Posts Tagged ‘Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958’

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013, 7:54 IST | Agency: DNA Yolande D’Mello

Kashmiri rappers have been forced underground thanks to their music that authorities have labelled ‘anti-government’. But has that stopped them? Yolande D’Mello finds out.

What does it take to ensure that people can hear your voice?

For a few Kashmiri and Palestinian youth, it takes a rap song or two.
While growing up in Srinagar, Zubair Magray was dismayed to see the way the mainstream media overlooked various human rights violations in the name of national security. Magray took to rapping and is now one of the many rappers from Kashmir who rap under stage names about the ‘real’ situation in the state.

The songs that Magray aka Haze Kay sings touch upon issues surrounding the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) but also include his personal story-telling. The music is part of a new wave of protest that takes a cue from similar protests in Palestine.

Another Kashmiri rapper Kasim Hyder aka MC Youngblood says his songs are just an attempt to give people the real picture of what happens in Kashmir. The songs are a reaction against what they see as one-sided reporting by news channels. “News channels are not telling the entire story… They just show protesting Kashmiri stone throwers but not the violence that led to it.”

Both Hyder, a student in Srinagar, and Magray, who is now studying engineering in Pune, choose to rap in English to reach out to a larger audience.

The Kashmiri youth incidentally have company in West Asia, where a Palestinian hip-hop band Da Arabian MC’s (DAM) also uses hip-hop artillery to fight a lone battle.

“Most governments and media agencies are pro-Israeli so our music was a way to tell the other side of the story,” said DAM’s Tamer Nafar.

DAM is currently touring the US. When they started out, they rapped in Arabic. Their first album with English songs is set to release in December.

It started with the second Infitada in 2000 when Suhell Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri and Tamer came together to rap. “Israeli troops would fire at Palestinian crowds but when Palestinian civilians revolted — suddenly the news channels would show up. I didn’t understand politics but I knew it was unfair,” says Nafar.

It’s the unfairness of it all that provoked Magray too. A peaceful protest in Kashmir is usually met with firing from police, he says. Following this, phone lines and Internet services are jammed so that no news can go out. “Can you imagine this happening in Mumbai?” asks Magray.

In 2010, his music was declared anti-government and the authorities started raiding recording studios he used. His friends also suggested he remove the songs he uploaded on YouTube to protect himself. The song was called Azadi.
These songs are popular among Kashmiri youth who connect with singers and their shared history.

It’s now impossible to find studios willing to record rap music in Kashmir, says Hyder. “They are scared and I don’t blame them,” he says.

But despite the clampdown, the music has not stopped thanks to technology that rappers can use to record at home. The songs are uploaded on YouTube and spread via social networking sites. Haze Kay’s latest upload was Burn the Dice last Sunday.

Hyder calls his songs a cog in the machinery to creating a noise on social media platforms online. “Who else can write about the strikes, random arrests, rape, disappearances… It is first hand information,” he says.

Young rappers also see their work as a creative expression for their angst. However, Hyder doesn’t consider himself political. He loves his music and is planning a collaboration with a few international artists. But Magray is more direct. “Music will also be a hobby.” But he wants to be able to go back and work in his hometown.

But no revolution is complete without martyrs. The rappers are often threatened with the PSA that they often refer to in their songs. This Act is used to ‘detain’ political leaders and activists, suspected members of armed opposition groups, lawyers, journalists and protesters.

Amnesty International, a global movement against human rights violations, has said that authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are using the PSA to detain individuals without sufficient evidence for a trial in order to ‘keep them out of circulation’.

