Blacking out truth

The Amnesty International (AI) has never been allowed to investigate human rights abuses inside Kashmir. Last year the AI circumvented the restrictions by sending their Indian staff, who don’t need permission to travel to Kashmir.

The visit triggered reactions locally and the two researchers did a lot of explaining to assure the people that despite being Indian nationals they will remain objective and honest. They chose a subject that compared to the prevailing crisis of last two decades was safe and apparently academic. Within less than a year they came out with a report on the use and abuse of the Public Safety Act (PSA).

The emergence of the law and its use and abuse by the successive regimes is common knowledge in J&K. Right now it is the one of the rare state laws that runs parallel to the other central legislations like Armed Forces Special Powers Act. As the militancy graph started getting down only to be replaced by civilian agitations, the AFSPA started paving way for the PSA to make news.

But what was surprising was that when the report came out it was actually blacked out by the mainstream media in Delhi. Given the scale of public knowledge about the particular law, it would not have made any impact on the people in Kashmir but the media groups chose to ignore it. It was the politically correct chief minister of J&K who told the state legislature that he will not throw the report into the dustbin. He hinted at having a relook at the law. PSA is a state law and assembly has the right to do away with it or amend it.

Regardless of what legislature will do to PSA, the Amnesty report actually exposed Delhi media. Delhi media is perhaps the most informed media of what is happening in Kashmir for last more than two decades. Some of the best pieces of writing on Kashmir also appeared in some of these published from Delhi. But when it came to Amnesty report, it was totally blacked out.

Whatever the reasons for such an act, it does pose a huge question mark over the efforts being made at various levels to address the alienation and encourage reconciliation. Even chief minister Omar Abdullah suggested to his party legislators to bring in a resolution for setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), on the pattern of South Africa soon after it managed to crush Apartheid. For reconciliation establishing the truth is fundamental. Can a media that happily skips Amnesty be anyway supportive of the idea of the truth in Kashmir?

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