Smouldering South

Every time, the situation shows a semblance of normality, something untoward happens and kicks things back to square one. By and large, official machinery is directly or indirectly responsible for these incidents.

The recent cycle had a musical start. As the state government threw its weight behind the German ambassador’s Zubin Mehta show, the fault-lines in the highly divided political landscape became so sharp that it threatened undoing the gains that politicians have been talking about. Thanks to the civil society that offered a way out by organizing a parallel show that helped the society to have a public mourning.

 But the crisis that is still engulfing Kashmir was the firing incident outside the Gagren CRPF camp. The paramilitary force claimed killing four militants. Within hours, everybody in Shopian knew three of the four were innocent civilians who were killed from a very close range. By the time, the police acknowledged the same reality the CRPF had killed another civilian – this time a driver, a concerned father who was returning after getting her young toddler medically examined.

While there is no dispute over the antecedents of four of the five persons that CRPF killed, it is the case of fifth one that is still being contested. Police stated that the person is a Lashkar recruit Abdullah Haroon but a Congressman and a former minister addressed a news conference asserting the slain was a non-local labourer.

Interestingly, the government was the last player that intervened. It was in the cabinet that Omar Abdullah heads that decided almost five days after the chain of incidents that it directed the CRPF garrison be replaced by the JKAP – a decision awaiting implementation. It regretted the hazy details of the case and asked police to offer full details. An enquiry by a civil officer was also announced.

 Since Saturday, Shopian was open for one day. Kulgam and Pulwama followed and situation was not so rosy in north Kashmir as well. These killings have led to three days of Kashmir wide strike.

Regardless of what separatists have been saying on the issue, the killings have triggered a fierce reaction from unionists. Opposition leader Ms Mehbooba Mufti was prevented from entering the belt. Engineer Rashid demonstrated against the killings asserting that dogs have better security environment than people. Continued silence of government led CPI M leader Yusuf Tarigami seek a formal apology from chief minister. It was only after these reactions that government started reacting to the reality.

The probe is announced but is not expected to offer justice to the bereaved families. What is hoped, however, is that it must offer the basic information about the ‘encounter’ that overshadowed Zubin Mehta’s show in Srinagar when most of the world was watching Kashmir.

People need to know, how the encounter took place, and was the fifth slain really a Lashkar recruit. If he was not a militant, then wherefrom the CRPF got the arms and ammunition that it claimed to have recovered from the slain.

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