 

By Niloofar Qureshi

Published: Wed, 13 March 2013 08:14 PM

 

 

The latest spurt of protests in the Valley, which commenced with the execution of Afzal Guru, got extended due to the mysterious death of a Kashmiri student in Hyderabad and has thereafter continued in the aftermath of a youth shot by the security forces in Baramulla. A ‘protest calendar’ was promptly issued and with people taking to the streets in large numbers, normal life came to a standstill, proving once again that the situation in Kashmir continues to be extremely volatile. Though the separatists must be congratulating themselves for having pulled off a major ‘victory’ through such widespread and prolonged protests, they must not forget that they had played no role in initiating the protests- they were just lucky to get repeated opportunities!
There is no doubt that unfolding events should be used for furthering the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’. However, events should not become the sole agency for the same. Though the widespread protests in the aftermath of the Afzal Guru execution, the mysterious death of the Kashmiri student studying in Hyderabad and the killing of a protester in Baramulla are certainly valid reasons for protesting, such incidents by themselves alone cannot be expected to usher in the change we desire. For, though these incidents do illustrate the sorry plight of Kashmiris, unfortunately, the international community perceives these as mere law and order problems.
While many nations and human rights bodies criticised New Delhi after the Afzal Guru hanging, the criticism was for India’s continuation of the death penalty and not even a single country questioned the legality of this execution or the way it was done. The Hyderabad suicide case too has not evoked any international response and is probably being viewed by the international community as the personal decision of an individual. The Baramulla killing also seems to have unfortunately fallen in the ‘common category’ of  the death of a protester who was shot by the security forces while discharging their ‘legitimate duty’ of maintaining law and order!
What our leaders fail to comprehend is that, in practice, the international community follows moral standards that are far removed from the high ethical values it publically proclaims to uphold. And in order to justify its own perverted sense of reasoning and depraved conscience, it has craftily coined euphemisms like “global war on terror,” “legitimate targets” and “unavoidable co-lateral damage’. Take the case of the American drone campaign in Pakistan– it is no secret that for every terrorist killed in drone attacks, scores of innocent men women and children are also being killed or maimed. Yet, no one seems to mind and though everyone admits that this is ‘unfortunate’, the ‘collective conscience’ of the international community is satisfied by the warped logic that it is simply a case of ‘unavoidable co-lateral damage’, which occurs when attacking a ‘legitimate target’ in the ‘global war against terror’!
That the ‘terrorism factor’ has also helped New Delhi in enforcing brute force in Kashmir too is no secret. While human right activists and even the UN have made repeated appeals for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), New Delhi has played the ‘terrorism’ card well to counter the same. And, since all those who matter are in some way connected in the ‘global war’ on terror, none are willing to seriously intervene. Their reluctance is understandable, since they are all ‘partners in crime’ and guilty of excesses against innocent civilians. While America cannot do so much since it has the blood of innocents on its hands from drone attacks, Pakistan, which openly espouses the ‘Kashmir cause’ cannot afford opening the ‘can of worms’ of its own murky dealings in the Tribal areas and Balochistan.
The separatists therefore need to introspect. As they have experienced the futility of violence and rightly committed themselves to peace, they should advise the people, especially the youth to refrain from violence. There is an urgent need to educate the youth about the immense power of peaceful protests. Stone pelting and occasional wrecking of public property may seem to be very mild forms of violence, but it nevertheless is. And once protesters resort to violence of any type, then the security forces get an excuse to retaliate and this often results in avoidable loss of life. It should be remembered that the ‘right to self determination’ will certainly not fall into our laps just by needlessly sacrificing our youth and the summer unrest of 2010 in which 122 precious lives were lost, is a grim reminder of this!
The next issue, which the separatist leadership needs to guard against, is to suggest that ‘armed resistance’ could be a viable alternative to the peaceful struggle. Unfortunately, in the recent past, at least two separatist leaders (who have themselves publically denounced the use violent means for achieving the ‘right to self determination’) have made such comments. We have had more than our share of violence and suffered untold miseries due to the same. Being mature and experienced, our leaders know very well that the era of effecting change through the force of arms is long over. Instigating the youth to take up arms would only make them ‘cannon fodder’ and bring more miseries upon our people without achieving anything. In fact, no one would be happier than New Delhi if this happens, as it will provide the AFSPA a new lease of life in Kashmir!
The next point relates to the lack of direction, which the current philosophy of the ‘right to self determination’ movement in Kashmir suffers from.  This is because rather than concentrating on evolving a comprehensive strategy to make it more meaningful and self-sustaining, the separatist leadership seems to be content with solely relying on reacting to incidents and events to carry it forward. In the process, the ideological movement for the ‘right to self determination’ has been reduced to merely a petty ‘agitation’ that erupts whenever acts of excesses against the public occurs and then, its business as usual, till the next such an incident takes place!
Lastly, a one must never forget that for the ‘right to self determination’ movement to succeed, patience and perseverance is essential. However, this will be a daunting task as the youth has become restive, as it has been ‘programmed’ to believe that ‘azadi’ is just round the corner! And this is where their leadership qualities of the separatists will play a very important part, as they have to convince the impatient public that such changes do not come overnight.  But once this is achieved, the ongoing movement will automatically acquire an enduring character and being ‘issue based’ rather than ‘event driven’, will surely gain the respect and support it rightfully deserves from the international community.
(The writer is a New Delhi based journalist and can be reached at: niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com)

