Civilian Deaths

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One more civilian was killed in CRPF firing on a vehicle in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Wednesday. Earlier in this month, a 14 year old mentally challenged boy Hazm Shafi Bhat was shot dead in Handwara. The latest killing took place at a checkpoint at Kawoosa, where Police said the civilian vehicle jumped at least two barricades following which CRPF opened fire. He was identified as 25 year old Merajuddin Shah, youngest of seven siblings.

But this version was contested by the uncle Ghulam Hassan Shah, an Assistant Sub-inspector in J&K Police, who accompanied Shah. According to him, they were stopped at a checkpoint by the CRPF and allowed to go after he showed his police card. But just when they were about to leave, a soldier came forward and fired at Shah. He died on way to hospital. The killing has stunned the Valley. It triggered protests in Shah’s village. Predictable spectacle followed. In no time the news was in circulation across social media. The pictures and videos of the wailing women at Shah’s home went viral. So did the anti-government slogans in the consequent protests. This was followed by reports in local media and the condemnations and demands for probe by the politicians and civil society groups

What the killing of Shah has done is to let slip the screen from a basic failure of the state’ apparatus in J&K. The truth is that there is little that the state is expected do so far as the security of the lives of the people is concerned. The killing of the civilians has been the single-most agonising feature of the life in Valley over the past many years. It is routine for the security personnel to fire at protesting youth and get away with it.

The parties might condemn, they might wring their hands, but it hardly generates a deep sense of outrage over the state of affairs. Beyond a day or two after the incident the state of affairs returns to normal. No action follows.

There is no introspection as to why it is that jumping a check point, if at all, it is true, needs to be responded with bullets. And why it is that the hundreds of such killings since 2008 have gone unprobed and unpunished. This has generated so deep a cynicism in Kashmir about the system that now an announcement of a probe or talk of accountability attracts scorn. This is very dangerous. The deepening loss of faith in the institutions has already forced people to turn away from them. And if nothing is done to redress this situation, it will not be before long that the simmering frustration would once again make the situation to get out of hand.

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