Sunday, February 17, 2019
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Truth Commission - how far desirable?

By B L Saraf

Truth Commission is again making news . Earlier , former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah advanced idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in J &K ,now BJP legislators want to have a Truth Commission . They sought establishment of the Commission while staging a protest , outside the Legislative Council , in solidarity with the displaced Pandits who were observing 19th January as an “ Exodus Day ”.

Omar Abdullah had called for setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “to go into the roots of militancy ,gun culture that unfolded in the last two decades including killings , assassination of political workers , migration of Kashmiri Pandits , disappearance of persons and human rights violations .” He said that one can’t wait till last gun is silenced or last stone pelter shuns the confrontation . It was time when wounds are healed, and truth and lies are settled . BJP legislators want a Truth Commission to “ investigate the reasons for exodus of Hindus from Kashmir in 1990 .”

It is good to know the truth . But whose truth ? Well , truth may be one but different people claim it differently , convenient to their ‘ fixed view .’ It is more so ,in a conflict zone where no two persons can see one hard fact in common . It is evident . Omar Abdullah had proposed broader terms of reference for the Commission to find the truth and make an endeavor for reconciliation , BJP legislators have restricted it to a one point agenda not saying much on the reconciliation aspect .

At the time Omar Abdullah came up with the idea a comment was made through these columns . In a changed political context , much time having gone by when the announcement was made and keeping in view the quarters from where this move has resurfaced a fresh comment is desirable .

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission by definition is expected to discover and reveal past wrongdoing by the government and, depending on the circumstances, by the non state actors also , in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past . Dozens of such commissions have been set up so far in the countries ranging from Argentina and Canada to South Africa .Nelson Mandela epitomized the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa which was aimed at a constitutional compromise to arrest the continued bloodshed and heal the wounds inflicted on the black Africans by the practitioners of the apartheid.

It must be pointed out here that wide consultations among various sections of the South African society – the lawyers , human rights groups , religious communities and the members of the civil society – preceded the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC ) under a legislation, the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995. Well , it didn’t come into the existence in our state . No process got initiated ever since EX C M talked about it .

Kashmiri Pandit community has projected this demand before different fora , in the hope that the Commission will clear the community of a false charge that it left Valley on its own , in connivance with the then Governor of the State . Pandits have a reason to believe that militants were responsible for the ethnic cleansing and that they killed them , selectively . Another view is that Pakistan instigated the Kashmiri Muslims to wage a war against India and the Pandits were the first causality.

Kashmiri Muslim also argued for such a commission to prove their version on the situation . They allege that their kith and kin have disappeared, and suffer worst kind of violations of Human rights.

Omar Abdullah’s didn’t move ahead in this direction . He had left job to the Union Government , in as much he proposed to move a resolution in the State legislature to request the Union Government to proceed further in this matter . No such resolution came then , neither do we see chances of it coming now .

When Pandits are entering into the 29th year of their enforced exile it is time for all to seriously think of a way ahead to end their displacement . Governments at the Centre or in the State could provide logistics and be facilitators but the job of its return is essentially of the displaced community . It is for the community to chose the time for the return and places to return to in the Valley. For that a dispassionate and honest introspection is called for , having due regard for the elements of desirability and achievability . Mutual reconciliation within the Kashmir society and living in a composite atmosphere with malice towards none are the indispensable ingredients .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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