Apparent Impunity


Sameer Yasir
Two days after three young men Shazad Khan, Shafi Lone and Riyaz Lone from the Nadihal village were brutally murdered in a fake encounter by army,I passed by burnt tires, angry young men, chest-beating women approaching the unfortunate village. All three were lured by with promises of getting work as laborers with Army in Matchil only to bekilled and dubbed as militants.

The incident was also responsible for triggering the intifada style uprising, which rocked the valley last summer, and left 117 people dead.The only link visible was a local counter-insurgent Bashar Ahmad Khan.Khan’s rise from a small labor to the man who owned the tallest building in the village was representative of his traits.

It also highlighted a widely known fact that how easy it wasto dub someinnocent villagers as LeTmilitantsby the army. And that a human life in Kashmir can be sold for Rs 1.5 lakh, two bottles of whisky and two Beer bottles.

In an another incident a stage managed encounter in Kupwara, a 70 year-old-man was killed by the Army on April 14, 2010. He was first described as a foreign militant but later it turned out that he was actually Habibullah Khan, a beggar of Diver Vilgam, in Lolab.

The Army, even had claimed recovery of one AK rifle with one magazine, 67 rounds and Rs 1000 from the slain beggar.Later the District Magistrate Kupwara ordered exhumation in May which confirmed that the “foreign militant” was a local elderly beggar.?The army then also did not lose any time in breaking the news to the media that a foreign militant had been killed.

The fake encounters in Kashmir reveal a pattern of impunity that ordinary Kashmiri’s will be condemned to endure unless there is an authority to put an end to it. And it can’t be done upto the time army is protected by the black laws.

So, when the army kills a “foreign dreaded divisional commander of Laskhar-e-Toiba” Abu Usman-who might have been laughing at the newspaper clips when they declared his death- after an 11-hour gun battle.That “Abu Usman” would be a beggar and his identity would be reveled during the last rightswhenpeople noticed that the poor man was uncircumcised.

Had he been circumcised, he would have been easily passed off as a dreaded terrorist killed. Police later identified the victim as a mentally challenged Hindu beggar fromReasi.Lucky by the standards of Kashmir he was not buried according to the Muslim rituals.  
 
Army as always,has ordered an “independent inquiry” and “prompt and stern action” will be taken if any individual is found guilty.

While Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has assured punishment for the killers, justice still eludes previous victims of fake encounters. In most of the cases, Army, the investigating authorities as well as the courts are caught up in the issues of sanction under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Can this be a case which canat least help in repealing a black law like AFSPA?

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