How to believe in the truth
There is more than a little reticence on the part of Kashmir-watchers to analyse the storm that has the Shopian deaths at its epicentre.
There is more than a little reticence on the part of Kashmir-watchers to analyse the storm that has the Shopian deaths at its epicentre. This has to do more with the fact that rational discussions on the tragedy have been overwhelmed by knee-jerk reactions and politics than about being in denial. Conclusions were drawn by those who saw Asiya and Neelofar Jan’s deaths on May 29 as a case of rape and murder by security forces much before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report was made public last week. No matter that footnotes in the report that has booked six doctors and seven others for falsifying and destroying forensic and post-mortem evidence will change the positions of the nay-sayers. Essentially, what is happening in Srinagar is a full-blown battle of credibility. A sizeable section of Kashmiris, naturally inclined towards distrusting anything that has a whiff of New Delhi, smells a cover-up.
But there is no reason why the CBI report cannot be believed. Going by the point-by-point case made by the CBI, biases and blatant irregularities were made by the initial investigators. The fact that evidence was destroyed may or may not prove that a plot was made to nail security forces. Such cases of mishandling or destroying forensic evidence are tragically all too common in the rest of India. But a suspected rape and murder in Kashmir has very different connotations from the same crime being committed elsewhere in the country. Like moths to a flame, politicians have milled around the issue to disregard the CBI report and cry ‘cover-up!’. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah himself had to back down after initially making comments about the deaths being ‘drownings’ when he was pounced on by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
So how does one settle matters and present the truth behind the Shopian deaths? For one, the truth has to be accepted. For another, if the findings of the CBI report does point to the truth, those opposing its ‘validity’ should be made to change their mind as quietly as possible. This can be done if, and only if, the points of reference of an inquiry are agreed upon by both an all-inclusive commission. Such a commission should include members from the government, the opposition, the Hurriyat and independent bodies — in other words, people from both sides of the Shopian divide. The Shopian deaths can, if left at this, latch on to something bigger, unconnected and dangerous. For the sake of building trust — both within civil society and the political class — let the truth be discovered from scratch and for all parties to agree upon.