Shopian Killings: The Assembly Debate

JAMMU / SRINAGAR: Notwithstanding, the shocking statements issued by a radical lawmaker over Shopian killings, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told the assembly that the “fear” that would dominate Kashmir during encounters has evaporated. Her speech that government will take the case to logical conclusion, however, was punctured by Omar Abdullah, by saying, that the official position is confusing: what is the requirement of an enquiry when the accused are identified already in the police case.

Opposition lawmakers protesting over Shopian killings

The debate that was permitted by the Speaker Kavinder Gupta after a pandemonium over the killings led to the deferring of the question hour when the assembly resumed after four days of holidays. Various lawmakers spoke on the motion of adjournment.

BJP Stand

Ruling BJP legislator Ranbir Singh Pathania said that his party welcome the government decision to order an inquiry into the said incident wherein three civilians were allegedly killed by the army. But, he said, the decision should lead to an “impartial probe”. He demanded the immediate withdrawal of FIR register against the army. He said that before blaming army and reaching to any conclusion, the government should inquire the matter so that responsibility could be fixed on those actually responsible.

Flags of BJP (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

“Without any probe, we are blaming army, did it mean we hang them without any prior trial— the law is clear as far as justice delivery system is a concern,” said Pathnia. He said that law takes its own course and we cannot force the early decision. “Tomorrow we will demand that judge should deliver the judgment in 10-15 days. Is it possible?. No, not at all.” He said the BJP will support any probe into the incident, but that doesn’t mean we put the entire blame on army without holding any proper inquiry.

He said that “we have done a similar thing in Shopian double rape and murder case of Asia and Nelofar but what we achieve in the end, everything is known to the people.”

Pathania said Army personnel were also injured in the incident and name of army men mention in FIR has in hospital in injured condition. He questioned opposition why they didn’t speak on cross-border shelling like they speak on the civilian killing in Shopian.

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PDP’s Shopian Lawmaker

Ruling PDP MLA Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, whose house was targeted by stone pelters in the aftermath of the killings, asked the government for arresting army personnel named in FIR. He said army personnel fired unprovoked on the innocent youth. They could have avoided it if they fire in the air.

“What is the fault of civilians who were killed by the army?” he questioned. “Meray ghar kay bachu ko mara gaya, Kay Kasor tha Unka”. Bhat said the government has to address the sentiments of Kashmiri’s. “It is not law and order problem. The government should most talk to all stakeholders to end the uncertainty in Kashmir.”

Communist Leader

CPI (M) Leader said that ordering a probe after every such killing is not a solution. People have lost faith in such probes. He said the law-enforcing agencies are refusing to draw lessons from previous such experiences. “Such killings have in the past inflamed the situation and if such incidents are not stopped, there is an apprehension that the situation in the Valley may turn ugly again,” Tarigami said. “Such incidents could have been avoided if the forces would have exercised maximum restraint.”

M Y Tarigami

Tarigami said how long will the blood of innocent civilians be spilt like this. “I have no words to condemn these killings as mere condemnations every time a civilian is killed are not enough. He said the “indifferent and callous attitude” of those in power in Delhi and in Srinagar is inflaming the already worsening situation in the state. He asked the government that what happened to Machil encounter investigation?

The vocal communist leader said it was a shame that the army said the persons wearing Kammez Shalavar that represents they were militants. He suggested Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that passes the resolution in assembly to revoke the AFSA in state and adding that all opposition members will support. He said the role of the army is on borders not in civilian areas.

Tarigami said that the continued shelling and firing on both sides of the border has resulted in killings, destruction of property, closure of educational institutions and immense hardships to poor people. “I appeal Political leadership of both the countries should start an immediate structured and sustainable dialogue to find a solution to the problems. The leadership of both the countries must utilise the resources for well being of the millions of poor people living in India and Pakistan.”

He asked the government to explain the mandate of interlocutor? If the previous reports made by interlocutors were implemented now situation would not be worsening, he argued. He added that it is not the time to issue the different statement regarding the killing of civilians, we should unite and put force Dehli to solve the issue of Kashmir.

