International watchdog Amnesty International’s latest report on human rights abuses in Kashmir titled Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, presents an interesting case.

The report focuses on the use and abuse of AFSPA in denying justice to the victims of the violations of human rights for the last 25 years. The report only vindicates what has been in the public knowledge for a long time. There are instances in Kashmir’s troubled 25 years of history where people have struggled to get their woes heard. But unfortunately, the slow and lethargic system of dispensing justice has only left people agitated. Given the impunity that the security forces enjoy under the blanket of draconian laws like AFSPA, a common man is left at the mercy of those who are the perpetrators themselves for justice.

In Kashmir’s context justice over the years has become so vague a term that it has lost its relevance altogether. The state so conveniently made people believe that getting compensation for their dead is equal to getting justice! The state has often denied people the right to fight for justice. And the involvement of men in uniform makes things complicated for people who have suffered at their hands. There is no way to fight against a system that side with the accused completely. And Amnesty International’s report on rights abuses in Kashmir is testimony of that fact. Interestingly, in last 25 years of conflict, the first case involving security forces is yet to be tried in a civilian court.

Such is the power of AFSPA that in famous Pathribal fake encounter case even CBI faced the same music. It has to get an order from Ministry of Defence – which took a year, to ensure accused officers present themselves for questioning. Amnesty quoted a legal officer saying: “..No army officer or personnel has testified during police investigations or court proceedings to date, despite being summoned by the police.”

Though the verdicts in court martial are subject to review in Armed Forces Tribunal or the Supreme Court, Amnesty says it has failed to trace a single instance in which court martial decision was challenged. This apparently is because the complainants lack access to the copies of verdict which could be challenged. The report has instances in which the copy of trial proceedings was denied.

Moreover such closed door army court proceeding see no civilian in attendance given the hostile nature of the atmosphere.

In such an atmosphere getting a army personnel convicted for his crimes committed on civilians is out of question for a commoner.

Kashmir’s history is full of instances where despite all evidences pointing towards the accused, the men in uniform go scot free.

The continuous denial of justice by the state has made people believe that the only thing that they can get from the system is delays, or/and an ex-gratia. But state has made it clear that ex-gratia is something that they are providing the civilians on humanitarian grounds and it no way should be seen as an acceptance of guilt on the state’s part.

In such a case a civilian is left with no other choice but to forget and forgive, and move on with his life for sake of those who are still alive. Alas, dead cannot talk or else there would have be no denying of justice.

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