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A question of accountability and memory

Tuesday, 2 October 2012 - 6:38pm IST | Agency: DNA

We live in strange times where a query to the state about promotions and awards to policemen in anti-militancy operations in one of the world’s highest militarised zones elicits a cold response… that being, that its disclosure would "pose as a threat to national security and the strategic interests of the state and may lead to the incitement of an offence".

This essentially provides a shield to the guilty in case of human rights violations by security personnel and offers immunity/impunity from prosecution to those “defending our national security and the strategic interests of the state”.

Imagine if all of us lived in a world where there was no accountability like the men in uniform. Would there be any law and order? Or would we all be prisoners of our own conscience? Wouldn’t we spare a thought for those we harmed in our bid to get what we want? What kind of people would we be if the country’s laws did not apply to us?

The least one should expect in this situation is anarchy. Only the fit will survive. So, men with guns will triumph over young boys with stones. Men who run torture centers will sleep better than the fathers whose sons are broken and killed in the same centers. Women will never feel safe as investigative reports and toothless commissions are primed to fail in the delivery of justice. Such is life for some in militarised states in the country.

When Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a Srinagar-based non-government organisation, applied for to the Department of Home, Jammu and Kashmir government, about awards and promotions to the police personnel for anti-militancy operations since 1989 to 2012, the RTI application was transferred to the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Police Headquarters 40 days later.

“This denial is an admission by the Jammu and Kashmir Police that the state does have a policy of incentivising the arrests and killings of militants. It has been from a long time argued by the human rights defenders that this policy of awards and promotions has encouraged the personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the personnel of the army, CRPF and BSF to carry out extra-judicial killings. This denial sustains the institutional impunity and encouragement provided by the government to the soldiers and police personnel operating in Jammu and Kashmir,” JKCCS’s press release stated.

Khurram Parvez, co-ordinator of JKCCS, said, “It is alarming that the Department of Home does not keep the record of, and chooses not to make a decision on such a sensitive issue which is actually their jurisdiction and has instead relied on the Police Department, a subordinate to the Home Department, for both the record and decision to provide the information. This shows how mechanisms of accountability within the state structures have been deliberately disregarded, where the possible human rights violations and the allegations of corruption amongst the Police personnel could have been checked. This disregard or possible complicity highlights the fact that Jammu and Kashmir Police is not accountable to the superior authorities and also does not believe in having any transparency in the work they do. It is noteworthy that this denial of information from the Police Headquarters suggests that the Department of Home, which is the premier state authority vis-à-vis security, may not at all be involved in the policy and decision making on the issue of awards and promotions to the personnel of Jammu and Kashmir Police for anti-militancy operations.”

Perhaps the Home Department in the Valley is busy with more important tasks like the inauguration of a T-20 cricket contest in Sopore on a sunny Sunday. “Minister of State for Home Affairs Nasir Aslam Wani, the Chief Guest at the event, set pigeons free and helium balloons into the blue sky,” stated the police’s press release. IGP Kashmir SM Sahai, GOC Kilo Force, DIG North Kashmir (Baramulla) and several other officers from the police, the army and various other departments including J&K Sports Council, Education, Revenue, Forest, R&B, Department of Flood Control, etc, graced the occasion. Strange that such dignitaries don’t grace other mortals like us with their presence at T-20 matches in other parts of India.

If people could be won over by the state-sponsored quiz contests, medical camps, sports meets, Bharat darshan trips, drug rehabilitation camps, community outreach centers, job recruitment drives and religious conferences, then Kashmir would have had a very different past. For now, the state has asked telecom companies to block Twitter, YouTube and Facebook for the fate of our fragile national security for them, hinges on verdicts of the people on social networks! Only if that were true of our flailing democracy.

For these psy-ops to work, the Kashmiris would firstly need to obliterate not only their recent memories of the killing of 124 men, women and children in 2010, but also their past, where thousands of lives were lost to massacres, fake encounters, torture, mass rapes and enforced disappearances for almost 70 years. These horrors never fail to rise like a Phoenix, making a home in almost every Kashmiri’s consciousness every time innocent blood is spilled.