 

AHMED ALI FAYYAZ, The Hindu

Responding to the public pressure, an Army court on Saturday decided to shift its centre of recording the statements of witnesses in the Pathribal carnage from Nagrota in Jammu to Awantipore in Kashmir valley. The court is holding trial on a chargesheet as the CBI has held a group of the Army officials guilty of killing five civilians in a fake encounter in Anantnag district in March 2000.

Even as the civilian witnesses had declined to travel to the headquarters of 16 Corps at Nagrota, the court had continued its initial proceedings in Jammu. It has finally relented to the extent of facilitating the recording of the evidences at headquarters of Victor Force at Awantipore in south Kashmir.

“Upholding the principles of justice, in a significant endeavour to facilitate timely conclusion of the case, the officer recording Summary of Evidence has been directed to move to Awantipur for recording the statements of the remaining witnesses,” an Army spokesperson said in a handout. He said that fresh summons had been issued to all the witnesses, including the family members of the five persons killed in the controversial shootout.

“Statements of 26 witnesses, including all the Army witnesses and some police as well as government officials, have been recorded so far. However, despite repeated summons issued to the civilian witnesses, they have not come forward to depose before the Army court, which is unduly delaying the judicial process”, said the handout. Recording of statements would commence from March 5.

On the night intervening March 20 and 21 in 2000, 35 male members of the Sikh community were massacred outside a Gurudwara at Chittisinghpura in Anantnag district. Four days later, officials of Rashtriya Rifles 7th battalion claimed to have killed “five foreign mercenaries” holding them responsible for the massacre. Soon, the residents of different villages developed suspicions with regard to the Army’s claim. They held demonstrations, asking the authorities to trace out the five civilians, who had been picked up in late night raids by different units of the armed forces.

As the residents’ demand grew louder with the death of seven demonstrators in firing by the men of Special Operations Group of Anantnag district police, a special investigation was ordered and all the five bodies were exhumed under magisterial supervision. Fudging of some tissue samples in a Forensic Science laboratory led to a fresh pandemonium. Finally, the investigation was assigned to the CBI.

In 2006, CBI completed its investigation and produced challan in a designated court in Srinagar. It found five Army officials responsible for stage-managing a fake encounter and claimed that the five innocent civilians had been killed so as to project them as the militants responsible for the Sikhs’ massacre.

Brig. Ajay Saxena, Lt. Col. Brajendra Pratap Singh, Maj. Sourabh Sharma, Maj. Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan were charged by the CBI with the murder of the five civilians.

However, Army put up resistance, claiming that the courts could not hold the trial without proper sanction from the government of India, as the Army in Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special powers and immunity against such prosecutions. The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir stayed the proceedings in 2007.

The CBI pleaded that it was a “cold-blooded murder” of innocent civilians and the armed forces’ special powers and immunity were restricted only to the genuine counter-insurgency operations. The Supreme Court did not agree with the CBI but directed the Army to either hold the trial in its own court or choose the option of a civil court. On September 20, 2012, Lt. Gen. A.S. Nandal, who is also GOC of 16 Corps, started hearing the CBI case after the matter was shifted from the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar to the Army court.

