Fake encounter in Kashmir: Imperatives for a thorough investigation

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New Delhi, June 1 (ANI): The Union Government, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Army are seized with the investigations into the alleged fake encounter by some Army personnel.

It is alleged that the Army had, on April 30, declared the elimination of three unidentified infiltrators in Machil sector in Kashmir.

Further investigation, under orders of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, revealed that those killed were actually three Kashmiri youth Shahzad Ahmed, Reyaz Ahmed and Mohammad Shafi hailing from Nadihal in District Baramullah of Kashmir who had been reported missing by their family members on May, 10.

An incident of this nature, if found to be true, would be termed as a most heinous crime. It is, therefore, imperative that every effort be made to identify the culprits and give to them the maximum possible punishment at the earliest.

There are a few imperatives that would guide a judicious and time bound resolution of the case.

The first is a firm resolve of the authorities and the second is creation of an environment where the proceedings are carried out in a transparent manner without fear or favour.

While talking to the media on the sidelines of the Passing out Parade at the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, on May, 31, Defence Minister AK Antony reiterated the policy of zero tolerance to human rights violations in the Valley and assured that there would be no cover-up to shield the guilty in this case.

This is the second time since the incident that the Defence Minister has given an assurance of this nature.

Earlier, he had assured full cooperation with the Jammu and Kashmir Police in the probe, apart from the high level internal inquiry that would be conducted by the Army. Repeated assurances given by the Defence Minister indicate the seriousness with which he proposes to deal with the incident.

His words find support in the fact that the internal inquiry has already been ordered by none other than the Army Commander of Northern Command. The Jammu and Kashmir Police is also pursuing the case most vigorously.

Within a few days it has arrested four persons, Bashir Ahmed Lone, Qayoom Lone, Abdul Hamid and Abbas Shah who allegedly lured the three youth with promises of getting them work as labourers with an Army camp and took them to Machil where the encounter took place.

It is heartening to see the speed and seriousness with which all instruments of the State are reacting to the incident. The spirit of cooperation, which marks the approach the State government, and the Army is also quite encouraging.

The onward process will involve simultaneous investigations by the Police and conduct of internal inquiry by the Army. Once the facts are established, those found guilty will be punished under the Army Act and the civil criminal procedure code.

The law has ample scope to mete out punishment commensurate to the crime under both the Army Act and the CrPC.

On earlier occasions, the Army has conducted its internal investigation speedily and has brought the guilty to justice in record time. In December 2004, two Army personnel, Havildar Krishna Bahadur Gurkha and Rifleman Zuber Khan, while on patrolling duty, entered the house of a civilian without proper authority.

The next day an FIR for rape was filed against the soldiers. The allegation was proved false but the personnel, having broken the Army code of conduct, were dismissed from service with the Havildar getting an additional one-year imprisonment.

In yet another case in November 2004, one Major Rehman Hussain was charged with double rape. The allegation was proved false by medical reports, nevertheless, a General Court Marshal tried the officer and though acquitted for the charge of rape was found guilty for attempting to outrage the modesty of the women and was dismissed from service on January, 31, 2005.

In both cases justice was meted out within months of the incident taking place which does not normally happen in civil proceedings.

In this case the initial reaction of the authorities has left no room to doubt their resolve to conduct a thorough investigation in a time bound manner.

There is a perceptible determination to identify the culprits as fast as is possible. In order to ensure that the ends of justice are met it is now necessary to allow the investigation to proceed without any extraneous pressure.

The need of the hour is to allow the judicial process to take its own course so that the guilty are identified and punished.

Politicising the issue will only delay and disrupt the course of the Investigation. By Jaibans Singh (ANI)

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