The divide between the coalition partners of the Jammu and Kashmir government — the PDP and BJP — is once again visible. The two parties are contradicting each other after the government cleared the compensation case for Khalid Wani, who was killed in a police encounter on April 13, 2015.
Twenty-five-year-old Khalid was the elder brother of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter on July 8. Burhan’s death led to a civilian uprising in the state.
The Indian Army claimed that Khalid was an over-ground-worker of the Hizbul Mujahideen, a terror organisation, and had gone to visit his brother in the forests. Khalid was pursuing a post-graduate programme in political science from the Indira Gandhi National Open University. On his killing, Khalid’s father, Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, accused the army of custodial killing, saying that his son’s teeth were broken while there were no bullets wounds on the body.
The question raised now is that if the state government is providing an ex-gratia relief, the claim thus far made by the security forces is false — moreover, it strengthens the family’s stand that what happened was a fake encounter.
The PDP-BJP coalition government, led by Mehbooba Mufti, will need to answer this question in the coming days. Muzaffar Ahmad Wani welcomed this development, saying at least the government has now admitted that his son was innocent and was killed in cold blood by the army.
“It was my demand to inquire into Khalid’s death, and the government’s announcement has vindicated my stand that he was innocent and was murdered for being the brother of a militant,” he has been quoted as saying to the media.
It remains to be seen whether the government officially accepts that Khalid was killed in cold blood or not. While Mehbooba may have adopted a change in strategy to deal with the home-grown militancy since Burhan’s killing, its ally, the BJP, opposes the decision of relief for Khalid. “The BJP will oppose it because we are of the firm opinion that he was a terrorist,” said Sunil Sethi, chief spokesperson of the BJP in state. “There is no provision for grant of ex-gratia or compensation to the family of a slain terrorist.”
Recently, the special director general of police, SP Vaid, told reporters that militants are being offered to surrender on the directions passed by the chief minister, wherein she had stated that local militants must be spared during encounters. “We are following the chief minister’s directions in letter and spirit,” he said. The public anger and protests after Burhan’s killing could have led to this change in policy.
But the BJP is firm on its policy of not sparing any Kashmiri who has pro-freedom sentiments or has been involved in armed rebellion. In the past also, it was the BJP that opposed the release of pro-freedom leaders from jail and opposed Mufti Sayeed thanking militants for the peaceful elections in 2014.
The National Conference’s working president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah has also put the government in a tight spot. He tweeted, “Since the Govt has cleared Burhan’s brother as innocent will there be an inquiry in to how the army killed an innocent person in 2015?”
The two parties in the coalition government in the state fail to reach a consensus on several issues. They will need to come clear on whether Khalid was a militant or a civilian killed in custody — if so, will the government, as Abdullah asks, order an inquiry in to how the army killed an innocent person in 2015?
Fahad Shah is founder-editor of the magazine, The Kashmir Walla
The views expressed are personal