On January 14, 2013, the General Court Marshal asked the family members of the five deceased persons to depose at Nagrota on January 28 but they refused to travel to Jammu and expressed security concerns. Finally, the Army court decided to record rest of the witnesses’ statements in the Valley.

 

  • Musab Iqbal,

In Kunan Poshpora perhaps lie the truth of not only largest democracy, which moves on million boots, but also the secret of its non- violent conscience. The society whose conscience find no stimulation from the ‘distant’ brutality on it’s top, on it’s margin and in it’s heart.

It reminds us how the existence of oppressive power is denial of dignity to the oppressed. It reminds us of the history that is present and a past, which is not forgettable, and about the future which will emerge from the history of ruins.

The dream to come true is the dream of complete freedom from the rule of the power, which decides for itself and operates on us. The future is not known but what known is the presence of resistance; resistance against the ‘obvious’ – obvious of the power.

Can one speak after such an ordeal – a brutal operation on mind and body but then does ‘one’ remain after such a tragedy. There is no ‘one’ left – the experience transformed ‘one’ into ‘many’ and then into ‘another one’. The impossibility thus is in that very transformation whose beginning point is the singularity of the ‘collective pain’ shared by all but experienced by ‘one’. The moral of ‘one’ is then not in resistance – resistance to brutality but in the existential resistance to that very ‘other’. Resistance to the very operation of brutal has no meaning but the resistance to existence is the essence of that transformed ‘one’: Another One.

Can ones Army be imagined to rape and traumatize its own people but then we are forced to ask do army have any ‘people’ as ‘own’ people. The deployment itself is a detachment from ‘own-ness’. The police in localities of ours if catches someone, does that someone remains police’s own or not. The organized movement to traumatize ends the possibility of ‘own’ and ‘people’.

 

– 23rd February 2013, on his blog http://musab.in/

Vol – XLVIII No. 08, February 23, 2013 | Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

There have been numerous allegations of rape by the police and armed forces in the Kashmir Valley ever since insurgency began in the late 1980s, but very few cases were ever investigated, prosecutions have taken place in a negligible number, and justice delivered in none. Even when cases are registered, the legal sanction required for prosecution, as per the provisions of laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, is never accorded. The Justice Verma Committee Report has addressed sexual aggression in confl ict areas such as Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and the north-east, where women’s bodies have been used as instruments of war by paramilitary forces, but can we hope for a change on the ground?

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (anusaba@gmail.com) is Executive Editor, Kashmir Times and a human rights activist based in Jammu and Kashmir.

Last month when the 600 page- Justice Verma Committee Report, suggesting not just the amendments in the criminal laws dealing with sexual assault, but challenging the very core of patriarchal power structures came out, it kindled some hope among feminist groups and groups working for rights of the marginalised communities including in the conflict areas.

In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), barring the Sangh parivar and the armed forces, the report was by and large welcomed for its path-breaking recommendations on amendment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to exclude personnel accused of sexual offences from immunity, from being prosecuted in a civil court, provided by this special law and also for recommending a complete review of the AFSPA. However, there was also a guarded scepticism with which the state, particularly the Valley, the worst hit by the impunity provided to men in uniform under AFSPA, responded. The social networking sites were filled with discussions with phrases like “too good to be true”, “doesn’t look like it will be implemented” or “don’t forget, Justice Verma is also the man who upheld the legal constitutional validity of AFSPA in a Supreme Court judgment in 2011”.

Historical Scepticism

The scepticism has a historical background as Kashmiris have been witness to promises and lip sympathy that never get translated into action in the last over six decades. From Nehru’s promise of plebiscite to Narasimha Rao’s “sky is the limit” assurance, from Vajpayee’s peace process to Manmohan Singh’s promise of zero tolerance to human rights abuse, in the collective memories of people in the Valley everything that sounds good is followed by disaster on the ground.

