By Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain
The ones who have been consistently shielding and patronizing perpetrators of oppression in Kashmir are floating the ideas about establishment of Truth and Reconciliation Commission as if Kashmir has been in arena of civil war and warring communities need to be reconciled to the existence of rivals and motivated to live along with them. The fact, however, is altogether different. Kashmir has been victim of a pattern of oppression which surpasses the graveness of situation that was experienced by Bosnians, South Africans, People of East Timor and Eritreans. The issue of recently highlighted mass graves is only a symbol of this campaign of terror and tyranny.
In 2010, Shahzad Ahmad, Mohammad Shafi and Riyaz Ahmed three youth of Nadihal village in Rafiabad were taken to border area on a promise of being given jobs of porters for Army. All the three were killed and buried as unidentified militants. Somehow, the locals didn’t digest this theory and demanded an investigation. The revelation that the three were killed for elevation of some security personal and facilitation of awards for them triggered a mass mobilization which was witnessed across the globe. Had the security agency which killed the Shahzad, Shafi and Riyaz managed to camouflage the news, the three would have found place been among three thousand mass graves discovered in north Kashmir. This was not the only incident of its kind but one among the hundreds that have been taking place in Jammu and Kashmir for last twenty years. Yousuf Jameel, a prominent journalist and reporter of BBC was taken from his residence in early nineties moved away in a convoy of vehicles towards the border. Fortunately his kidnapping got reported and became topic of discourse in the global media. The media focus forced the state to rescue him; Jameel was saved and continues to work as a journalist. Had not he been associated with a global media network, he too might had been killed and found place within these mass graves. Recently, an insane person was picked up from Rajouri and killed in a fake encounter, portrayed as a militant and buried. Again news about fake encounter leaked and his family contested the Army claim. Had the news not leaked, he too might have been enumerated as a militant who was killed while trying to infiltrate and buried as an unknown intruder. The three incidents indicate a pattern that involves innocent people being taken away from their localities to line of control killed in fake encounters portrayed as infiltrators from across the border and buried as unidentified militants. In a state where more than ten thousand people have disappeared presence of mass graves is bound to create an apprehension that those buried might be the ones who disappeared in custody of various security agencies. For past several years there has been a demand of investigation on the part of civil society and human rights activists. State hither to continue to be in a denial mood. Now when Human Rights Commission has confirmed presence of these graves and sought investigation for ascertaining of the identity of those buried and culprits responsible for their killings state Chief Minister has responded with proposal for establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are relevant in situations where there is a conflict and clash between different communities or various segments of a society. Job of these commissions is facilitation of accommodation and reconciliation between warring groups. The establishment of such commissions is a post conflict resolution phenomenon. Through these, conflicting communities reconcile to existence with one another after conceding genuine demands mutually. Such commissions did work in South Africa and other parts of the world. Kashmir conflict is not a conflict between communities. It is a conflict between subjugated masses and an oppressive arrogant power. The oppressive power is using every instrument at its disposal to neutralize those who aspire for freedom. Killing those who resist in fake encounters is one of the methods employed to subjugate the population and break its will to resist. Talk of Truth and Reconciliation Commission by those who remain instruments of oppression sounds absurd as collaborators cannot be expected to create a credible mechanism of arbitration and adjudication. The ones who propose to establish truth and reconciliation commission have patronized the oppressors and killers by presiding over the unified command of security agencies thus vicariously liable. They are ones who have provided immunity to perpetrators of annihilation campaigns through Disturbed Areas Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act. They remain the ones who aborted due process of law by appointing fake enquiry commissions for the purpose of exoneration of culprits of heinous human rights abuses. The commission even if needed in Kashmir has to be appointed by a neutral agency should be a post resolution rehabilitation measure.
Identification of the Mass Graves is simply vindication of the claim of Human Rights activists and Pro-freedom groups that Kashmiris have been victims of a sustained campaign of genocide. Genocide is a crime under international Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The only way of tackling this phenomenon is establishment of a War Crime Tribunal on the pattern of former Yugoslavia. There can’t be any reconciliation between those who perpetrate the crime and the ones who have been its victims without justice. The only redressal that is needed in Kashmir is identification of the victims and penalization of those involved through a war crime tribunal. The ones suggesting truth and reconciliation commission are scared of such a tribunal for fear of themselves facing a trail on the same lines as happened with former Serbian president Karadzic. Services of International Criminal Court (ICC) too can be utilized for this purpose. It will not only give a feeling of retribution to the victims but also restore credibility of ICC as a World Court not exclusively Africa-Centric Criminal Court. The tribunal or the court apart from identifying and penalizing criminals also needs to fix the responsibility of the state in this crime. States can’t evade vicarious liability for the crimes perpetrated by its organs. Sincerity demands advocacy for a war crimes Tribunal from the Chief Minister rather than truth and Reconciliation Commission aimed at camouflaging the crime and the culprits.
Dr. Shiekh Showkat Hussain is a political analyst and law professor at Kashmir University.