End the rank apathy to civilian killings

The Hizbul Mujahideen militant Tauseef Wagay was carrying just one pistol when the house in which he was holed up at Chadoora was cordoned off by the government forces. The encounter dragged on for ten hours and Wagay was killed only when the house was blown down. But along the way, the forces had killed three civilians who were part of the protest to help the militant escape. If anything, the Chadoora encounter once again establishes the sad reality of how a low a value the government sets upon the human life in Kashmir. If the security forces had been a little more patient, they might have even arrested the militant and with a little more professional policing avoided the killings of the three youthful protesters, the youngest of whom Fayaz Ahmad Waza, was just 18 years old. Their killings have taken the toll of the civilian protesters at the encounter sites to around 15. But this new trend of protests has hardly persuaded the government to frame a considered security response which ends the avoidable civilian killings.

However, as the killings of the three civilians at Chadoora has underlined, the government response to public protests has changed but little in Kashmir. Firing remains the preferred recourse for the administration even if the mob to be controlled does not exceed more than a few scores of youth. So, the incident at Chadoora is hardly unique to the place but could have happened anywhere in Valley with as much, if not more, indifference from the government. A mob of few scores or few hundreds seen as mortally threatening with their slogans and possibly stones, would have met the same fate.

Similarly, the response to Chadoora killings has been along familiar lines: Police has half-heartedly talked of ordering a probe. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has once again urged restraint and expressed grief over the loss of lives. Her statement repeats the familiar vocabulary and the idea. However, ever since the unrest last year which led to the killings of around a hundred people and blindings of several hundred others, the CM’s statements only stoke more anger. On social media, MehboobaÂ’s call for restraint and dialogue attracted scorn and ridicule.

The administration has imposed security restrictions across major urban centres to pre-empt venting of genuine public anger. It may force the situation back to normal and people most of the time do cooperate in maintaining peace but it is the government that has refused to change its ways and modify its crowd-control methods. Let us face it, if security agencies choose to exercise due caution and handle crowds more scientifically there is little possibility of the loss of life. But considering the recurrent deaths during protests in Kashmir, one is inclined to believe that the security agencies are dangerously complacent about the loss of lives in Kashmir. And the government has been complicit in the matter by repeatedly failing to fix the responsibility. For example, no action has followed against the security personnel responsible for the death of nearly a hundred people and the blindings of several hundred others. Similarly, no accountability was fixed for the death of around 120 youth in 2010 and of the scores more that died between the two unrests. This has created a law and order culture where lives in Kashmir are seen dispensable in the rush to impose ‘normalcy’. The least we expect from the government is to end the lingering apathy towards the wanton killings and refine its methods of crowd control .

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