The historical inherent scepticism apart, there were valid reasons why the Justice Verma Committee Report would not generate enough optimism in the Valley. The state has always responded with a kind of obsessive protectiveness when it comes to saving the neck of the security personnel including the local police which does not enjoy impunity under AFSPA as happened in the Shopian rapes and murders of 2009 and the over 120 killings in 2010, in which police stand indicted but unchallenged by instruments of law. There is a belief that the government will find a way to wriggle out of at least this part of the Verma panel report to keep up with the tradition of going out of the way to protect men accused of human rights abuse including sexual offences. And so when on 1 February 2013 the central government came up with a hurried ordinance without the major provisions of the Verma report, given the presidential nod two days later to become a law for the next 18 days till Parliament could debate it, for the sceptics in the Valley it was a vindication of their cynicism. The Valley slipped back into its pessimism after a short-lived glimmer of half-hearted hope.

Sealed Fate of Rape Cases

At the core of this pessimism lies the sealed fate of the cases of rapes and molestations at the hands of security forces and the untold stories of similar harassment, buried behind the fear of stigma and ostracisation or lack of access to institutions of justice as also the shoddy legitimisation of such acts of sexual violence in the name of “national interest”, “counter-insurgency”, “in the line of duty” and “upholding the morale of the security forces” who enjoy blanket impunity for acts that cannot be justifiably defended. From the infamous gang rapes of Kunan Poshpora in 1990 to Shopian’s spine-chilling double rapes and murders, and the equally shocking cover-up by official investigating agencies, two decades of insurgency and counter-insurgency period in J&K are littered with cases that exemplify the victimisation and vulnerability of women in a militarised conflict.

There is a complete denial of the same in official circles and according to a former J&K director general of police (DGP), as stated in 2009, there are only 10 cases of rape reported by security forces. A publication of the United Nations, however, puts the number of rapes by security forces at 882 in 1992 alone. A report of the Human Rights Watch in 1994, stating that there was high incidence of rapes in Kashmir, documents the use of rape as a means of targeting women whom the security forces accuse of being militant sympathisers. The report also gives a detailed account of how in raping them the forces attempt to punish and humiliate an entire community.

Rape as a Weapon

One case of mass rapes in Shopian in 1992 typifies the official response. A government statement on the case maintains, “two of the women alleged to have been raped were wives of terrorists, viz, Takub Hussain, a platoon commander of Hizbul Mujahideen and Mohd Yakub a group commander of the same militant group”. Asia Watch maintains that one of the ways security forces in Kashmir use rape is as a weapon against women suspected of being sympathetic to or related to alleged militants. While we do not know whether such suspicions motivated the soldiers responsible for the rapes of these women, it is clear that the authorities intend to use the accusation that the women associated with “terrorists” – both to discredit the women’s testimony and implicitly at least shirk responsibility for the abuse. When countered with the Asia Watch report, the police officials maintain that Asia Watch has its own agenda to put the security forces in a bad light. The allegations, mentioned by Asia Watch, do not figure anywhere in the official records.

The manner in which official data on rapes in conflict is collated illustrates the callousness, deliberate or conditioned by an inherent prejudice. Statistics compiled by the crime branch of police states 936 women were killed by militants since 1990. One hundred and twenty-five of them were abducted and killed. Another 132 women were abducted and freed and many of these were also raped, though no numbers are as yet compiled. However, the cases of rapes by security forces are not even acknowledged. A top police officer some years ago maintained, there are only 20 cases of rapes registered since 1990 against security forces in which four cases were proved and 14 security men were punished. DGP Kuldeep Khoda in 2009, faced by the outrage over Shopian twin rapes and murders, reduced this number to 10.

