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Article
Guru's execution and hollowness of equality before law.
[written by :Sameer Arshad]
The concern for many over Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru`s execution seems to be the delay in carrying it out instead of the questionable evidence used to implicate him besides other unanswered questions in the whole episode. For others, it has been an apt culmination of the judicial process, a sense of closure for a scarred nation and the law taking its own course. But the idea of the execution being an example of the equality before the law cannot be more laughable in the context of Kashmir, where the state has unleashed an unending cycle of atrocities and blocked every attempt for Kashmiris to reach closure for years.Exactly 23 years before Guru was executed, the entire Kashmir Valley had been under a stricter curfew, with shoot-at-sight orders in place, .
following the first of a series of massacres at Gaw Kadal in Srinagar on Jan 21, 1990. . The sheer brutality of the massacre shocked the world as international press extensively covered the story. Foreign correspondents were barred from returning to Kashmir soon. It was the worst bloodletting that Kashmir had witnessed in around 60 years. But it was just the beginning of an unending nightmare. Author William Dalrymple, then a foreign correspondent in India, described it as among "some of the most chilling atrocities I have ever witnessed``. But no heads rolled, no accountability fixed. In Dec last year, the toothless State Human Rights Commission decided to investigate the massacre in an exercise that is most likely to be another futile one. Such massacres became a norm and even funeral processions were not spared while the statements of head of the administration at that time make it clear that virtual extermination was being threatened. Bullets hit Kashmir`s much loved cleric Mirwaiz Farooq`s coffin and dead body, as the CRPF carried out another massacre in May 1990. At least one massacre had followed the Gaw Kadal one in between. More followed in places like Bijbehara and Sopore that BSF troopers burnt to ground in 1993. Dozens of people were either burnt alive in their houses and shops or were killed in indiscriminate firing. The back-to-back massacres with no closure along with mass rapes like the one in Kunan-Poshpora numbed the people of Kashmir into submission. New graveyards were filled with people of all age groups, and by mid 1990s, the JKLF that had led the insurrection gave up arms. Closure was never the government`s priority, control was. Thus emerged government-sponsored militias, comprising former insurgents called Ikhwanis, to wreak havoc and provide plausible deniability as the massacres and other atrocities provoked international condemnation. The Ikhwanis were given a freehand and were accused of mass killings, torture, rape, running private jails in the name of counter-insurgency. Far from holding these militiamen accountable, they were awarded with highest state awards besides ministerial and legislative berths. In between, thousands of Kashmir youth were tortured at illegal detentions centres that sprang all over Kashmir. Many of them were scarred for life or simply vanished. They either became fodder of scavengers or filled thousands of unmarked graves discovered across Kashmir in recent years. Staged encounter killings for rewards and promotions have continued unabated in between with the last one being reported as early as 2012. The most glaring of them and the denial of justice remains the Pathribal 'encounter` in which five army men, including a brigadier, have been charged with killing five innocent men and branding them as foreign terrorists who "massacred Sikhs" on the eve of US president Bill Clinton`s visit in 2000. The trial in this case recently began grudgingly over a decade after the killings. The law has taken the same predictable course in most such killings including that of a 70-year-old in 2010. The man was branded as the oldest terrorist ever. But his heart-wrenching story revealed that he had lost his son in similar circumstances a decade earlier and had taken to begging to feed his grandchildren as he was no longer in a position to do physical labour. He was abducted and killed on one of his travels to far off villages for alms. The government`s refusal to even consider a partial revocation of the AFSPA that provides immunity in such cases makes it clear how much it values the basic right to life in Kashmir. In recent years, protests against such atrocities have been dealt with even a heavier hand inflicting a heavy death toll. Press has been muzzled while firings –aptly described as a colonial practice -- on unarmed protesters having killed around 300 people, including kids and women, over the last few years. The toll is in sharp contrast with negligible loss of lives in militant violence during the same period. Even young kids have been booked under the Public Safety Act, which allows imprisonment without trial for up to at least two years, and thrown into jails full of hardcore criminals as part of efforts to curb protests. Guru`s execution followed even more shameful imposition of virtual emergency, blacking out of TV channels, ban on newspapers and internet --along with the killing of three more youth – a norm over the last few years -- to remind Kashmiris yet again of how the famed democracy works in the once idyllic land.

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