Following my daily chores while I was browsing though a few of the candid news portals, I stumbled upon on one reading the headline ‘Woman stripped naked publicly in Jammu & Kashmir, army jawan among the accused.’ Though for people residing in other parts of the country this is apparently an awe-striking piece of news, however for the inhabitants of Kashmir valley this just another addition to the long list of heinousness prevailing in the ‘paradise of earth’ for two and half decades now.
As I pen down this piece Jammu and Kashmir completes 25 dreadful years under the purview of the draconian law Arms Forces Special Power Act and this law has just given enough room for numerous horrendous incidents as above! Enforced in the northern Himalayan state in1990, according to reports AFSPA officially became active from July 5. 25 years of painful presence, 25 years of relentless objection, 25 years of opportunistic politics, 25 years of gruesome bloodshed yet the grim hue continues to hover over the majestic grandeur of the valley.
Unlike any other law the exorbitant power provided to the men in uniform under AFSPA often stretching to unrestrained levels make this law detrimental to public life. The provisions may include unbridled powers to raid without evidence or warrant and use force, even fatally; both commissioned and non-commissioned personnel having immunity; arresting without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest; entering and searching any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it, among others provisions.
Therefore, falling prey to extreme power AFSPA often becomes a reason behind inhuman atrocities, rape, sexual violence and other spurious acts.
Who isn’t appraised about the infamous Thangjam Manorama case? It was way back in 2004 when Assam Rifles personnel picked her up on suspicion of being hand in gloves with militant groups.
However, days later her lifeless body was recovered left after being raped. As per reports she was shot by army personnel in her vagina!
Though, this particular incident elicits the inhumane picture of Manipur dwelling under AFSPA but lines can certainly be drawn with Kashmir where incidents of such heinousness have been reported too. Not just rape and sexual atrocities but incidents of fake encounters in bounty have also come to light.
Back in 2011, Nazim Rashid, 28 was busy in his shop when a group of Special Operations Group personnel citing his involvement in the murder of a local businessman picked him up. While Rashid’s family was in total darkness about his whereabouts, Rashid was kept at an undisclosed location and subjected to inhuman torture. Unable to bear the pang, Rashid succumbed to the barbaric atrocities of the uniformed personnel. The custodial death led to wide spread violent protest in the valley, but only to perish slowly. Public anger is short-lived and apparently, the incident to drowned out of the minds and Nazim Rashid became another one of the many victims.
Lt Col JS Brar of the Indian Army in an interview to BBC once said, “Awards are given for individual bravery of a soldier.” Perhaps, the greed of a bravery medal sometimes compels the personnel to help of fake encounters!
In was during the month of April in 2010, when three men mysteriously disappeared from the Kashmir valley. Few days later their bodies were found along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates Indian and Pakistan. Initially, the army informed the police that the trio hailed from militant groups and Pakistani currency along with arms and ammunition were recovered from them. However the picture turned murkier when the police during preliminary investigations found that the three had been killed in a choreographed gun battle in a frontier area. Subsequently, startling revelation in the entire episode elicited that the trio were kidnapped by a major of the Indian Army who offered them jobs as porters.
Few of such unlawful acts by the army get reported and the truth is revealed, while a galore of innocent lives remain buried in ‘unknown graves.’ As reported in the media a few years ago nearly 3,000 unnamed graves in the Baramulla and Kupwara districts were discovered by various human rights groups.
Thus, amidst the magnificent and charismatic aura of Jammu and Kashmir remains the macabre of inhumanity, a thousand cries of pain and lost innocence. But, there are too many, too many to keep a count on, too many to report, too many to search for!
Though politicians including the likes of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and erstwhile union home minister P. Chidabadam have advocated the revocation of AFSPA-often compared to the deadly cyanide, however public cries and demands have perhaps become forage of political hullabaloo. There remains different versions supporting and opposing AFSPA from professional stalwarts. There have been heated television debates where experts sitting in air-conditioned studios have ushered their audacious expertise. Yet, even after 25years of discussions, under the dark haunting shadows of AFSPA there is a new Thangjam Manorama, a new Nazim Rashid dying gruesome death everyday.
(Author’s Bio- Shamim Zakaria is an Indian journalist hailing from the northeastern state of Assam’s Guwahati. He reports on the socio-political setup. His works can be viewed on (www.shamimzakaria.com)