Farce of Inquiries

While only a fraction of the cases of rape and sexual violence by armed forces are discussed in media and academic circles, the official denial continues, followed or aided by the farce of inquiries, probes and reports that are one-sided or never see the light of the day. The normal process of the law, starting with registering of a formal complaint in the police station, followed by a trial, is not the norm. The case is either simply hushed up or even if there is a magisterial probe, or an inquiry by a retired judge or a court martial proceeding – all in a bid to respond to public anger – they end up as an eyewash. The cases where the armed forces claim to have taken action in the courts of inquiry remain a poor joke, all at the expense of the trauma of the victim and her further ostracisation from society. In May 1990, Mubina Gani, a bride being taken along with her bridegroom and baratis after the marriage was solemnised, was raped in south Kashmir by the Border Security Force (BSF). Her aunt accompanying the marriage party was raped too. One man was killed and several wounded. A government inquiry held the BSF men guilty but the latter were never prosecuted. However, a BSF staff court of inquiry that held the men guilty “suspended seven men”. Normally, a person convicted for rape could get up to 10 years in prison if the normal Indian legal procedures are followed.

In yet another case, in November 2004, when a mother-daughter duo was allegedly raped by an army major in Handwara-Badar Payein, the case simply ended in an internal army enquiry which held the major “guilty of misconduct”. While these words were misleading, the post-mortem reports in the case were never really made public. The government inquiries are neither made public nor followed up with the security forces. The courts of inquiry by the security agencies, even if they hold their own men guilty, never punish them adequately. The maximum punishment given is suspension, or no more than the remark of “severe displeasure” gets recorded.

In a negligible number of cases, prosecution takes place. In none of them has justice been delivered. In some cases where the government has ordered inquiries mostly under judicial magistrates, or where security forces order their own court of inquiries, the findings and punishments are not made public, leaving victims to believe that such abuse is committed with impunity. The security forces are just not held accountable, and in many instances cases are not even registered against them. Even when cases are registered, the legal sanction required for prosecution, as per the provisions of laws like AFSPA, is never accorded.

Significant to Conflict Areas

This is why the Justice Verma Committee Report is significant with respect to Kashmir and other conflict areas since it looks into sexual aggression of a different kind in places like Kashmir, north-east and Chhattisgarh, where women’s bodies have been instruments of war by the paramilitaries which are supposed to protect them. The panel not only outright rejects the impunity that the soldiers enjoy for sexual offences and calls for an amendment in the law to exclude the mandatory central government sanction for prosecution of such offenders, maintaining that they need to be straightaway tried in the civil court of law, it also questions the very utility of the AFSPA that gives the armed forces this clause of massive impunity. The panel has called for a complete review of the law and significantly points out, “It must be recognised that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country”. In doing so it has questioned the very biased role of the State in a place like J&K and has placed sexual violence in the centrality of the AFSPA discourse, which has been missing even from a Kashmiri perspective.

There has been strong opposition to the draconian law imposed in the state in 1990 owing to the pattern of impunity it offers to the armed forces for torture, killings, fake encounters, custodial killings, custodial disappearances and rape. Women activists have been at the forefront challenging AFSPA. However, protests are much more feeble in cases of rapes and molestations, where a woman is seeking justice for herself, than over cases of torture and custodial killings or missing youth, where women come forward not just in the traditional role of mothers, daughters and sisters, but also enter the public domain as household heads. Kashmiri society may have to look inward to challenge the centrality of this patriarchal set-up which not only sets the limits of women entering the political domain in the role of agitationists, also for challenging the “honour” discourse, often with the binaries of “us” and “them” that encourages sexual violence to be seen from the prism of stigma and forbids greater participation of women in seeking justice for the surviving victims.

Though sexual violence has not been central to the discourse challenging AFSPA, opposition to it is something that lies at the core of the human rights movement in J&K. For this reason, any move to revoke the law, or challenge some of its demeaning provisions would be welcomed by and large in the state, particularly in the Valley. The Criminal Laws Amendment Ordinance 2013 in no way matches the Justice Verma Committee Report. Silence on AFSPA is only one of the differences. However, the report is yet to be placed before Parliament for formulation of a final law; so it is still too premature to conclude that the government would try its best to exclude the recommendations related to AFSPA, though the haste with which the ordinance was brought about when Parliament session was less than a month away raises doubts. The recent statements of Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar that carried an implicit approval of rape in “the line of duty” and another by Union Finance Minister P C Chidambaram that broad consensus is needed to accept the recommendations on the review of AFSPA further strengthen these doubts. Chidambaram’s more recent remarks at a public lecture that it is difficult to challenge AFSPA because of the army’s opposition strengthen this scepticism. Yet, hypothetically, if AFSPA-related recommendations are incorporated into the proposed law, would it make any difference to Kashmir?

