By holding that, if Germany can organise a musical concert by Zubin Mehta in Kashmir, then any other country can be engaged for resolution of Kashmir issue, former interlocutor M M Ansari has certainly created a flurry. The idea of ‘third country engagement’ to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio is nothing new and has not only been raised and discussed in virtually every debate on the Kashmir problem, but has also been repeatedly suggested by a section of the civil society as well as the separatists themselves. Therefore, it is indeed very intriguing as to how such an obvious and oft-repeated option to break the stalemate on Kashmir could have ever escaped the attention of this learned person when he was preparing the Interlocutor report on Kashmir along with Dileep Padgaonkar, and Radha Kumar.
Ofcourse there is always the possibility that this option did not occur to Ansari at that time. It could also well be possible, that he may have had actually expressed this view while playing the role of an interlocutor, but was overruled by his colleagues. However, if this was the case, why did he keep quiet for so long? And if he, of his own volition had decided not to express his dissent at that time and maintain a stoic silence on this issue, then what has compelled him to speak-out now- when he is no longer an interlocutor? Ansari himself can best answer these questions and doing so immediately would certainly do him good, as a clarification on his belated opinion would preclude the scope of any misgivings that are otherwise bound to arise. However, Ansari should not be singled- out for delay in expressing his views, as by now, one has got used to such belated expositions in Kashmir.
In 2011, Hurriyat leader Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, while addressing a seminar on the role of intellectuals in the separatist movement said, "Time has come to speak the truth. Neither the Army nor the police killed Lone sahib and Maulvi Farooq sahib but our own people." Though the separatist conglomerate initially rubbished this startling revelation and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq chose not to speak on this issue, the sons of Abdul Gani Lone, who was assassinated in 2002, backed Bhat’s assertion. While Bilal Lone candidly said that, "I have no shame in admitting that I failed as a son on moralistic grounds. I should have spoken out against the murderers of my father, who was killed by some rogue elements in Kashmir in 2002," his brother Sajjad said, "I know that two gunmen from Pakistan killed my father. Whether they were acting on their own or at someone's behest, I cannot say for sure."
Though the separatists had blamed the security forces and intelligence agencies for these killings, the whole world knew that this was the handiwork of militants and this made the public suspicious of the separatist conglomerate and militant groups. Every organisation has ‘rouge elements’ and had these admissions come in the immediate aftermath of the brutal killings, the public’s faith in the separatist leadership and militant groups would not have taken a hit.
In June this year, a judicial magistrate in Kupwara refused to entertain a case-closure report filed by the Police in the Kunan- Poshpora case, which occurred in 1991 and ordered further investigations. Soon thereafter, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Wajahat Habibullah, who was Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara when this incident occurred and had carried out the inquiry, claimed that government had “deleted important portions of his confidential report” on the case. However, coming 22 years after the incident occurred, instead of alleviating the woes of the victims, this revelation has filled them with rage and indignation, leaving behind an everlasting feeling of betrayal. And this inordinate delay on Habibullah’s part has raised the same questions and doubts which the ex- interlocutor Ansari’s belated suggestion of ‘third country engagement’ in Kashmir have brought to the fore.
While the motivation of MM Ansari to now make his suggestion is difficult to fathom, in the case of Habibullah, one can find some plausible reasons. Most importantly, is the fact that re-opening the Kunan- Poshpora case will certainly put the ‘confidential inquiry’ conducted by him under the spotlight and what this report contains, is to say the least, damning, as in Habibullah’s opinion, the allegations of mass rape were “exaggerated.” So, when he is now clarifying that "I found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped. But I did not say nothing has happened. I thought perhaps the entire village had decided to say they were raped so that the victims do not have to live alone with this blot,'' it is evident that the former Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara, who is presently Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, is obviously trying to defend his questionable behaviour of the past. Reacting to his statement, the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), in a joint statement have made a scathing attack on Habibullah, observing that “Rather than protest publicly, resign, and struggle for justice, he chose to safeguard his career and continue in the service of the Indian state.”
Delay in speaking out is as good as not speaking at all and attempting to defend the indefensible only further aggravates the situation. There is no doubt that Habibullah’s ‘confidential inquiry’ report, even with portions deleted, remains an official document and in the court of law, its contents will have greater relevance as ‘evidence’ than his subsequent assertions and clarifications. In any case, portions of the report, which Habibullah claims were “deleted”, pertain to procedural recommendations on further investigations and not to the incident per se. So, if the court judgement in the Kunan- Poshpura case goes against the victims, then it is not the legal system but the ‘confidential inquiry’ which should be blamed. While such a suggestion may sound bizarre, the fact remains that law is ‘blind’ and goes purely by evidence and since 22 long years have passed, victims and witnesses recalling specific details of the incident, is humanly impossible. Thus, a good advocate can easily find ‘inconsistencies’ in the statements of the victims as well as witnesses and glibly using the opinion contained in Habibullah’s ‘confidential report’ that the allegations are “exaggerated,” dilute, if not completely demolish the case.
Tailpiece: Readers will recall the judgement delivered by Additional Sessions Judge G.P. Thareja in the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case. Noting that the "State had failed to bring home the charge of rape against the accused", the Judge said, “"Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of the doubt." Will the Kunan-Poshpora trail go the Priyadarshini Mattoo trial way? Only time will tell!
The author resides in New Delhi and can be mailed at email@example.com