Why Have a T&RC?

Last week, soon after his party was trounced at the polls, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah came out once more with his idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (T&RC), something he had promised in 2011 after the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) issued its historic decision on unmarked graves. The government took the SHRC off the graves’ case, assuring that further investigations into it would be conducted by the new proposed Truth Panel. But instead of setting up any such body, the government rendered even the SHRC defunct by delaying the appointment of its chairman and other members – a situation that persists to this day.

And besides, what can a T&RC achieve in a state like Jammu and Kashmir.  Authorities want to conceal the truth, sometimes by intimidating the victims and sometimes by offering compensation. Probes have been ordered on numerous occasions, but people in the street believe that all they (the probes) do is bail out the perpetrators. Around two hundred probes have been announced since 1996, but findings of only a few have been made public. Truth is bitter, and authorities, who are here to uphold what they call national interest, cannot afford to unveil it for obvious reasons. On the contrary, every attempt has been made to conceal it, and when, for whatever reasons, this did not work, the government would do the next best thing – distort it.

And, what does a reconciliation commission mean? The term is used when the victim is urged to forget the past, forgive the perpetrators, and start afresh. Is this possible in Kashmir? Can Kashmiris forget what they have endured at the hands of ‘security’ agencies? How can they forget that 32 women were raped on a single night at Kunan Poshpora? How can a father, who had to carry his only son to the graveyard, reconcile? How can a mother forgive those who subjected her son to enforced disappearance?  How can a youth forgive those who inserted an iron rod into his rectum and ruptured his intestines? It is very difficult to forget the past, and in Kashmir it is almost impossible. Then, what is the solution?

The failure of the government to bring perpetrators to justice is painful for the sufferers.  It wreaks havoc on their psychology, especially when the victims happen to be women and children.  A few cases merit special mention here.  A young boy, whose father was killed by men in uniform, looks perfectly healthy. He is strongly-built as well. After examining him, a leading psychiatrist said: “He has grown abnormally. When a family loses its head, the children automatically assume his role, and this brings about hormonal changes. They grow abnormally. This, however, is not a good sign. Such children can be compared to a balloon inflated beyond capacity. It withstands the pressure for some time, but ultimately bursts. We call it premature maturity.”

The boy hates violence, but is still awaiting justice:

“I am waiting for the day my father’s killers are hanged.”

Will that day ever come?

A 48-year-old male (name withheld), with a post-graduate degree in zoology, has not married. He had repeatedly been picked up by the BSF to extract information about his nephew who was a militant. “They inserted a rod into my penis and connected it to a battery. The shocks had an adverse effect on my organ. I cannot think of marriage.” He too wants justice. When asked to forget, he shivers.

“How can I?”

Very often, local human rights defenders have been accused of exaggerating. While it would not be proper to dismiss such allegations in totality, authorities, in the process of denying a fact, have actually admited it.

On the night of April 30, 2003, a Class 12 student, Javaid Ahmad Magray, was picked up by the personnel of 110 Assam Regiment from his home in Soiteng, Lasjan. He was eliminated in a fake-encounter the same night. A government inquiry indicted nine soldiers of the regiment, as did a separate police investigation.  Subsequently, an FIR (64/2004) was registered in the Naugam police station under sections 120 and 302 of the RPC. But nothing moved. No charge-sheet was produced, and no one was taken into custody. The slain youth’s parents filed a petition in the High Court against the police inaction, and for the first time, the HC put impunity under judicial scrutiny. Even as the case continued in the Court, with it seeking a detailed status report from the state government, news appeared in a section of the press about the National Human Rights Commission having taken suo moto notice of the murder and recommended Rs 3 lakh as relief for Javaid’s  parents. Surprisingly, the news of the NHRC’s suo moto cognizance came six years after Javaid’s murder. The slain youth’s parents have no knowledge of the National Commission’s involvement.

“We were not informed. We came to know of it from a newspaper,” his family said.

This was the first time that the NHRC had acted ‘promptly.’

Probes have not yielded any results. Assurances from New Delhi and a succession of Chief Ministers about zero tolerance on human rights violations have not been fulfilled.  People across the globe are well acquainted with the truth about Kashmir. They know that more than 8,000 persons in the age group of 18-35 have been subjected to enforced disappearance since the early nineties. The international community is also aware of the extra-judicial executions that have been carried out with a purpose. They have knowledge of the rapes and massive destruction of property.  Human rights defenders have been demanding a Truth and Justice Commission.

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