A recurring tragedy

Inquiry into Gool should not run up against the familiar deadends of obfuscation and denial

In Gool, a morbidly familiar scene. On Thursday morning, a crowd had gathered outside the Border Security Force post, to protest against the alleged manhandling of the local imam by BSF personnel. The BSF is said to have opened fire on the crowds, killing at least four, injuring 41. For the second time in the last few weeks, civilian deaths at the hands of security forces have sent shock waves across the state. In June, two youths in Bandipora district were reportedly killed in army firing, triggering widespread protests. And these are only the latest in a long series of tragedies that involve civilians and the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

Ten years after a ceasefire was negotiated along the LoC, the number of casualties suffered by security forces in the militancy has been significantly reduced and incidents of violence have gone down from 3,401 in 2003 to 118 in 2012. Yet the security presence remains undiminished in Kashmir. In a state bristling with guns, simmering tensions can acquire an ugly edge, with inevitable loss of innocent lives. J&K's long history of inquiries into civilian deaths that go nowhere is one of the abiding causes of bitterness and alienation among the people of the state. Gawkadal, Handwara, Bijbehara, Sopore each of these names is an open wound. In each case, the story is the same: civilians fired upon by armed forces, cases that were either closed or allowed to go cold, culprits who remained untraceable or were not brought to account. The trajectory of the Konan Poshpora mass rape case of 1991 is a study in official obfuscation and denial. Unsurprisingly, then, the state government's assurance of an inquiry into the Gool shootings offers little comfort now.

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