Sopore Probe

Fifteen persons have recorded their statements in the official inquiry into the killing of a youth allegedly by government forces in Sopore town last week. Authorities had been forced to clamp down with curfew as protest demonstrations rocked the town after the tragedy.

The people of Kashmir have lost faith in probes. More than 200 probes have been ordered since 1989 into excesses by various security agencies. Only a rare few have been completed. The findings of most inquiries have never been made public. The cynicism of the people is not totally unfounded. They have reasons to doubt the intentions of the government and the genuineness of the probes. It is widely believed in Kashmir that probes are ordered to quell public anger, and then given a silent burial. And this is nothing new, or recent.

The theft of the Holy Relic from the Hazratbal shrine in 1963 shook the entire sub-continent, and the results of the urgent and hyped inquiry are a secret to this day. Even over half-a-century later no one knows who was behind the theft. Ghulam Muhammad Bulla of Sopore was killed in custody by the police in 1975. As usual, a probe was ordered almost immediately, but his family still does not know what really happened to him. The government has conveyed time and again that it is under a compulsion to shield perpetrators to uphold what it calls the “national interest.

But by failing to take action erring forces and police personnel, authorities are in fact emboldening them, and once transferred out of Kashmir, they expect similar privileges. The Amandeep case of Jammu is the best example that can be cited here to prove the point.

But despite such precedents, the Sopore probe appears to be progressing in an above-board manner. The investigating officer has been prompt, and has recorded the statements of more than fifteen witnesses on the very first day. This has generated hopes among the public, and many expect this inquiry not to suffer the usual slow death.

A youth has fallen to bullets. The investigator has to ascertain, why the fatal shot was fired and by whom. Those responsible too must be given a fair hearing, and there should be no problem in making the findings public. People must be told what really happened that day. They have a right to see justice being done to the relatives of the slain youth.