Kashmiris have stopped expecting justice from the state. It is this lack of faith — and the resentment it provokes — that often transforms protests against incidents like the rape and murder of two women in Shopian, 50 km south of Srinagar, into full scale agitations for azaadi, feel local political scientists and historians.
The bodies of Asiya (17) and Neelofar Jan (23) were fished out of a stream in Shopian on May 30. Since then, the Valley has been on the boil, with separatists calling a nine-day strike and large processions repeatedly clashing with the police.
“The rape and murder may well have been committed by gangsters, but the incident has snowballed into a major crisis for the state government,” said Gul Muhammed Wani (47), political science professor at Kashmir University. “The reason is that people believe that if elements within the security forces have committed the crime, they will get away.”
There are a host of custodial or mistaken identity killings by the security forces in the state that have never been punished. “The poor justice system affects the credibility of the state,” said Wani. “Both the state government and the Indian government face a credibility deficit in the state.”
“Resentment has become part of the Kashmiri psyche,” said Fida Muhammad Hasnain (85), the state’s leading historian. “The Shopian case provided people an opportunity to express their political frustration. We must realize that when Kashmiris talk of azadi, what they are actually seeking is a better system of governance and justice.”