Any hypothetical outcome would depend on how the J&K state government implements the provisions of this law. By virtue of the special status accorded to the state, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not apply to J&K, which has its own equivalent Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) and so amendments carried out in the IPC have not been adopted in the RPC. Any law legislated by Parliament or any amendments carried out in the existing laws are not automatically extended to J&K. It is also not legally binding upon the state government to incorporate them. In most probability, the state government would review its own existing laws dealing with sexual offences. An exercise to this extent has already begun with the state government on 6 February announcing a committee to enter into consultations with various groups and stakeholders as well as study the Justice Verma Committee Report. The panel headed by the state’s advocate general was to submit its report within a week’s time, according to official spokesperson. The state’s law department has also sought suggestions from law experts, civil society members and academicians. But while the initiative has not been much publicised for encouraging holistic public participation, one week is too short a period for inviting and studying such suggestions and then finalising a report.

At the time of writing, the State’s Commission for Women (SCW), a highly politicised body headed by a member of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, is the only one that is known to have so far responded to the law department with suggestions regarding amendments to the state law. The contents of its suggestions are not known, but the only public statement made by the SCW called for harsher laws like death penalty and chemical castration, which goes against the grain of the Verma Committee Report. The composition of the committee formed by the J&K’s law ministry to review the criminal laws dealing with sexual offences itself is problematic. How does one expect a body comprising government functionaries minus any women representation to either challenge the patriarchy that endorses the culture of rape or the might of the state that protects the culprit by subverting the process of justice?

These might not be the only flaws with the state government’s exercise which has a record of raising the bogey of special status of the state to thwart and oppose people-friendly central laws, though exceptions are made when it comes to laws like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). J&K was the first state in the country to implement POTA. It was under pressure that the J&K government framed its own Right to Information Act but in a diluted form. Later amendments that strengthened the Act a bit were modified again last year to further weaken it. Despite tremendous pressure, the state government is neither able to incorporate the provisions of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution, providing for decentralisation of powers to the grass roots, nor frame an equivalent state law. The state government has also been stonewalling the Lokayukta in J&K on grounds that the state has its own state accountability law, which stands diluted and looks like a hollowed-out clone of the Lokayukta.

Conclusions

Given the background and tradition of hostility to introducing people-friendly laws and the hasty and clumsy manner in which a committee has been framed with a deadline of a week for studying recommendations and framing a suitable report, it is difficult to presume that the state government would come out with a law matching the Verma panel recommendations. It might in all probability be a cut and paste of the Ordinance 2013, which has omitted AFSPA and most other suggestions that challenge the patriarchal order that lies at the core of sexual offences and the might of the state that stonewalls an effective legal justice system through procedural protocols to be followed in investigations and medical examinations and calls for penalisation of cops guilty of dereliction of duty in responding to complaints of rape and other sexual assault.

So even if the central law eventually incorporates the suggestions related to AFSPA as recommended by the Verma Committee, unless the state law is adequate enough to ensure an effective legal justice mechanism and is powerful enough to challenge patriarchy (patriarchy being central to how rape is placed within the paradigm of honour and encourages a tendency to stigmatise the survivors) so that survivors can freely report complaints of sexual assault, it is unlikely that the armed forces personnel charged of the crimes would be adequately penalised. The state has appropriated enough power to give full protection to the culprits in uniform overtly or covertly with all-out efforts made to hide facts and even tamper with evidence. The state police personnel, not covered under AFSPA, accused of rapes are already being shielded through methods like hushing up cases at the medical examination level, tampering evidence, delaying the basic documentation of the case, refusing to register cases, sending in state-sponsored teams or the highly influenced Central Bureau of Investigation to probe such cases.

