The killing of four civilians protesting against the high-handedness of the Border Security Force (BSF) in Ramban, in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, is condemnable. Though it is still unclear how the deaths transpired, locals say the shootings occurred in the aftermath of an argument that the BSF had with a religious leader’s brother over offering late night prayers in Ramazan. On the other hand, the BSF states that the killings occurred as a result of a mob firing at its camp and attacking its storehouse of arms and ammunition. Whatever the trigger, the deaths furnish only further evidence of the security forces’ high-handedness, which the crowd was protesting against in the first place. There can be no justification for the military attacking the very civilians it is supposed to protect. Such authoritarian behaviour ill becomes a democracy but is reprehensibly typical of the attitude of the BSF. Though the consensus is that security officials were responsible for the shooting, the BSF claims that police officials were also present when the incident took place and it is difficult to tell whose firing caused the deaths. Kashmiris also find it hard to swallow the claim that the mob’s firing posed an imminent threat to its stash of arms and ammunition.
In any case, the incident has justifiably caused unrest all over the valley, with protests erupting across Jammu and Kashmir. A two-day curfew was imposed on July 19 and the Kashmir University even postponed exams. As aggravated Kashmiris clashed with the police, the scenes were a grim reminder of scarier times. The BSF must understand that such brutality will only add to the grievances of the people of Kashmir and is a serious threat to the fragile peace in the valley. While Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s call for an inquiry into the incident is welcome, the mood in the valley is tense and seething. It remains to be seen how independent the inquiry will be and whether it will bring the facts to light or not. Otherwise, as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said, this incident may well jeopardise peace in Kashmir.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.
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