Today, there is news of yet another Kashmiri student dying in an Army encounter. The Army says that it had received information on suspicious activity and had laid an ambush. When they detected movement, they challenged the persons, and on not getting a reply, they opened a fire in which Manzoor Ahmed Magray a student of the 12th class was received fatal injuries while another unidentified person escaped.
A helpless acceptance seems to have paralyzed India. Human rights abuse must not be tolerated, yet its happening. The army is struggling to change, quite visibly, but suffers from a tremendous credibility deficit. Human rights abuses have become THE crucial link to Kashmir. Address them, and you have a foot to stand on.
I am not blaming anyone here. Not the Army, not the Kashmiris, but several important questions arise.
- How is it that so many of the killings are supposedly by accident when locals claim that they are in cold blood? Why is the Army making so many "mistakes"? What is being done about this phenomenal lack of competence if they are genuinely mistakes?
- If the Kashmiris know the process (and its been publicized often enough) that they are asked to identify themselves and attacked if they don't seem legit, what prevents them from answering? There must be a greater effort to find this out. What are the people doing or thinking that they believe its not a good idea to answer when asked by the Army? Again, I'm not saying that they necessarily have something to hide. It may be possible that they simply are scared of the Army getting their hands on them, but this needs to be found out. Too many stories involve innocents not answering and trying to escape when asked to identify themselves.
- Is the Army actually following SOP? Are they asking people to identify themselves before attacking for sure? Are they asking loudly or clearly enough that it is understood? Are they allowing enough time for response? Or is it possible that they may want to surprise militants and may choose to bypass this, only to claim they did it later?
- The burden of proof lies on the person who is Armed. While it is true that the Army personnel may be trigger happy considering that many stories of militants opening fire after being called to identify themselves also abound. The Army needs to relook at this protocol to see if it can be modified in any manner that decreases chances of careless/mistaken killings and possibly improves chances of capturing militants alive as well. I would say, if not fired on, and without being certain that the intruders are militants, there may be a possibility to attempt other ways of intervention. I am not a military strategist, and I am not trying to be patronizing, but surely their task becomes heavier from the regret of innocent deaths as well as the resistance because of them?
- There need to be protocols around evidence collection. If this was an ambush based on information, it wasn't like an unpredictable, stray incident. There should be some planning of audio/video recording while laying out the ambush, which can be later used to prove that they did indeed do what they could to prevent the death. It shouldn't be rocket science, considering that cheap and effective equipment is easily available.
- There need to be investigations into some of these "too good to be true" deaths of innocents. What are the chances of the Army receiving a specific tip off enough to plan an ambush at the same time when no militants seem to be there, but an innocent conveniently wanders into the trap? Is there a possibility of deliberate misinformation in order to destabilize the region? Efforts should be made to find out if the innocent wandering into the trap was planning to go there for something specific that could be passed to the Army to set him up and who and how many people knew of it. This could include efforts to look into if it was convenient for anyone to choose to set him up to die.
- Kashmiri leaders need to look beyond the "evil India" rhetoric and while protecting and protesting against the misconduct of soldiers, they also need to see if this is being misused to create deaths for raising an uprising. I am not saying that they shouldn't blame Indian soldiers. What I am saying is that they should focus on non-exploitation by anyone, not just soldiers.
Why am I raising all these questions? Because it is quite evident that if the Army wanted to kill a few people for giggles, they wouldn't need an elaborate charade of ambush and all that. If they wanted to fake it as an encounter, they would need to scope a suitable target. Plus, the Army is seriously making a lot of effort to rein in wrongdoing. This makes me think that this incident was extremely unlikely to be intentional, even if the Army had evil intent.
I refuse to believe that the pure freedom fighters who could kill other separatist leaders and plan for protests to have a certain number of deaths or pay stone pelters would hesitate to get a few innocents killed one way or the other at the hands of the Army when they saw that things are cooling down. Particularly when this comes on the heels of two innocent girls being killed by militants who unexpectedly drew flack from the population. If they want the anger focused on India again, this seems logical.
Again, not saying that they did this either, but things are obviously not how they seem, and while the Army is the reflexive and most popular target smoking gun and all, its not the only one on the horizon.
Something is obviously being done intentionally here. The question is who is doing it and why.