Pulwama Civilian killing: why does not the state ever learn?

A civilian named Parvez Ahmed Guru has been killed after the eruption of protests over the killing of two militants in Pulwama. This is not the first time that a civilian has died after incidents of such a nature. The standard claim(s) trotted out by the state about these kinds of incidents is that “vested interests” who want to “vitiate” and “spoil” the atmosphere in the vale are behind it. This is a sterile ex post facto explanation that does not wash. There is a clear cut pattern to these incidents: the state in its counter insurgency(COIN) operations against militants usually kills militants; protests erupt and apparently willy nilly, some civilian is killed. Why, the question is, does not the state learn?

Whilst we are not policing experts, but what we know is in advanced countries, violent acts, especially in insurgency like conditions, are studied. Each incident becomes a case study; not merely for retrospective understanding of a particular event/incident but also as a guide for the sober and prudent use and application of force especially where mobs are a force to reckon with. The more or less, serial nature of the killings post the killings of militants lends itself to the conclusion, that no exercise of this nature takes place in Kashmir. There are costs to this lackadaisical approach and attitude. These costs include bitterness amongst the local population and even anger and  the possibility of  a conflict escalation spiral wherein each death sparks a vicious cycle and feeds into the loop of violence and counter violence. So why does not the state take a pre-emptive approach in terms of preventing civilian killings? Clearly, if a pattern can be identified then action to prevent what euphemistically is called “collateral damage” can be taken. Is this because human life in the subcontinent, broadly speaking and Kashmir , more specifically has less value? Is this because of jitteriness of troopers under stressful and fraught conditions? Or are the reasons more prosaic?

We do not know. We can only speculate and perhaps even be critiqued for this. It can be stated by way of a rejoinder that our assessment and criticism and in the nature of “arm chair” theorizing. This may well be true but our response would be that our assessment is also informed by common sense. Whilst we do understand that “ mob violence” can be fraught and taxing where personal safety and security of the troopers in contention would be the first thing on their mind, but these incidents are so routine that there is no reason why additional training cannot be imparted to precisely deal with such fraught situations.

 Lives are lives and human life should be sacrosanct. And people don’t return after death-at least not to this planet. It is imperative and incumbent upon the state to come up with reasonable and deft solutions that prevent gratuitous loss of life in Kashmir and perhaps even elsewhere. Police society interface is a critical interface and one of the most delicate ones. Let this be designed in a way that if not eliminates but certainly minimizes loss of life.

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