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Act now and act decisively

Every time the question of accountability of the security forces is raised, out comes the specious argument that this would demoralise the forces who are fighting a difficult battle.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2009 22:46 IST

Six months into his tenure, Jammu and Kashmir’s youngest-ever Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has not covered himself in glory with what is perceived as his mishandling of the Shopian incident involving the death of two young women. After initially going along with the police theory that the two drowned, Mr Abdullah is now faced with forensic evidence that the two were raped and murdered. In the tinder-box atmosphere of the state, protests by separatists groups are in full swing though many leaders have been arrested. As protests enter the second week, it is imperative that Mr Abdullah acts quickly and decisively.

As usual, the security forces have come under suspicion. Now that an inquiry has been instituted, it must be time-bound and transparent. Mr Abdullah’s National Conference rival, the People’s Democratic Party, has lost no time in politicising the issue and joining the separatists in condemning the government’s inaction in the face of what they term as human rights abuses. When Mr Abdullah took office, there was widespread hope that it would mark a new beginning for the strife-torn state. Six months down the line, there is not much to show for this. First there were the Sopore killings in which the Army’s role was severely criticised. The Centre, which has reiterated its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, has been dragging its feet on the Shopian incident. The opaque manner of functioning in Kashmir that has so inflamed public passions in the past still persists. Despite several calls for the review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, both of which are invested with draconian powers, little has been done.

Every time the question of accountability of the security forces is raised, out comes the specious argument that this would demoralise the forces who are fighting a difficult battle. It is true that law and order in the state is complicated in the light of cross-border terrorism. But the Indian State cannot compromise on human rights even in the most trying circumstances. The commission of inquiry into disappearances is till hanging fire. Mr Abdullah has the mandate to take bold decisions. With the Centre’s backing, he is in a position to reverse the tide in the state. The speedy resolution of the Shopian incident will be a test of his mettle.