Brutal Pulwama killing

Kashmir Times. Dated: 2/6/2019 2:53:40 PM

Killings of civilians, whoever is the perpetrator, are unacceptable and condemnable and cannot be justified by using tags

The contemptible and condemnable killing of a young girl from Pulwama, Ishrat Muneer Bhat, by unknown gunmen last week, is a shocking reminder of the bloody abyss that the Kashmir Valley has slipped into. The girl, a cousin of slain militant Zeenat-ul-Islam, was seen with her hands folded before she was shot twice in a few second video clip that became viral on the social media. But that is not the only chilling aspect of the murder. The deafening silence that follows in a Valley where deaths are mourned and protested for days is even more shocking. Though nobody has claimed responsibility for the girl's death, the police have maintained that it is the handiwork of militants and the girl is believed to have been killed for being an alleged informer. Truth can surface only after a fair probe, a process that is rarely followed. Ishrat's killing is reminiscent of similar killings of two civilians, in November last, that were videographed, showing the victims apologising and pleading for clemency before they were shot dead or killed by slitting the throat. At least in one of the cases where a young man was shot dead, Hizbul Mujahideen's operational commander Riyaz Naikoo had claimed responsibility with the remarks that "whosoever betrays our movement will face the same consequences". Earlier militants had abducted and shot dead three cops in September. In December last, owner of a house in Kulgam where seven civilians and three militants were killed in a gunfight in October was found dead two months after he was abducted. In January, a Sikh youth from Tral was killed by unidentified gunmen. As militancy and counter insurgency operations have been stepped up, the lives of civilians, caught between the two guns, are becoming more and more vulnerable. In many of the cases, while police have accused militant groups, the Kashmiri resistance leadership has accused the government forces for "maligning their movement". Since 1989, Kashmir has been haunted not just by bloodbath but also the spectacle of unidentified gunmen, who crop up in many cases which are never investigated and they remain unidentified. The mystery of each such case is only further deepened by the inability of the police to probe these cases efficiently and many of the high-profiled killings unfortunately fall in this category, the most recent one being senior journalist and peace-nik, Shujaat Bukhari's killing in June last year. Is there method in delaying the truth about such cases?
Like most of these cases, the truth in Ishrat's killing may also remain lost. What is equally saddening is the conspicuous public silence in the strife torn conflict which is a shocking betrayal of either the palpable sense of fear or the acceptability of some killings. Condoning such killings and forgetfulness has the potential of creating space for more bloodshed and the greater possibility of militancy and counter insurgency becoming a cover for exploitation, settling personal scores, old rivalries and vendetta, as happened in the 90s. Such selective outrage over bloodshed therefore is an indication of worse times to come; also of the double standards being employed with respect to human rights and cries for justice. International humanitarian laws lay emphasis on the need to draw the distinction between combatants and non-combatants in a conflict zone. The killings of civilians are unacceptable and heinous, whether by militants, security forces or unknown gunmen. They need to be opposed. Whether it is militants using the tag of 'informer' to justify some killings or the security forces branding people 'anti-national' to glorify murders, killings of non-combatants caught in a war zone will continue to be human rights as per humanitarian ethics and international laws. The identities of the perpetrators are immaterial. A larger onus is on the state to probe these cases. The state's role has been shoddy throughout the armed conflict. It not only provides a cover impunity to security forces by failing to probe cases of excesses allegedly committed by them. It also fails to probe cases where militants or other non-state actors are alleged to be perpetrators.



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