An Indian Army court has awarded life imprisonment to a captain who was involved in a fake encounter in Kashmir Valley’s Shopian district. In the normal course, higher military authorities would go by the recommendation of the court of inquiry to confirm the punishment and that would bring closure to not only what may have been an isolated incident or one of a few such instances of the misuse or abuse of powers under the contentious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
The very word "fake" has a negative connotation, which in this case may have taken on morbid and criminal contours, when three innocent workers were rounded up and done away with on the suspicion that they were terrorists, who have constituted the major problem that Jammu & Kashmir has been facing over the last three decades at least.
There is, however, no arguing against the efficacy of decisions to keep the Indian Army for counter-insurgency measures in the Valley. A veritable Pandora’s Box was opened with the political decision taken in 2019 to strip the Valley of the special status it had enjoyed for valid historical reasons. But by no means can this one incident that took place on July 18, 2020, be taken as representative of Army excesses as armed forces have been stationed in J&K in varying numbers from 1947.
In an ideal world bereft of terrorism, targeted killings, stone-throwing and myriad law and order problems, there should be no need to commit two lakh Army and paramilitary personnel, besides maintaining an 80,000-plus J&K police, towards keeping the peace in the Valley. Even so, there is no place for any violation of fundamental rights of a human being.
If one Army company was guilty of excesses, it stood to reason that any event be thoroughly investigated and the guilty punished. Army personnel have performed an excruciatingly difficult task in J&K and they don’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as stray criminal elements among them. The court-martial proves that we can suss out the truth and act accordingly, regardless of the moral questions remaining unanswered over the abrogation of Article 370.