The politics of Kashmir killings

The SC verdict on the Pathribal killings is yet another cruel reminder that India is far from being egalitarian.

Jehangir Ali May 18, 2012
On May 1, the Supreme Court of India asked the Ministry of Defence to take a call on whether the six army officers accused of carrying out the “cold blooded murder” of five innocent civilians in the Pathribal village in Kashmir valley should be tried by court martial or in a regular civil court.

The Pathribal incident dates back to then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India on March 20, 2000. This was when 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora village of Kashmir were shot dead by unknown men carrying automatic weapons, alcohol bottles and a lust for blood.

The massacre was blamed on the men from “across the border”; a term that has been used so much in the media, particularly in India, to describe the killings of Kashmir that you will be forgiven for blaming the death of a pedestrian killed in a road accident on the men from “across the border”.

Curiously, within just five days, the perpetrators of Chattisinghpora were identified. Their hideout was located to a makeshift house in Pathribal village where they were shot dead and burnt beyond recognition. Justice was delivered. Case solved. Thank you.

It will take more than two years and a disgraceful ploy to cover up the killings to find out that the supposed perpetrators of Chattisinghpora were innocent Kashmiri men who had been abducted by security forces from the villages adjoining Pathribal. Tragically, the officers accused in the case were never punished. Some of them continue to “serve the nation”.

The Pathribal case is a watershed in the history of India’s protracted and often bloody counter-insurgency operations in a war which has cost nearly 70,000 human lives in the last two decades - many among them innocent men, women and children in Kashmir. Also, more than 8,000 persons have become victims of enforced disappearances, that is, they have simply vanished.

Various human rights activists, Sikh organisations and political parties including the Delhi backed National Conference, which is currently in power in Kashmir, have raised questions over the timing of the Chattisinghpora massacre and have appealed to the successive governments in New Delhi to order a fresh investigation into the case.

Their pleas, however, have fallen on deaf ears. The two alleged Lashkar militants blamed for being behind the Chattisinghpora were acquitted by a court in India after the prosecution failed to prove its case. The killers remain at large.

Of the atrocities committed in Kashmir, the Pathribal is not a one-off exception. There are hundreds of similar cases. SoporeGaw Kadal,BijbeharaHandwara, to name a few. The armed forces have often used violence on the civilian population to trample any sign of dissent in the valley. Thousands of innocent men and women have been killed and subjected to enforced disappearances with impunity over the last two decades. Even teenagers and old men haven't been spared.

Then there are the rape victims; an instrument of war, as a Human Rights Watch report describes it, used to coerce the people of Kashmir into submission. In one case, an entire village of Kunan Poshpora was victimised in what is easily one of the worst human tragedies of modern day.

Far from seeing justice, the victims of Kunan Poshpora – between the age group of 13-80 when the incident happened - have been blamed for trumpeting up charges against the “sacred” security forces; that in a country where the law provides that a mere allegation of rape must be documented and investigated.

There are other cases too; in Shopian’s Chak Saidapora where security forces barged into the houses of villagers and raped nine woman, including an 11-year-old girl; in Budgam, where a newly-wed bride and her aunt were raped when the marriage party was returning home, the bridegroom shot when he protested the assault on his wife; in Haran where two women, one of them pregnant, fell prey to the lusty nationalistic boys toiling hard in the testing terrains of Kashmir. In most of these cases, the perpetrators have never been punished, and in some cases rewarded.

The truth may lie buried but the stink is slowly making its way into the air. Investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark from The Guardian recently released their explosive book The Meadow; it reveals that the infamous abduction of six foreign tourists in 1995 in Kashmir was done by mercenary forces loyal to security establishment. Their sole motive was to demonise Kashmir’s resistance movement and discredit Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism.

Recently, some 3,000 odd unidentified bodies were found buried in mass graves in one region of Kashmir valley. There are rumours of mass graves in other regions too. No one knows who these men and women are. Clearly, the stink is coming out.

There was optimism in the air that a sagacious Indian Supreme Court will set a precedent in Pathribal case for subjecting hundreds of similar acts under judicial scrutiny. This is something that many rabid “nationalists” in India consider gratuitous and insulting to the honour of the armed forces in general and their country in particular.

Instead, the verdict is yet another cruel reminder that India is far from being egalitarian when it comes to delivering justice in Kashmir.

The war in Kashmir is a brutal tale of collective failure of all the instruments of accountability and justice that make India a secular, sovereign and democratic republic. Unless this tale is brought to a rightful closure, India will find very few people in Kashmir purchasing its idea of democracy.

As Pankaj Mishra argued, the war in Kashmir has damaged not so much the Kashmiri cause of freedom as India’s frail democracy. It is just a matter of time before the imaginary castle of peace crumbles in Kashmir to show a deeper, darker side of the world’s largest democracy that many in India will not exactly like to see; peace, trade and tourism notwithstanding.

Read more by Jehangir here, or follow him on Twitter @Gaamuk
Jehangir Ali An aspiring novelist, a proud son, a journalist, a coffee addict, a movie buff, in that order, Jehangir tweets as @Gaamuk
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Maoist | 11 years ago | Reply Since Indians are so obsessd with Kashmir, the entire India is slipping from their grasp. We, the Maoists already control 45% of Indian territory, soon it will be 85%. Kahsmiris are doing well keeping more than 7 lac army men in that quagmire., we thank them. We will liberate the rest of India from hindu fascists, corporate eltists and hungry politicians. We will give rights to every Indian, under Maoists, Kashmir will be free for them to decide. Dont loose hope my Kashmiri and Pakistani brothers, India as you know it will cease to exist in next 15 years. We will blast this monster from its core. Gandhiji never wanted a hegemonic war mongering monster, he wanted a peaceful, pacifist, non violent india. We will bring back Gandhiji's India. MAO KI JAY HO!! Gandhiji ki jay ho
Ghaznavi | 11 years ago | Reply @ All Indians Talking about people with their heads in sand. Why do you need 700,000 army men to control Kashmir when the locals are with you and happy? Indian human rights record is appalling, if you dont believe Pakistanis and you cant hear the Kashmiris scream go and see what Human Rights Watch and other organizations have to say about it. The fact is you are continuously fed with lies and you live, eat, sleep these lies. Now you want the world to accept these lies. If you have guts, take your army out of Kashmir, get the Kashmiris to vote under a neutral regime. We will accept if they want to live with India, or with Pakistan or with neither. But will you?? You are trying to put out fire with fire. Kashmiris will fight to the last blood, you may have more guns, more tanks, bigger army, but you dont have guts and honour. If you continue to fight, so will Kashmiris, even for next 1000 years. You will have to kill each and every Kahsmiri and Pakistani. Kashmir is our jugular vain, we will get it at any cost. What happened in Mumbai is only a trailer. If you dont leave Kahsmir, the entire movie will be played in your cities, towns and villages. Imagine, 10 men can make thousands of security agencies dance for 3 days. Can you imagine 100 men, or 1,000 or 10,000. There are more kashmiris than that. The might of Persians was broken by Spartans. The might of soviets was broken by rag tag Afghans. The mighty US is running from Afghanistan You are not a mighty country, far from it... 85% of indians live below 2 USD a day, defecate on the streets making your country largest open air laterine, hundreds of millions do not have safe drinking water, access to education and health. Wake up and solve the Kashmir issue, before the issue dissolves you.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