Constitution of inquiry commissions has been in fashion for a long time now. Accepting or rejecting recommendations of a Commission is the prerogative of the government, so the administration has continuously used setting up of commissions as a lever to take the sting out of a crisis. That is what happened in Kishtwar riots that took place in August 2013 when the people assembled for offering Eid prayers. Four persons were killed and property worth crores was destroyed. In two cases, the slain had a very painful, pathetic death.
After army implemented some sort of sanity in the historically sensitive town – that was smouldering for many days, the government appointed Justice (retd) R C Gandhi as head of a one-man Commission. On the same day, NCs local lawmaker and minister in Omar government, Sajad Kichloo put in his papers. The judge who has served the High Court, made a series of visits to the town, interacted with the witnesses, administration and the politicians. In December 2013, there was a newsbreak suggesting the Commission has submitted its preliminary findings and Kichloo has been absolved of all its charges. Within a day or two, Kichloo was handpicked to Raj Bhawan and his status was restored.
Then two elections followed in 2014 and Kichloo was one of the many NC lawmakers who lost. Kishtwar seat was wrested from NC by BJP’s Sunil Sharma. By March 2015, Sharma revealed in Jammu that the Commission has submitted its final report and he has indicted Kichloo. This revelation paved way for the government and other parties to react to it.
Even laymen know what will happen to this report but the issue is how a Commission exonerated somebody in one go and then held him responsible as a conspirator a year later. What is the credibility of such a commission?
A quick read of the report does not offer a crash course to the ‘new English’ alone but also fetches clear indications about how the Commission has responded to a crisis and upgraded it to a “holocaust”. If somebody reads the affidavit of Sunil Sharma, currently a minister in Mufti Sayeed government, it will help understand the entire report quickly. The Commission has withheld identities of some of the witnesses and released those of others without justifying the criterion for doing so. It is a piece of investigation that has posed more questions to the formal criminal investigations rather than answering anything. The Commission sees most of the routine as a conspiracy and conveniently skips suggesting anything about the cop who was a key to the mess.
It should be a matter of debate about why J&K has landed in a situation in which impartiality is becoming a norm even at levels usually considered supreme and sacrosanct.
In wake of the Gandhi Commission recommendations, it can be suggested that people should stop pressurizing the government for taking the Commission of enquiry route, if and when, there is an issue. Instead, there should be police investigations that should be monitored by the bench and it should not be in-camera. While it is no way out for ensuring better investigations – the case of Tufail Mattoo is hanging fire for so many years for want of identification of the killer, it still is the only available option for the society to know what is happening where and who is behind it?