Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Jamila Verghese
Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The Shopian exposure has greatly embarrassed the separatists whose protests have now turned to denouncing a CBI–Government conspiracy to cover up the crime.

Symptoms of Desperation

The Shopian expose by the CBI and a panel of doctors shows no evidence of rape. It was a set-up. Now the separatists are upping the volume.

By B G Verghese

New Indian Express, 21 December, 2009

The CBI’s unravelling of the mystery surrounding the death last May of two young Kashmiri women of Shopian has stung the separatists in the Valley following the exposure of the mischief they perpetrated. Not for the first time, efforts were made to paint the state administration and, more particularly, the security forces in the darkest possible hues as cruel oppressors and perverts out to terrorise a hapless people seeking no more than freedom and the right to live in peace with dignity.

In the instant case, the twin fatalities occurred on May 29. First reports by the police suggested death by drowning. However, a vociferous group came forward with alleged eye witnesses who claimed to have heard screams from a vehicle standing on bridge over a nearby nullah into which uniformed personnel had men presumably pushed the girls after sexually assaulting them. Thereafter the post-mortem report and other forensic evidence was cooked up to suggest rape and murder.

A commission of inquiry was misled into believing this version and charges were filed against the policemen who had initially reported a simple case of drowning. Protests were mounted against the security forces. Shopian saw angry demonstrations for months until the chief minister ordered a CBI inquiry. The bodies were exhumed and detailed medical tests conducted by doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi conclusively proved death by drowning and no symptoms of rape whatsoever. The “eye witnesses”, doctors and others confessed they were threatened and bribed to concoct the stories they did. The so-called forensic evidence of rape by the Shopian doctors was also found to have been crudely manufactured to the dictates of separatist elements.

The Shopian exposure has greatly embarrassed the separatists whose protests have now turned to denouncing a CBI–Government conspiracy to cover up the crime. The Kashmir High Court Bar Association has rejected the CBI report and plans to challenge it in court and, if need be, take it to the International Court of Justice, which amounts to whistling in the dark. Strangely, Mir Waiz Umar Farooq has joined the clamour, demanding an international probe into the incident. It appears he has been rattled by the dastardly attempt on the life of the respected moderate Hurriyat leader, Fazle Haq Quereshi, a couple of weeks ago in Srinagar by jihadi elements out to scuttle the J&K internal peace process. initiated by the Government. This from the Hurriyat chairman who has for 20 years not dared to state who killed his own father, the previous Mir Waiz, though everybody knows the Hizbul Mujahideen was responsible.

This is the dark politics of separatist-jihadi violence and fear that still pervades parts of Kashmir. Every Friday has become an occasion for organized protest and hooliganism to provoke a police response that can be blamed for the ensuing mindless violence. The faked symbolism in the choice of the timing of these planned demonstrations is unmistakable. It betrays desperation to keep the “cause” alive. The hollowness and hypocrisy is starkly revealed when militants slaughter total innocents without protest - like the recent gunning down of a young bride-to-be in Shopian in her home, the sixth incident in a row.

The J&K peace process must move forward, at least on the internal aspect as a prelude to a final international settlement when Pakistan is willing and. able to negotiate without holding a terrorist pistol to India’s head. Meanwhile it is good to learn that more Army units are being pulled out of internal security duties in J&K as promised. This augurs well for talks.

One sees similar signs of desperation and hope at the other end of the country with the arrest of key ULFA leaders, Arabinda Rajkhowa and Raju Barua among the latest, thanks to new found cooperation from the Awami League administration in Bangladesh, The Centre and State governments have concerted action to open a dialogue with ULFA if they abjure violence and abandon the demand for sovereignty. Rajkhowa has said he will not talk with handcuffs. Paresh Barua, ULFA’s commander-in-chief, has moved his hideout from Bangladesh to somewhere in northeast Myanmar near the Chinese border from where he has denounced Rajkhowa’s arrest or surrender, accused the Government of double standards in its negotiating stance with different separatist formations and continues to press for sovereignty as a pre-condition for talks.

The Government is willing to offer Paresh Barua safe conduct to come to Assam and open a dialogue. There is no need to insist that he foreswear sovereignty as this can be rejected in the course of dialogue. Far better to grant him the face saver he needs if this can clinch a settlement. ULFA has a totally muddled and opportunistic agenda and knows that it has forfeited public support by its brutalities and extreme demands. Hopefully a dialogue will commence in the new year. As a state, Assam has all the autonomy and co-sovereignty it needs within the Indian Union. The real issues relate to development, inclusive growth and regional cooperation.

The same is true of talks with the NSCN-IM and Khaplang. Further autonomy is negotiable (and some formulations have been exchanged) but Nagalim is a non-starter as established histories and current geographies cannot be lightly discarded except thorough consensus. Nagas, for instance, have no historical title to Dimapur But it cannot now be detached from Nagaland. What can be devised is non-territorial integration of dispersed Naga areas for certain common purposes without violating existing territorial jurisdictions.

Likewise, Gorkhaland need not necessarily be carved out as a separate state. But the area could be granted a further degree of autonomy and, even as part of West Bengal, made a member of the North East Council, maybe alongside an autonomous Kamtapur, which would make the Northeast a compact unit of which Sikkim becomes a contiguous part. This would be akin to the Chinese province of Yunnan being a member of the Greater Mekong Region in ASEAN for certain purposes.

Two other developments this past week warrant disquiet. The first is a Supreme Court division bench ruling that a killer’s caste anguish may be entertained as a mitigating factor even in a case of murder. The order was made in a case of a man killing members of his sister’s family for the marriage of their daughter into a lower caste. Such “social factors” have no legitimacy in law and one hopes this judgement will be soon reviewed and overturned. It sends out a horribly wrong message.

Equally disturbing is Tony Blair’s statement before Britain’s Iraq War Inquiry that he would have gone to war with Iraq even if categorically informed that there was no semblance of WMD capability or wherewithal with Saddam. In his view, Saddam was evil and deserved to go on any pretext. This is dangerous nonsense. It is a war crime and constitutes license for international banditry which cannot be condoned.

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