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Civil War & Un-civil Government


 
The 1997 report of a fact-finding mission of three Indian Egos
on human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir by Indian security forces
 

Civil Rights and Un-civil Government, a report prepared by a six member fact-finding team of three Indian non government organizations--Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (Hyderabad), Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (Mumbai), and Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (New Delhi)--reveals that Indian security forces are carrying out massive human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir. 

The team paid a week long visit to occupied territories from 26 May to 2 June 1997 and interviewed a cross-section of  people, including victims and eye-witnesses, about human rights violations committed by Indian security forces and the renegade 'Sarkari' militants. The report, which was released in September 1997,  brings forth the following facts about the prevailing situation in Occupied Kashmir: 

"The Indian armed forces feel no more restrained today than they did under Governor's rule. This is one expectation placed upon the Farooq Abdullah government that has been totally belied, according to everyone who spoke to our team. Thus, the fear of the arbitrary acts of the armed forces is as much today as it was in the past. This fear of the armed force has been compounded during the last two years by the fear of Sarkari militants. This fear, far from decreasing after the formation of the civilian government, appears to have actually increased. The 'renegade' militants operate together and many cases of killing attributed to the armed forces are in fact a joint effort. 

"The holding of elections in 1996 preceded by a game plan masterminded by Governor Krishna Rao. The plan encouraged renegades to live under the protection of Indian security forces and commit crimes at their directions. It became possible to hold Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir only due to sheer terror of renegades and the military might of security forces. The armed forces threatened the villagers that in places where polling was low, there would be crackdowns, arrests and "encounter" killings. On the day of the polling the forces and the Sarkari militants herded people at gun point to line up at the village polling booths.       

"Prior to the elections, Farooq Abdullah had promised to provide some degree of protection to the people from  high handedness of the armed forces. But hardly six months later, voices were heard from Kashmiris complaining of persistent human rights violations by the armed forces and continued terrorization by the pro-government militants. Kashmiris openly admit that things have become worse after the Farooq Abdullah government took over. On the other hand, Farooq Abdullah knows from his past experience that only those who cooperate with the Centre can survive in power in Srinagar. As such he feels obliged to take inconsistent stand in the matter of the army and their friendly criminals (renegades). 

"The team noticed that an average of 230 persons are being killed monthly in Occupied Kashmir by the security forces and the Sarkari militants. About 2000 persons have been killed so far in the custody of the security forces. During the first six months of Farooq Abdullah government, about 130 persons have died in custodial killings. Severity of the torture is no-where so barbarous as witnessed in Kashmir. The invariable result of the torture is death or permanent physical disability. 

"The fact-finding mission has objected to the government decision to regularize the unlawful services rendered by the renegades. It, in fact, means putting the stamps of law on their criminal acts against Mujahideen, journalists, lawyers, writers and human rights activists. Among other places, hospitals are frequently subjected to crackdowns by the security forces  during which doctors, paramedical staff and patients are tortured with the aid of informers. Indian army feels that atrocities committed by its men are not crimes but matters of internal discipline. 

"The normal institution of Law and Justice have no role in this matter. Complaints of rape, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse by the armed forces during counter-insurgency were reported to the team with alarming frequency. When the people affected by the violence of the security forces and the renegades resort to protest demonstrations, they are subjected to severe lathi-charge and maltreatment. 

" India has not put in sincere efforts find a political solution of the Kashmir issue. The Government has preferred to look only at the guns and not the arguments behind the guns. 

"The Sarkari militants under the patronage of Army and civil Armed Forces were used to coerce the people to vote at gun point during 1996 elections. The 1996 elections in Occupied Kashmir were engineered. Renegade militants frequently indulge in human rights violations specially while dealing with protests and strikes. There is nexus between armed forces and the pro government militants. Farooq Abdullah’s government has institutionalized the nexus by taking the Sarkari Militants into police force. Militants are also being inducted in central reserve police force and Boarder Security Force.      

" Indian army has a poor track-record of human rights. The procedure followed by the armed forces to investigate the cases of human rights violations is not fool proof. Between October 96 and July 97, 95 per cent complaints investigated by 
the army were declared baseless. The Indian army thinks that those with whom it is fighting are all anti national elements and their complaints of human rights violations are raked with malicious intent to slow down their operations in Jammu and Kashmir. 

" According to Army's estimates, the number of militants in Jammu and Kashmir is not more than 3000 to 4000, out of which only 25 per cent are said to be active. By these estimates presence  of 1 to 1.5 lakh of armed forces persons in Jammu and Kashmir justified. 

" The security forces are alleged to be  involved in human rights violations. A total of 1004 persons were killed by the security forces during the period October 96 to May 97.  The pattern of human rights violations by the security forces includes: 

Custodial Torture and Killings: Approximately 2000 persons are estimated to have been  killed in the custody of the Security Forces ever since the militancy began. The forms of  torture frequently used are beating with rifle butts lying on back and trampled by rollers, electric shocks, burning by lighted gas stoves and soaking the head in water until a person is choked to death. 

Rape: There are serious complaints of rape, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse by the Armed Forces. The team also interviewed a number of women who were molested by the security forces. 

Killings in the name of cross-fire: Killed in cross fire is the explanation offered for  retaliatory attacks on the un-armed civilians. 

Destruction of property: The report highlights various cases of burning and blasting of dwelling places, schools and cinema halls in the last six years. During 
first five months of 1997 approximately houses were blasted . 

Freedom of Expression: The protest demonstrations after a crack down are frequently lathi charged and dispersed. 

The Police Courts and the Army: The police is reluctant to take up complaints about an act of violence perpetrated by the Armed Forces. Even if a case is registered the law provides  protection to the Armed Forces by the making the prosecution contingent upon permission from the Central Government in case a writ is filed in High Court and the court directs to initiate investigation, the process is never taken to its logical conclusion, because the army refuses to cooperate. 

Recommendations 

The fact-finding mission of Indian Egos  recommended that hopes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir must be taken into account in any resolution of the Kashmir conflict. The key recommendations are

* Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and Public Safety Act must be withdrawn immediately. 

* An immediate end to all human rights violations and holding an inquiry into such violations by security forces. 

* An independent inquiry into violations of human rights by the security forces whenever these are reported. Also the need to investigate allegations of bribery and extortion by security forces and police. 

* Disarm the pro-government militants and stop their recruitment into police and the Armed Forces. 

* Every complaint of human rights violations is registered as a crime by the police and investigated without fear or favour. 

* People of proven integrity should be appointed members of the State Human rights Commission. 

* The Supreme Court's direction regarding arrest and interrogation of persons guilty of crimes should be strictly followed. 

* Compensation must be paid to the victims of the violence as is being done for the victims who have suffered in the hands of militants. 

* The Kashmir problem should be solved according to the hopes and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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