goodwill’ that the Pakistani establishment was always happy about amongst sections in the Valley has dissipated entirely with even the few pro-Pakistan elements that remain, finding it impossible to say so without severe reaction from the vocal, articulate and highly political young Kashmiris. The India-Pakistan dialogue has become meaningless for the Kashmiris, who see in it little more than an official cacophony favouring the status quo. The meetings between visiting Pakistani leaders to New Delhi and select representatives of the Hurriyat and other such organisations are also no longer regarded as important or meaningful within the Valley, but just more of the same old and redundant responses. The Kashmiris have moved far ahead of the dialogue that was set up years ago, and unless the new aspirations are taken into account by New Delhi and Islamabad, J&K will continue to simmer and fester, erupting when least expected, into an uncontrollable situation with possibly disastrous consequences for all. New Delhi has to realise that people cannot be contained by force, and Islamabad has to realise that bloody terrorism cannot substitute for reasoned, mature, responsible dialogue and peace. The people of J&K must not be held hostage to wars and conflict not of their making.