Hakim Yasin

Hakeem Muhammad Yaseen said that the government seems to be “directionless” in handling the situation in J&K, particularly Kashmir. He castigated the government for “regenerating the ‘90s-like situation” in Kashmir.

“The government has miserably failed to control human rights violations and bloodshed. It has revived the culture of CASO (cordon-and-search operations), arrests and detention of youth. The government should go deep and think of measures to control all this,” he said.

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“We should think of collective leadership because Kashmir issue won’t be resolved through stones or guns, but by formal talks with all the stakeholders. We should not negate that people put their lives at risk to cast their vote and choose their leaders,” he said.

Hakim Mohammad Yasin

Pitching for fruitful talks with all stakeholders to resolve the Kashmir issue, he said that construction of roads, setting up colleges, schools and “making backdoor appointments” can go side-by-side with “initiatives to resolve the basic issue of Kashmir.”

“If Kashmir is not an issue, then why home minister Rajnath Singh made statements in 2015, 2016 and 2017 on talks with all stakeholders. The government of India appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma but it seems he has no direction—who he has to meet and talk to?” he said. “Only fruitful talks will restore peace and tranquillity in Kashmir.”

He asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that her government doesn’t allow Friday prayers in Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. Is this governance?” he asked. He urged the government to “wake up.”

Omar Abdullah

NC leader said the magisterial probe into the killings of innocent civilians in Shopian and simultaneously registering a specific FIR against Army, confuses the case, as it leaves no scope for what needs to be probed.

“We are sending confusing signals. At the time when the government has already register an FIR in which the name of the accused was mentioned, there was no need to order Magistrate probe into the incident,” Omar said. “Magisterial probe is ordered only if the culprits are unidentified while in this case the names were clearly mentioned in FIR.”

He said the civilians were hit directly on their chest and heads which indicate no restraint was maintained while dealing with the situation.

 In Legislative Council

Naeem Akhtar who usually speaks for the government told the Elders that the government is making all efforts for bringing sustainable peace to Jammu and Kashmir. Mehbooba Mufti, he said, has taken up the matter of civilian killings with the Union Defense Minister and a probe has also been ordered into the tragic incident.

“An atmosphere is being created by vested interests to sabotage the peace efforts and the violent militancy related incidents are also hampering the peace efforts,” Akhter said. “Cutting across all the political barriers we need to build a consensus and to find a durable solution to this problem and to end the vicious cycle of violence that is destroying our lives, our economy, our education and our societal values.” He said the dialogue is the only solution to an ultimate way for the resolution of the state’s problems. He accused some TV Channels of having unleashed a vicious campaign against Kashmir and Kashmiris which he said is only adding fuel to the fire.

CM Speaks

Responding to the intense debate, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti today assured lawmakers that the probe ordered into the killing of two civilians at Shopian two days ago would be taken to logical conclusion. “Nobody countenances such killings which only impairs and slow down the political process in the State,” she said adding that immediately after the incident took place an FIR was lodged against the guilty and the Deputy Commissioner, Shopian was ordered to conduct a magisterial probe and come up with its report within 15 days.

Mehbooba Mufti said within moments of learning about the incident she rang up Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi who, she said, shared her anguish and assured to take appropriate measures. She said Army as an institution has done a great job but the grace of an institution only enhances once the black sheep within are identified and weeded out.

Mehbooba Mufti responding to the debate on Shopian killings.

The Chief Minister said during her Unified Headquarters meetings she has been stressing upon all security agencies to exercise maximum restraint and ensure that no collateral damage takes place while operating.

Sharing the concern of the House over the civilian killings, the Chief Minister said the entire State is anguished over the killings, which she said, have the potential to impair the political process in the State.

Mehbooba Mufti said incidents like Shopian remind us that we cannot afford confrontation at any level and there is an urgent need to engage in a meaningful dialogue at all levels. She said there is no alternative to dialogue within the State and between India and Pakistan because it is the people of Jammu & Kashmir who are facing the brunt of this acrimony and paying in terms of human and material losses.

The Chief Minister said it was satisfying to note that the House was unanimous in advocating dialogue, reconciliation and peaceful means to sort out differences. She appealed all political parties to maintain consistency in this regard adding that the failures in dialogue in past are no reason not to undertake fresh peace initiatives.

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