The verdict to award life sentences to its soldiers in the Machil fake encounter is a major image makeover by the army and a significant departure from the past with far reaching political implications in Jammu and Kashmir.
The army move has opened a rare window of willingness to stand accountable for brazen human rights abuses involving its soldiers. This will help several other victims to repose faith in the institution of the army and start a process of justice, with reconciliation a possible spin off. Above all, create conducive atmosphere to allow all shades of opinions to come forward positively.
The verdict has potential to change political ground rules too. The fact that the decision has come during the BJP dispensation in New Delhi will force many groups, representing alienation among a huge section of the society, to change their approach towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and may force them to be forthcoming towards the politics of dialogue to bring a political solution to thorny aspect of Kashmir problem. The verdict will help the BJP to fight its image of being a political untouchable in Muslim-majority state and, the BJP, can reinvent itself in the process to reach out to Muslims across the country.
The latest verdict is not a one off or an odd case but should be seen in the backdrop of the army’s rare magnanimity to admit to the recent killing of two youth in Chattergam in Budgam district on November 3. The `10 lakh compensation for two dead youth and `5 lakh for injured has helped the army to douse anger to a large extent, if not completely.
The verdict may not bury the AFSPA issue but has showed the army willingness to respond to changing realities in the valley positively and to help in reaching out a permanent solution to Kashmir problem.