Zero Action On Zero Tolerance

Gowhar Geelani

All this talk about reducing footprints of the armed forces in the Kashmir Valley has become too redundant, and hence almost futile. On his recent two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Defence Minister A K Antony while chairing the meeting at the Unified Headquarters in Srinagar said that visibility of the gun-wielding men in uniform should be minimized. Mr. Antony, however, cautioned that decreasing footprints of forces must not compromise efficacy vis-?-vis fighting the Kashmiri militants and infiltrators from across the Line of Control [LoC]. One struggles to decide whether to welcome or condemn this statement of his.

Whether the armed forces remain visible or invisible in the hinterland and/or populated areas of Kashmir is basically irrelevant. The relevant question that rather must be asked is whether the killings of innocent civilians at the hands of this ‘proud & professional’ organization will stop or not? Unfortunately, the Valley has become a perilous place where aberrations are almost a norm. The frontier districts in North of Kashmir are – perchance – the worst hit of what seems to be an organized violence by elements within the armed forces and a deliberate design to keep the pot boiling. Either the teenaged Kashmiri boys have been mercilessly shot dead while playing cricket in Handwara or innocent civilians killed at a marriage function in Kupwara. And many like Hilal Ahmad, 25, from Ashtingoo, Bandipora, have been victims of fake and staged encounters. There certainly seems to be a pattern to such killings, possibly to prolong this conflict and drama of death to suit the vested interest.

In July, 2005, Lt. Gen. S S Dhillon, the then General Officer Commanding [GoC] of Srinagar-based 15 Corps – the most sensitive army base – had made several assurances that killings of civilians shall not be tolerated. At that time, three teenaged boys were killed by the army in North Kashmir district of Kupwara. He had gone to the extent of acknowledging that the anger of people against such killings was justified. Few months later, the similar pattern followed in North Kashmir and four more civilians were killed. In less than seven months — from July 2005 to February 2006 — at least 12 civilians had been killed by the army. These civilians were not lured by the Hurriyat to participate in any anti-India or pro-freedom protests. They were killed in ‘cold blood’. After each ugly episode, only assurances were repeated that such incidents will not recur. After each killing, a probe was ordered to ascertain the reasons for “error in judgment”. The same dose has been repeated by Lt. Gen Om Prakash, the present GoC of 15 Corps, in the latest case of Bandipora, which has resulted in the killing of hapless Hilal.

As if Kashmiris aren’t aware of the probe findings into the Pathribal fake encounter of March, 2000. This is no propaganda against the so-called ‘proud & professional’ unit. These are chilling facts. Even the assurance like ‘zero tolerance’ on human rights abuses by the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, have been reduced to a bad joke.  Former Chief Minister and patron of Peoples’ Democratic Party [PDP], Mufti Muhammed Sayyed has said in a public rally in the summer capital Srinagar that New Delhi ‘handpicks’ people to rule Jammu and Kashmir. This time, the veteran is dead right!

– Gowhar Geelani is a journalist and writer


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