ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Empty Verdict

The Machil case will make little difference unless AFSPA is withdrawn.

When the army announced the verdict of the general court martial into the Machil fake encounter case, reactions ranged from celebratory – “a watershed moment” said Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Chief Minister Omar Abdullah – to sceptical. The timing of the announcement was decidedly suspicious. It took the army three and a half years to constitute a court of inquiry into the fake encounter of 30 April 2010 in Kashmir, when three civilians were killed in cold blood, buried, and passed off as militants. Yet, although the court martial initiated in December 2013 ended in September 2014, its ruling was not made public till 13 November. So what compelled the army to choose this particular time and this particular case to announce the life sentence handed down to five members of the armed forces, including two officers? In any case, the army court’s ruling has still to be approved by the Northern Command officer, a process that could take another couple of months. So why not wait until then?

One rather obvious reason for the timing was the gunning down of two young boys, Faisal Yusuf Bhat and Mehrajuddin Dar, by the 53 Rashtriya Rifles on 3 November in Chattergam, Budgam district, 20 km from Srinagar. These boys, with two other friends, were returning to their homes in Nowgam when the soldiers opened fire on their Maruti car. When anger erupted over yet another senseless killing of civilians, the army admitted that it was a “mistake” and apologised. It is clear that this apology would not have sufficed in election season to quell the anger that is just below the surface in Kashmir and is the consequence of the frequent so-called “mistakes” by the armed forces in the Kashmir Valley. It now appears that timing of the announcement of the court martial ruling was a ploy to defuse the tension building up after the Budgam killings. It was also calculated to give some impetus to the election campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its determined effort to snatch an electoral victory in J&K.

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