After its historic decision on unmarked graves in 2011, the State Human Rights Commission has been systematically emasculated by the Jammu and Kashmir government. Beginning with a clear diktat not to pursue the unmarked graves case any further, the state’s rulers had studiedly avoided appointing the Commission’s chairman, and today the body finds itself member-less as well.
A four-member empowered committee headed by the now-outgoing Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, was supposed to meet in August last year to make the appointment, but the meeting – the was comprised of the then speaker of the legislative assembly Mubarak Gul, the then chairman of the legislative council, Amrit Malhotra, and the leader of the opposition in the assembly, a position fallen vacant after Mahbooba Mufti’s election to the Lok Sabha – had been postponed “till further” orders, with senior officers of the Law Department and the GAD citing the Chief Minister’s packed schedule as one of the reasons. But insiders had maintained that the
meeting was postponed because the chairman of the legislative council, Amrit Malhotra, was not available in Srinagar. Sources had attributed Malhotra’s conspicuous absence to the National Conference decision to boycott the meetings of the coalition government’s coordination committee headed by the PCC president Saifuddin Soz in protest against the latter’s remarks of governance deficit in J&K.
A senior functionary of the General
Administration Department had assured that the appointment of the SHRC chairman and members would be made before the beginning of the autumn session starting August 25, 2014.
Notwithstanding its limitations, the SHRC had given a landmark judgement in the graves case and upheld reports by the International Tribunal for Peace and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). In his capacity as the state’s home minister, the Omar Abdullah had said that the investigation would be entrusted to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but no such body has been formed till date.
Ruling dispensations have tried to strangle the SHRC from the very beginning, first and foremost by not accepting its recommendations. But the Commission had not only survived but also passed some vital judgements. And when it was beginning to make its presence felt, those in power have evidently thought it better to pull its plug.