Right step

Right step

The Army has done well to initiate court martial proceedings against six of its personnel, including two officers, for the killing of three civilians in an alleged fake encounter at Machhil in Kashmir in 2010.

Coming in response to a Court of Inquiry recommendation that a military court try the suspects for abduction, conspiracy and murder, the decision, if taken to its logical conclusion, could signal a change in the attitude of the military. ‘Disappearances’ and extra-judicial killings are among the most significant grievances raised by Kashmiris and other communities in India’s conflict zones. Hitherto, the approach of the security forces has been to brush under the carpet such allegations, even label the victims as terrorists, rather than bring to justice those of its personnel who indulge in such cold-blooded murders. Not surprisingly, this approach has triggered enormous outrage among the public. This was the case in Machhil as well where three Kashmiri men went ‘missing.’  When their families raised the alarm, the army claimed the three men were Pakistani terrorists who were shot dead while infiltrating into India. An angry Kashmir exploded in mass protests that lasted over two months.

Successive prime ministers visiting Kashmir have repeatedly stressed the government’s ‘zero tolerance’ towards extrajudicial killings. But the military leadership was often reluctant to act sternly against its erring personnel, claiming that punishment would undermine the ‘morale of the boys.’ Consequently, even in cases where soldiers were alleged to have committed rape or murder, they were simply transferred out of the area.
The court martial of the six suspects in the Machchil killings marks a welcome change in the Army’s attitude. It sends out a signal to the security forces that violating laws will not be tolerated henceforth. The question is whether this is a one-off response or the start of a larger change in approach to dealing with extra-judicial killings, torture and other crimes committed by soldiers. Punishment of erring soldiers must become the norm not only to convince aggrieved Kashmiris that India is committed to justice and rule of law but also to rid the Indian army of its rogue elements. Fake encounters, killing civilians for cash rewards, etc have undermined the army’s image and it is only by punishing erring soldiers that the rot in the system can be prevented from spreading.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)