Road to justice for Pandits beyond ‘The Kashmir Files’

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New Delhi–Longing for justice for over three decades, just two months ago, the original inhabitants of Kashmir — the Kashmiri Pandits — completed 32 years of pain and mistrust on January 19.

The pointless debates, virtual scuffles, allegations, counter allegations, “it was Jagmohan”, “No, it was Farooq Abdullah” — the as expected discussions swarmed the television channels, just like every year.

Warring camps accused each other and the dust settled in a day. After a day-long brainstorming debate, people forgot everything and the election fever took over the talks of sufferings of the Pandits.

Then, on March 11, Vivek Agnihotri-directed ‘The Kashmir Files’ hit the screens, yet again, starting the same cycle of discussions sans the most vital point of ‘justice’.

But this time, something was different. The movie shook the sleeping consciousness of the country to its core and day after day it became the talk of the town.

The film depicted the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in a quite blunt way.

Director Agnihotri says that several movies had been made on Kashmir after the advent of terrorism, but they usually “romanticised terrorism” and never spoke about the atrocities on the Kashmiri Hindus.

There is no doubt that the film gave the countrymen a glimpse of what exactly happened in the northernmost state of India in late 80s and early 90s. But will a movie give justice to the terror-hit minority community? Agnihotri has played its part, now the ball is in the government’s court, though it always was!

But over three decades have passed since the original inhabitants of Kashmir faced brutal atrocities. So why not the cases be investigated now?

Delving further deep into the legalities of securing justice for the Kashmiri Pandit community, IANS contacted some legal minds that pointed ways that may lead the migrants on the path of justice.

“It is a fact that Kashmiri Pandits were kidnapped, physically assaulted, raped, bruttally murdered and the genocide happened. And what if 30 years have passed. As far as the right to justice is concerned, there is no time limit for it,” said Supreme Court Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay.

Upadhyay told IANS that the victims of the “Hindu genocide in Kashmir” should first approach the head of the State where the attrocities were commited against them i.e., Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.

“It would be more appropriate if victims approach the LG, rather than social activists or politicians,” the advocate averred.

Upadhyay said the Kashmiri Pandits should demand an NIA investigation from the J&K LG.

“I believe it will be the most effective investigation as there is massive violence and foreign funding,” the lawyer said.

As the Kashmiri Pandit community is now displaced in every part of the country, Upadhyay said they can at least send a mail, if they are not able to physically meet the LG Sinha.

“And if LG does not reply or act on the request, then they must approach the High Court directly,” he said, adding if HC also does not provide them any relief, then they may move the Supreme Court then.

“I am ready to fight Kashmir Genocide Case in the Supreme Court, free of cost,” Upadhyay noted.

Notably, not every member of the Pandit community faced physical brutality, yet the exodus had its impact on the migrants in different ways.

In that case, the Supreme Court lawyer said the injury is not always physical, “it can be social, financial and mental trauma as well”.

“Even issuing a death threat is a crime chargeable under section 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and all Hindus left because they were threatened,” he said.

But how will a minority community member gather evidence after 30 years? Upadhyay responded, “See the evidence is of two types — one is materialistic evidence and the other is circumstantial evidence. Important is to secure justice, the Courts might also go by circumstantial evidence. Similarly, although there is no Law on Narco Polygraph and Brain Mapping but considering it an exceptional case, the court may direct the narco polygraph and brain mapping test of the accused and based on the result, the court can pass the judgment.”

For readers to understand: Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact.

While speaking to IANS, another Delhi-based lawyer Vineet Jindal said the Pandits, who are now displaced and are currently residing in different parts of the country may also use the option of ‘Zero FIR’.

A zero FIR does not bear a serial number instead it is assigned a number “0”. It is registered irrespective of the area where the offence has been committed. After the police station registers Zero FIR, it transfers it to the jurisdictional police station where the offence has occurred.

Advocate Jindal, who is also a social activist, had just a day ago, written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking to re-open cases related to ‘massacre’ of Kashmiri Pandits and constitute a special investigation team to thoroughly investigate the cases reported up till now.

“The government should provide a platform to the victims who were unable to report their cases at that particular time due to unfavourable circumstances existing then,” Jindal told IANS.

He said that 215 FIRs had been registered and the cases were investigated by Jammu and Kashmir Police but no concrete results ensuring justice were drawn out of the investigation.

“Therefore, it surely builds a doubt about the kind of investigation that was done for these FIRs and the Union government too failed to take any measures to ensure justice to the families of victims,” he added.

Jindal further said that the justice was not only meant for the registered cases rather there were numerous cases which were left unregistered due to the circumstances that were unfavourable for the victims making them incapable of reporting the incident or producing evidence for the said incident.

“In such a shattering situation, the onus of investigation and punishing the culprits of the massacre largely lied upon the police officials of the Jammu and Kashmir and administration but even after a period of 30 years, no effective results have been yielded in any of the cases registered or not registered,” the lawyer asserted.

He also said that the people who were victims of the disastrous incidents (Kashmiri Pandits genocide) were in a state of physical, emotional and mental trauma and struggling for their livelihood for past many years and were not in a state to get their complaints registered, statements recorded and therefore are devoid of an opportunity to justice.

Meanwhile, the Pandit community, though satisfied with the fact that at least their plight is no more hidden from the people, yet, awaits justice with a bated breath and moist eyes! (IANS)

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