Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

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It was in summer 2008 when Omar Abdullah as an opposition leader mooted the idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe human rights abuses in the divided parts of Kashmir. He said that if voted to power he will make sincere efforts in this direction. He was duly voted to power towards the end of that year and ruled the state for the following six years, To his credit, he sporadically spoke about the Commission but hardly made a serious effort to constitute it. Indeed, he couldn’t have done it of his own. He needed concurrence of New Delhi and Islamabad for this. Omar envisaged an ambitious remit for the commission spanning the governments of India and Pakistan, something he reiterated at the National Conference function on Tuesday.  

“I have always said a truth and reconciliation commission should be formed by India and Pakistan to find out what happened in Jammu and Kashmir during the last 25 years and who is responsible for that,” he told media in Srinagar.

In 2011, in a 27 page Action Taken Report submitted to State Human Rights Commission over the then discovery of 2700 unmarked graves, J&K Government led by Omar said it wanted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the issue. The report stated that the Government shall look into all the aspects relating to the establishment of such a Commission. The report further said that the forming of Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the State would “require consultation and broad consensus among all the stakeholders”.

Omar also raised the issue of setting up of the Commission in the meeting of the National Integration Council held in New Delhi in September 2011. Also speaking in the J&K Assembly in the same year, Omar explained the Commission as “an Indo-Pak joint strategy in the form of a Jammu and Kashmir centric confidence building measure so that all aspects of militancy, its origin, its impact on people, issues of disappearance, migration and many more related concerns are studied threadbare and addressed accordingly for reconciliation and healing”.

And in 2014, Omar once again brought up the issue on the politically loaded day of January 19 which Muslims in Valley remember for the massacre of 52 people by the security personnel at Gawkadal in Srinagar and Kashmiri Pandits recall as the day of their exodus from Valley.

“Whether it’s the Kashmiri Pandit exodus or incidents like Gawkadal, that is why India & Pakistan owe J&K a truth & reconciliation commission,” Omar then wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.Com.

However, National Conference rival and the now the would-be ruling party PDP has traditionally opposed such a commission. The party has argued that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission cannot be cut and paste from South Africa to Kashmir. PDP has instead sought Justice and Resolution in Kashmir, explaining that “unless the state gives justice to its citizens, there cannot be reconciliation”.

Both parties may have a point. But the question is whether a Truth and Reconciliation is after all a practical proposition  under the circumstances. In any case, such a commission can only be a post-resolution phase. But even then the truth and reconciliation as Omar seeks it will hardly serve the purpose. At the end of the day, those who have suffered will demand and are entitled to the justice. Over the past 26 years, the thousands of people have suffered.  And if anyone has remained untouched by these sufferings, it is their perpetrators. Verbal acknowledgement of the atrocities does have its uses in salving the wounds but the true healing only starts when the people responsible for them are brought to account. To his credit, Omar has talked about the truth and reconciliation in the past. But a true closure is only possible if we add one more word to this improbable process, the justice: it should be Truth, Justice and Reconciliation


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