Subscribe to South Asia Citizens Wire | feeds from | @sacw
Home > Human Rights > Culture of impunity in Kashmir

Culture of impunity in Kashmir

6 July 2011

print version of this article print version

Kashmir Times, 2 July 2011


Culture of impunity: It’s a much bigger, filthy nexus

by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

Culture of impunity in Kashmir, with security forces and police always kept above the board and not held accountable for their gross acts of torture, it has always been known, is a systemic pattern that is patronised and encouraged from the top. But a recent news story on the Jaleel Andrabi murder case, ’Avtar Singh: The man who knows too much’ (published in Open magazine and also reproduced by Kashmir Times) unravels the far more dark secrets behind this culture of impunity while confirming our beliefs about the systematic mechanism of protecting the men in uniform for all their acts of repression from any kind of punishment, of earning promotions and other benefits for snuffing lives out of those they were supposed to protect.

The Avtar Singh story forms an important part of this discourse. Major Avtar Singh, accused in the Jaleel Andrabi case, the human rights lawyer who was picked up by army and found dead in 1996, has expressed fears that he may be killed by the RAW and intelligence agencies if he is extradited because it was feared that he may open his mouth and blurt out all that remains in secrecy. He maintains that he is being made a scapegoat because he was a short commissioned officer from Territorial Army, indicating that there is a much bigger picture in which a hierarchy of officers encourages the culture of torture, ensured by an official and political culture of impunity.

This signals a dangerous trend. That enough effort goes into hushing up cases of human rights violations or denying any kind of legal justice in these cases is already a known fact. But this pro-activism in obfuscating truth is not simply an endeavour to shield and protect individuals who are accused of crimes of torture in the name of ensuring that the morale of the forces is not decreased. Rather it is an all out effort to hide the pattern, the much larger picture of these being systemic crimes where the involvement may be somewhere at the top rungs, even spiraling up to the political level and exposing the sinister undemocratic practices that are at play.

This may not be for the first time that it has come to light that there is a much bigger nexus behind the culture of torture and denial of legal justice. Infact, the Afzal Guru and parliament attack case revealed the involvement of officers in acts of arson, in which pawns like Afzal Guru can be easily implicated. As did the Col. Purohit connection in Malegaon and other blasts. The parliament attack case was not investigated adequately enough and left many questions unanswered. The courts are still shy of questioning the SOG’s Dy SP named by Afzal Guru in his letter as the man on whose orders he did what he did.

These cases highlight that whether it is cases of arson or cases of torture, in which men in uniform are involved, it is only the smaller fishes that are nailed, those who don’t know much of how crucial components of the State are deeply involved in violent acts that would bring any democratic nation to shame. Those well versed of how this systematic culture of violence and impunity works will always be protected, these crucial components of the State going the whole hog to bury the truth, cover it with a layer of murky haze. For fear that they may spill the beans. As seems to be the Avtar Singh case. Was he simply working for a promotion, on his own? Given the fact that Jaleel Andrabi was facing several threats and there were reports of intimidation to him before he was done to death, the story does not seem to be as simple.

There is every probability that men like Avtar Singh may have been simply rambling to save his skin. So it may be in the Afzal Guru case, whose wife penned down a desperate appeal on his behalf to highlight the role of a police officer in the parliament attack case. But can these ramblings be dismissed as figment of imagination of these men caught in the net without even exploring the possibilities and fairly investigating? There is all the more reason to re-open the Afzal Guru case. And more still to extradite Avtar Singh. As it is to fully probe the Col. Purohit role and unravel the entire nexus. It would be dangerous to be satisfied with only the half truths as they portend a danger to the democratic norms of the country, allowing some elements within the establishment to create an extra-constitutional authority, not just encouraging acts of violence but hollowing the very vitals of democratic practices. Truth and the whole truth is crucial to the sustenance of a healthy democracy and that is why there is need to dig it out.