Blot on the BSF Back   Home  
What is to be made of the fact that no leader of stature has thought it fit to visit the 17-year-old victim of a gang rape by BSF men, even four days after the shameful incident? As this newspaper reported, a chief minister who can spare precious time for a well-publicised jump into Dal Lake recently, does not seem to have the inclination to spare a thought for the assaulted girl. The Union home minister, L.K. Advani, apart from making periodic statements that prompt punishment will be meted out in this case, perhaps does not even realise that the girl and her family have been offered little succour. How does this gross insensitivity on the part of the political establishment square with our claim that democracy and the rule of law prevail in Jammu and Kashmir? Will incidents such as this not contribute to further alienating a people who have long nursed grievances against the armed forces for human rights violations in that state?

In fact, it is precisely crimes of this nature that Pakistan exploits to embarrass India over Kashmir. This makes it even more important that exemplary justice is done and seen to be done in this case and that this happens as quickly as possible. That process should be complemented by a proper relief package for the girl and her family. Evidence suggests that the BSF’s record in matters of punishing perpetrators of crimes such as this within their ranks is not a particularly inspiring one. It has been noted that poor investigation and the often deliberate destruction of evidence have allowed many who are guilty of massacres, torture and rape to get away unscathed, or very lightly even when they are brought to book. Therefore, while it is commendable that the BSF authorities have been prompt about arresting the three culprits after staging an identification parade and initiating court martial proceedings against them, the salutary effect of such action will only be had after the men are suitably punished.

There is an argument, often touted by the political establishment in this country, that being too scrupulous about the human rights violations of our security forces will only contribute to lowering their general morale. Implicit in this argument is the recognition that violations are bound to occur under the conditions these men function. However, many experts, some of them with army backgrounds, who have studied this problem closely are of the opinion that the morale of our fighting men is lowered precisely when a small section of the forces — and it is always the actions of a small section that cast their shadow on the entire institution — is allowed to get away with unconscionable acts. Who can, after all, justify what happened at Pahalgam last Wednesday when three BSF men, appointed to guard the local residents against the threat of the terrorist, stormed a home and perpetrated a gang rape at the point of the gun, while the victim’s family helplessly looked on? Nobody can, of course, wipe out the memories of that attack from the mind of the girl who had to suffer it, but every support — both medical and financial— must be extended to her, even as her rapists are made to atone for their heinous crime.
Editorial published in ExpressIndia's KashmirLive on April 23, 2002