A military Court has ordered life imprisonment for five army personnel including two officers for the 2010 encounter killings of three Kashmiri men in Jammu & Kashmir’s Machil.
The court martial proceedings against the officers for their involvement in the fake encounter followed after the violent protests and clashes in the valley causing the death of 123 people in the skirmishes with the police force. The officials had said that the three men, who were later identified as Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Muhammad Shafi Lone, were terrorists from Pakistan. The men were residents of Baramulla district and had gone missing from their homes on April 27. The officials had reportedly, promised them jobs and money and later took them near the Line of Control and killed them. All the soldiers and officers involved were found guilty of conspiracy, murder and falsely describing men as terrorists. The Court ruling was widely welcomed by the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah and Amnesty International, the Human Rights organization. It is also viewed as a political move with an eye on the looming elections.
The Kashmir dispute and the military conflicts have strained the ties between India and Pakistan over the years. The reconciliation initiatives from both sides have been bootless. The erstwhile UPA government had appointed a team under senior journalist Dilip Padgaonkar to initiate reconciliation efforts and suggest steps for empowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. One of the major steps required to resolve the issues is to curb the dominance of the army in the region. The Indian army has been given special powers by the government in the name of national security, based on the controversial 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. A K Anthony, the Defense Minister in the previous UPA government had made attempts to repeal AFSPA but withdrew due to the pressure from the army. The government has not been able to stop the misuse of law and its consequences.
The special rights given to the army and the fake encounter killings of innocents anticipating promotions, rewards and honours are the major reasons for distancing the Kashmiris from the rest of the country. Similar conditions prevail in the north eastern states as well. The hunger strike by the ‘Iron Lady’ Irom Sharmila that has been going on for the past 12 years is to protest against AFSPA. A single instance of court marshalling the officers alone would not do any good. An effective implementation of measures to curb the cruelties and the inhuman treatment by the army towards the innocent civilians is what is required.