How can we bring justice to the family of the victim of yet another senseless killing in Kashmir?
On 7 November 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kashmir. There were large numbers of police and paramilitary forces stationed around Kashmir to foil protest marches and unrest. In a residential neighbourhood on the outskirts of Srinagar, a 22-year-old engineering student went out to buy milk. But he never came back.
Gowhar Nazir Dar was an ambitious computer science student, beloved by his family, friends and teachers. Numerous Facebook memorials stand as testaments to this:
The senseless killing of a young life a year ago is not the end of this story but the beginning. This is what justice looks like in Kashmir. Gowhar was brought dead to the hospital. His father says the doctors kept asking “Why did you bring him here?” The cause of death is listed as ‘tear gas shell’ and ‘bullet’ and the hospital-issued death certificate states that the exact cause of death was to be determined by an autopsy—an autopsy that doctors refused to perform.
“Why did you bring him here? The doctors kept asking Gowhar’s distraught family
Bystanders and witnesses testify that Gowhar was shot in his head at point blank range by a Central Reserve Police Force personnel.The administration keeps changing the script: first they alleged that no tear gas or bullets were fired and then changed it to tear gas shells being fired because protesters were attacking authorities. It’s been over a year. The government probe had 18 witnesses testifying against the CRPF. No one has been arrested to date, nor has the probe report been made public.
The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) continues to protect the armed personnel despite gross human rights violations recorded and documented since the early 90s. Section 4 of AFSPA empowers military and paramilitary personnel to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death” in case of perceived contravention of law and order. Section 7 of the same Act also makes it mandatory to get permission from the Central Government before members of the military or paramilitary forces can be prosecuted in civilian courts.
Kashmir has a grim history. There are 70,000+ deaths, 8000+ enforced disappearances, 6000+ unknown and unmarked mass graves, according to estimates of rights groups. Of those cases, few families have seen justice or closure for their losses. Kashmir has virtually been in a continuous state of emergency for the last 25 years. The basic and fundamental rights to life and equality before law, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, have been suspended.
It’s time we speak out and speak up and lend our support to those fighting the injustice that common people in Kashmir have been subjected to for decades.