Kashmiri Muslims Need Justice, Not Bullets

The tragedy is that despite media and Kashmiris making the needed noise about Kashmiri Muslims being needlessly falling victims to police firing in the Valley, the trend still continues.

Who is to be blamed for the continuing tension in Kashmir? This June, agitated people repeatedly took to streets protesting against innocent Kashmiris falling victims to police and army firing. Of the six people killed this year in police action, three died within 10 days this June. There is an uncanny similarity in the ease with which young Muslims have been targeted by police in Kashmir as they have been in other parts of the country. Yet, while Batla House has been witness to one “fake encounter” in recent years (19 September, 2008), Kashmiri civilians continue falling victims. Why? The question would not have been raised if the Kashmiri Muslims were killed while planning and/or conducting some terrorist operation, were linked with militant organizations or were proven guilty of some major crime. The tragedy is that Kashmiri civilians, playing their part in carving out their role as responsible citizens have been hit. Yes, the dead include a schoolboy, one university student, teenagers and other youth - neither suspected from any quarters of having any link with either external or internal militants. They were not at fault. But this does not answer the question: who was at fault? Who is to be blamed for their death?

Paradoxically, the action taken by authorities is not really suggestive of their being seriously concerned about this grievance of Kashmiris. What does mere transfer of a few police officers and initiating an inquiry into the issue really suggest? At most, these measures are expected to suggest that the state government is taking action, while in reality, they are simply aimed at delaying the needed moves till people cease their protest. Besides, it is difficult to view the transfer of a few police officers as the right move. Senior police-officers are rarely present at sites when police resorts to firing etc against agitated and protesting mobs. Also, it cannot be missed that one of the senior officers has been transferred despite there being reports of his having on several occasions asked the policemen to exercise restraint and not mindlessly fire at the crowd. This only implies that even the measures initiated do not seem suggestive of the state government being well aware of who was at fault and who was not.

The hard reality is that it is not for the first time that Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley have faced death from police guns. There is probably no official record of the number of Kashmiri Muslims who have been killed and/or thrashed by police (which unlike the army is totally under the control of the state government), while participating in demonstrations or in fake encounters. If certain sections of media had not begun seriously studying some of these cases, false claims made about “militants” being arrested and/or shot would not have been probably exposed. Yet, the tragedy is that despite media and Kashmiris making the needed noise about Kashmiri Muslims being needlessly falling victims to police firing in the Valley, the trend still continues. This apparently suggests that necessary action has not yet been taken to correct this fault. As suggested earlier, the fault that seems to be deeply entrenched in the system, cannot be corrected by simply transferring a few officers or adopting measures equivalent to turning a blind-eye to the fault. The Kashmiris, as indicated by their protests this June, are least likely to remain quiet over their falling victims to “government” bullets for no fault of theirs.

The Kashmiris are also well aware that their calls for shutdown, demonstrations and/or protest may increase the number of their falling victim to police firing. But then, they have the right to protest against and also question the callous approach adopted towards their lives by the policemen stationed there. Yes, are lives of Kashmiri Muslims, legally as well as on humanitarian grounds, given minimal importance that they can be gunned down as and when decided by gun-wielding officers? Muslims in other parts of the country have also faced this atrocity but certainly not as rampantly and frequently as the Kashmiri Muslims.

There is an urgent need to pay immediate attention to correct the biased approach prevalent among the gun-wielding staff which prompts them to be too free with their triggers when they are required to check crowds of Kashmiri Muslims. How many of the people responsible for firing at, thrashing and/or abusing innocent people have really faced punishment? Compared to the number of Kashmiri Muslims who have fallen victims, only a minimal number of people have really been pulled up for targeting the former needlessly. Even the latter's fault may have probably been ignored had media not exposed the same.

It is high time that those in charge of “government” guns are strictly taken to task for targeting innocent people with the same. Stronger action is needed for punishing these people and also for compensating victims’ family members. They are on duty to provide security to civilians and protect their democratic rights which include right to protest. They must not tarnish their own image by firing in the wrong direction. Kashmiri Muslims need justice and not bullets or rhetoric!