Was the Sher-e-Kashmir Any Different?

Human rights activists accuse successive chief ministers, including Dr Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, of hushing up cases of rights abuses by ordering meaningless probes. Such probes, according to them, are never completed.  The accusation carries weight, especially if probes ordered during the past twenty-five years are any indication.

Dr Abdullah ruled the state for six years, from 1996 to 2002, and ordered as many as 40 probes during the period. At one stage, he appeared to be serious in bringing the culprits to justice but, as time passed, his priorities changed. And eventually, his government was found involved in fudging a forensic report.

Following the massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora, the police claimed to have killed five `foreign’ militants near Panchalthan in the Anantnag district who, it announced, were involved in the mass killing.  When locals contested the police account, samples were taken from the slain for DNA profiling to determine their identity. The reports were tampered with.

As news of the deceit created uproar across the Valley, Dr. Abdullah responded with a statement in the Legislative Assembly, saying that Justice G A Kuchey would hold an inquiry, and submit his report within two months. “We will convene a special session of the House and place that probe report before the members,” he said.  Neither the special session, nor the probe findings, ever materialized.

Another tragic incident that took place in his regime was the killing of two Dutch nationals.  The duo was killed in Srinagar by BSF personnel with whom they had had an argument. Irresponsible electronic media linked the slain Dutch nationals to Al-Qaeda. As usual, a probe was ordered, and the Dutch government is waiting for its results to this day.

The trend continued during the rule of the PDP-Congress coalition. According to official figures, this government ordered 71 probes from November 2002 to August 2008. Reports were said to have been received in 29 cases and action taken against violators in 15. In the remaining 14 cases, no action had been recommended by the authorities concerned. But, according to independent sources, action was taken in just six cases.

A total of 43 Judicial/Magisterial/Administrative probes were ordered during Mufti Sayeed’s 3-year rule. Action was taken in 4 cases. But, “action taken” against the guilty surprised and shocked people. The guilty officers were reinstated.

Twenty-eight probes were ordered by Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government. Action was taken in 2 cases. One was stayed by a court.

Similarly, six probes were ordered by NN Vohra. Nothing came out.

The incumbent Chief Minister has also ordered a number of probes, with similar results.

People say these Chief Ministers were too weak to take the probes to their logical end. But was the Sher-e-Kashmir any different? A probe ordered during his tenure has met the same fate. The facts of the case merit special mention here.

A group of army men in civvies armed with hockey sticks and iron rods appeared in Lal Chowk on July 26, 1980 and created mayhem. The group damaged taxis, private cars and government property. Civilians were thrashed. The group also resorted to loot and arson.

It is believed that an army driver had hit a rickshaw at Sonawar, around two kilometers from the city centre. The driver was taken into custody. The group came out of the barracks and went berserk to free the driver from police lockup.  Reports suggest that a senior police officer also received a sound thrashing and lost several teeth. The mayhem lasted several hours.

Actually, several groups were seen beating people, looting shops, and damaging vehicles from Sonawar to Batmaloo.

The violence triggered off a severe reaction from the local population. Stone-pelting continued till late hours and continued the next day. Police firing left six people, including a Pakistani national, dead.

The demonstrations continued for several days. An army Jeep was torched near the Budshah Bridge. But the driver managed to escape by firing several rounds from his gun.  All activity in the city came to a halt. All educational institutions were closed down indefinitely.

The Sher-e-Kashmir was the Chief Minister then, and lived at his Maulana Azad Road residence, barely a hundred meters from the city centre where the army men had wreaked havoc. Somebody informed the protesters that he had gone to the Badami Bagh Cantonment where army officers urged him to identify the culprits. It was further said that he (the Sher-e-Kashmir) could not recognize those responsible for the mayhem. While this could not be confirmed immediately, it added fuel to the anger. The demonstrations intensified.

The government finally ordered a probe to be held by a retired High Court judge. The findings of the probe have not been made public to this day.

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