“The special security laws in force in Kashmir, continue to fuel a culture of impunity. Even in the rare cases when local authorities show the political will to pursue the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses, these efforts swiftly get lost in the labyrinth of the legal process, which are rendered more complicated by the effect of special security laws.” So says a media statement issued by the Fact Finding Team (FFT), that had spent over 03 weeks in the Kashmir valley in October 2010, meeting different groups, individuals, victims of security attacks, close relations of the killed, administrators and security officers.
Titled as “Four Months the Kashmir Valley Will Never Forget” the FFT has released a report that can be accessed at – http://www.scribd.com/doc/51658702/Kashmir-2010-FFT-Report
The FFT statement says the team met families of almost 40 persons who had been killed since the beginning of the civil unrest. Several individuals who had suffered serious injuries were also met, it said. “The team visited villages and towns in five of the Kashmir valley’s ten districts. Separate sessions were held with journalists and media practitioners, university teachers and students, doctors, lawyers and activists, besides officials in the police headquarters and civil administration.” the media release adds.
Thereafter the statement says,
This team has concluded, based on a consideration of all the testimony heard, that the range of situations in which lives were lost in 2010 covered an entire spectrum: from actions done with premeditation and deliberate intent, to impulsive and often panicky reactions to volatile and unpredictable turns of events. In no situation though is the agency involved in the application of lethal force exempt from responsibility for the consequences of its actions.
There have been incidents of firing on slogan shouting demonstrators and on funeral processions. The FFT was also told of an attack on a hospital in Pattan in north Kashmir, which would be regarded under most systems of law as a serious war crime.
Events in 2010, the FFT believes, prove decisively that the strategy of the Indian state, to apply coercive force to deter street protests and any other expression of dissent, is swiftly reaching the end of its tether. When use of force fails to produce initial results, the strategy has inevitably been to multiply and magnify the force applied. In the highly volatile situation of the four months of 2010, this only resulted in the protests spreading and intensifying.
The desultory public debate seen in the national capital and elsewhere over the demilitarisation imperative for Kashmir, needs to be carried forward with greater understanding. It needs to be conducted on an explicitly political level and not contaminated by military or intelligence assessments that remain, for the most part, opaque.
The special security laws in force in Kashmir continue to fuel a culture of impunity. Even in the rare cases when local authorities show the political will to pursue the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses, these efforts swiftly get lost in the labyrinth of the legal process, which are rendered more complicated by the effect of special security laws.
It is an urgent priority that the immunity conferred by these laws be waived to permit the prosecution of those against whom a prima facie case exists of excessive and unwarranted use of force.
All cases where evidence of premeditation and deliberate intent exists, should be prosecuted with all necessary speed and purpose.
There is a widespread public perception in Kashmir that successive state governments in the state have actively patronised elements with a violent and criminal bent as accessories of the anti-insurgency effort. These elements have in some instances found their way to vital command posts in the police force and key tiers of the civil administration. A course reversal must be initiated and a policy of complete transparency in regard to these appointments adopted immediately.
This FFT believes that after three successive summers of turmoil in Kashmir, there is a long overdue need for moving the debate to a new political trajectory which promises a future of hope for the people of the valley. Tired and token gestures such as the announcement of “packages” – whether economic or political – have to be abandoned and a fresh course charted which provides space for participation by all the people of Kashmir
The FFT comprised of –
Bela Bhatia, Ravi Hemadri, Sukumar Muralidharan, Vrinda Grover
26 March 2011