Ghosts in the Valley

SRINAGAR, India — Mohammed Yusuf, a Kashmiri farmer, doesn’t want an apology from the Indian army for accidentally killing his 14-year-old son, Burhan. Nor does he want the money it has offered as compensation.

“Am I supposed to sell my son for 10 lakh rupees [about $16,240]? Is that his going rate?” asks Yusuf, 42, sitting on the floor in his home, nestled in an area called Nowgam in the Kashmir Valley, on the outskirts of the city of Srinagar. “I would rather pay the Indian army to make the soldiers stand trial in a court and let them be punished for their crime,” he said.

But Yusuf probably won’t be able to secure a trial for his son, who was killed on Nov. 3. For decades, the pursuit of justice for crimes allegedly committed by the military has been a futile pursuit for many Kashmiris.

In part, this is because of a 56-year-old law that allows security personnel in “disturbed areas” — a broadly defined term that generally refers to any place facing unrest — to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death” to maintain public order. The law, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), gives state or federal officials the authority to deem an area disturbed. After making such a declaration, they can then order the use of armed force to protect civilians against militants. AFSPA also protects military personnel from prosecution or legal proceedings without the permission of the central government…read it at Foreign Policy.

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