Elements of the Indian army and paramilitary cooperated with rogue police officers to perpetrate several cold-blooded murders of innocent civilians in Kashmir and faking them as counter-insurgency encounters for personal recognition and awards. Officers of the 5 Rashtriya Rifles, 13 Rashtriya Rifles, and 24 Rashtriya Rifles had documented several fake encounters killing civilians but labeling them as terrorists. Police officials accidentally stumbled on this crime while investigating the disappearance of a Kokemag resident Abdul Rahman Padder and a special investigation team established a pattern.
While the Army has said that those found guilty will be punished, the police have arrested suspected officers of the Army and the police. However, it is not clear what the process is to charge Army officers in civilian courts and it is expected that the Army will insist on internal court martial proceedings and processes to determine guilt and award punishment. Officers found guilty of crimes in the past have been quickly punished ranging from imprisonment to demotion. The Army has a Human Rights Cell attached to it which is responsible for dealing with such crimes.
In the meanwhile, the discovery of the fake encounters has raised a political storm with all politicians claiming a piece of the controversy. Hurriyat leaders have supported strike calls make by Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik. The objectives and intent of the strike is unknown but Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that this incidence should not stop the ongoing peace process which could lead to the opening up of borders. Mallik himself is demanding an independent commission that could include members of Kashmiri intelligentsia and Hurriyat leaders but such claims are not new and will probably be rejected by elected politicians who will see this commission as inconvenient panel second guessing every move.
There is an element of truth in this stance since they are the true elected representatives of the people and do have responsibility of security and safety of the people. Their previous invitations to Hurriyat and other separatists leaders to participate in similar efforts have resulted in naught as the separatists always wanted their own agenda on line and suspicious of mainstream politicians for historical reasons. However, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad should probably create a sub-commission under the State Human Rights Commission and involve members from all political parties and once again invite the separatist leaders to participate. They should make the sub-commission transparent and give enough political space for the separatists to participate. Such demands are also made by some mainstream politicians.
After all, the separatists have been preaching a cessation of militancy and seem to have even convinced Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf who for the first time publicly acknowledged that a solution to the vexed Kashmir problem cannot be solved through militancy. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has welcomed this statement.
Accusations of security forces were non-existent since the mid-90s after the Army had instituted several measures to curb excesses. It looks like some of the processes may have broken down or needs more attention.