In poll year, rights record puts Omar on back foot
Last week, when chief minister Omar Abdullah announced an inquiry into the civilian killings, it was his 55th such commission instituted since he took office in 2009. The failure of these inquiries to deliver justice in human rights abuse cases is attracting bad press and generating a negative opinion about Abdullah in a crucial election year in Kashmir.india Updated: Jul 24, 2013 14:24 IST
Last week, when chief minister Omar Abdullah announced an inquiry into the civilian killings, it was his 55th such commission instituted since he took office in 2009.
The failure of these inquiries to deliver justice in human rights abuse cases is attracting bad press and generating a negative opinion about Abdullah in a crucial election year in Kashmir.
The killing of four civilians last Thursday in the BSF firing at Ramban's Gool area, which occurred just 20 days after two youth were killed in alleged army firing in Bandipora district in the valley, incited page one editorials from several local dailies.
In one such editorial titled 'Stop this bloodbath', daily Rising Kashmir wrote: "...Abdullah always takes refuge under the smokescreen of a debate whether the AFSPA should go by inches or by feet and invariably blames Delhi, cautioning them about unrest, but it won't work all the time. Either he should quit as UHQ (United headquarters, represented by all the security agencies) chief or make them accountable."
Another front page editorial 'Plot lost, Omar plays number game', reads: "...One knows the 'limitations' of the present rulers, the extent of their power and authority and their sheer helplessness in doing anything that would not be liked by their 'masters'. Abdullah seems to have been informed by his friends that opening his mouth against Delhi may cost him the chair."
The chief minister, who is also state home minister, seems himself in the vortex of alleged human rights abuses, where he has failed to deliver. No inquiry against the armed forces has resulted in any prosecution so far.
While 2009 was mired in the controversy of the alleged rape-and murder-case of two women in south Kashmir, 2010 saw street uprising that left 113 people, mainly youth, dead.
"Abdullah has announced 54 inquiries so far. There is no credibility in the probes conducted as no armed man has been prosecuted. An international investigation by a credible forum can provide justice in the recent massacre at Gool and other cases," said Khurram Pervez, coordinator of the J-K Coalition of Civil Society, which unearthed the unmarked graves.
Feeling the heat
Abdullah, an advocate of truth and reconciliation commission for Kashmir, has not only failed to push for such commission but instead is witnessing piling of cases of civilian killings.
The fresh killings have come in a year, which is crucial for his party, as the state will see assembly and parliamentary polls next year.
Otherwise active, the Ramban killings have left the chief minister silent on micro-blogging site Twitter, following trolls and barrage of tweets from netizens seeking justice.
Under pressure, the government has arrested a sub-inspector in the Ramban killings but the party admits it's feeling the heat of the public pressure.
"We do have the apprehensions of the fallout of civilian killings. It's precisely for this reason that we demand revocation of the AFSPA, which has, in some cases, acted as a shield. Similarly, several cases are caught up in judicial process," said Abdullah's political secretary Tanvir Sadiq, clarifying on why no justice has been done even in cases where local police was involved.
"We have a year left and we will see to it that justice is not just seen but done in all cases. All erring security personnel should be brought to the book. We have already ensured that FIRs are lodged in such cases," said Sadiq.