A recent incident involving the Indian army at Chattergam in central Kashmir’s Budgam district caused massive uproar and outbreaks in the region.
Soldiers of army’s counterinsurgency Rashtriya Rifles opened fire upon a Maruti car, killing two children and severely injuring two others. The teenagers in the car were returning from the Muharram procession in the area and were driving fast after hitting a tipper coming from the opposite direction. In a hurry, they failed to notice the calls by the army to stop at the checkposts. The army continued to fire even after the driver, who got shot, lost control and hit the nearby checkpost. Faisal Bhat, 13 and Merajudhin Dar, 21 were among the dead. The outside world came to know of the brutal incident only after the 14 year old Basim, one of the co travellers, managed to escape from the spot. The army and the relatives of the victims continue the blame games justifying themselves. While the army had claimed that the youths ignored signals to stop at three barriers, the relatives asserted that it was cold blooded murder.
The version produced by the army was not convincing and they finally apologized announcing a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of deceased and Rs 5 lakh to those of the injured further assuring rehabilitation required for the injured, if needed. The relatives, in turn, have turned it down demanding a sincere probe into the matter and arresting the culprits. The people, who frequently become victims to the cruelties of the army, wanted a permanent relief. The world came to know about the incident through the 14 year old who fled from the scene petrified; else it would have been ignored or hidden away as one of the numerous instances of encounter deaths.
The Indian army has been given special powers by the government in the name of national security, based on the AFSPA Act due to which they intervene in the lives of the residents. AFSPA allows the military to do whatever it wants at gunpoint. Once the law is enforced on an area declared disturbed, the armed forces become unaccountable to anyone for whatever brutalities they commit on people. The Act has been widely critisised for alleged concerns about human rights violations in its region of enforcement, be it arbitrary killings, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and enforced disappearances. The government has not been able to stop the misuse of law and its consequences.
Insurgency in the valley continues to claim the lives of innocent civilians and the government, instead of exposing the criminals is keeping mum all in the name of protecting the country’s security. Conducting investigations, mistaken identity and finally regret are become the usual cliches. The victims are the poor and ordinary people who are unable to raise their voice. The protests and the clashes in Kashmir would also hinder the chances of a positive electorate in the looming Assembly elections and that is something no political party in the state would like to happen. The government should recall the AFSPA Act which gives limitless power to the forces to commit crime.