Why does Jammu and Kashmir government shy away from openly condemning civilian killings?

Naeem Akhter issued a proxy statement that the Jammu and Kashmir government will “try to find out" what went wrong, but is trying enough?

A youth was killed and over two dozen were injured when government forces opened fire on unarmed protesters in Kulgam area of south Kashmir on February 12. The protesters had allegedly tried to break the cordon of a village where four militants, a civilian and two Army jawans were killed in a gunfight earlier in the day. The family of the civilian killed in the encounter says Army used him as a human shield, a charge denied by the forces.

Yes, holding protests near an encounter site is an unlawful activity, but does it give license to the government forces to open indiscriminate fire on the protesters? As per doctors, more than 15 persons suffered bullet injuries, mainly in abdomen and chest, and the condition of the wounded is stated to be critical.

As per the Standard Operation Procedure, bullets cannot be fired above hind limbs on unarmed civilians. But those who died, or others who were injured were targeted above the waistline. So prima facie, the incident suggests deadly lapse on the part of police and other forces in handling the situation, something which merits an impartial probe.

From where we stand today, both the civilian killings and other fatal casualties seem to have been avoidable. But much in line with the unrest of 2016, precious lives continue to be lost with no signs of restrain being used by the forces. The prevalent fresh spell of public anger is hinting at another turmoil, this time an early summer of unrest, when even spring is yet to arrive in this Valley in the Himalayas.

But then, such killings are nothing new in Kashmir, whereas successive regimes have preferred silence over deadly lapse on the part of its forces. In the latest, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who otherwise doesn’t even miss a chance to inaugurate tennis ball matches in Jammu, has been silent on Kulgam incident. For a government supposed to be democratically-elected, loss of civilian lives should have been a question of survival. But here state governments don’t cry till New Delhi is happy with their performance.

But then since unrest of 2016, the incumbent Government Spokesman and Education Minister Naeem Akhter Andrabi has evolved a novel way to react to such tragedies. Instead of issuing any formal handout through Information Department much in tune with the protocol, he opts for a proxy statement through local news agencies, which are not even recognised by his government.

In his latest, Naeem Akhter issued a proxy statement that government will “try to find out circumstances” that led to the loss of civilian lives at the encounter site. “We will look into the matter and will try to find out all the circumstances that led to such a damage at the place,” he says.

Mr Spokesman! You are even not assuring any probe into the incident but all that you are saying is that government will “try to find out circumstances.” Is government supposed to merely try?

Such a vague statement looks no more of an insult to the injury of the victims than any assurance. But then who cares about civilian lives in trouble-torn Kashmir till New Delhi is happy?