Such methods employed for obfuscating and burying the truth have already been used in the Shopian rapes and murders of 2009 to the extent of sending the proactive judge of the high court, at whose intervention the arrests of the police officers he held guilty of tampering with evidence if not committing the rapes and murders were made, on a transfer to Sikkim. They have also been employed in cases where the armed force personnel are involved. In the Kunan Poshpora rapes of February 1991, in which over 30 women and children were allegedly gang-raped by soldiers of the fifth Rajputana rifles, no formal complaint was lodged. A local magistrate was called for investigation, but authorities in Delhi vehemently denied the incident without even verifying with local officials. A police investigation was never carried out.

The absence of adequate documentation of such cases would make any fair trial in all these cases of sexual abuse very difficult, even if it is assumed that the lawmakers at the centre and in J&K are able to frame the best of laws. The union law ministry in maintaining that the Ordinance 2013 will have no bearing on the Delhi bus gang rape having come into being after the Act also betrays the impossibility of a hypothetical diluted AFSPA being used with retrospective effect. Justice in the known cases of rapes by men in uniform will, in that case, remain elusive. In all probability, the security forces and the politicians, who have enabled the armed forces to trample women’s right to safety, security and dignity will continue to do so without being accountable, despite the painstaking efforts of the three-member Verma Committee.

 

Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)
Cordially invites you

for a
Public Meeting/Discussion
On
“Impunity for Alleged Perpetrators and Quest for Justice in Jammu & Kashmir”
On the 24th Jan 2013, Thursday
Between 1pm—5pm at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi.

Speakers and Discussants:
Pervez Imroz, Arundhati Roy, Nivedita Menon, Karthik.

Asish Gupta & D. Manjit
Secretaries, PUDR

(N.B: Please see the following statement of PUDR)

People’s Union for Democratic Rights
Press Statement

PUDR welcomes study on ‘Alleged Perpetrators’ on the culture of impunity in Jammu & Kashmir. Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) welcomes the release of the
study “Alleged Perpetrators” by the International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK) and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)   on the culture of impunity ubiquitous in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. PUDR acknowledges that this is the first ever study in India which has broken the cover of anonymity which protects the perpetrators by raising the principle of ‘individual criminal responsibility’ which is well established under International Criminal Law starting with Nuremburg Trials and several UN tribunals.

Equally it raises the principle of Command Responsibility and principle of Joint Criminal Enterprise which too forms part of International Criminal Law. The Indian State ‘authorizations’ to armed forces to carry out every kind of operation, often without adherence to laws and norms under draconian legislations such as AFSPA  on the pretext of combating militant violence while simultaneously being in breach of bringing India’s domestic laws in line with International Conventions such as against Torture, Enforced Disappearance and Genocide compounds the impunity extended to India’s security forces because certain crimes are non-justiciable under Indian’s domestic law.

The study exposes the state of impunity through a study of 214 cases, using information garnered from official State documents. The documents include FIRs, statements before police and /or magistrates, police final reports, High Court petitions, objections, other documents forming a part of the court record such as compliance reports, status report, judicial enquiries, SHRC documents from complaints to objections, police submissions and final orders; the documents in custody of the State itself arraign the armed forces and the police of culpability in specific crimes. But the study also supplements these documents with testimonies of victims and other witnesses.

The study successfully refutes the claim of the Indian state that commission of crimes is an aberration than policy. It indicts the Indian State for pursuing a policy which engenders the state of impunity by listing 500 individual perpetrators, which include 235 army personnel, 123 paramilitary personnel, 111 Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel and 31 Government backed militants/associates. The list of perpetrators includes 2 Major Generals, 3 Brigadiers, 9 Colonels, 3 Lt. Colonels, 78 Majors and 25 captains of the Indian army as well as 2 Additional Director Generals of central para-military forces, 2 DIGs and 12 commandants. It also indicts a DG of Police and a serving IG of police.

The study shows how State violence is institutionalized through a culture of institutional impunity to the state forces where the police, the judiciary and other organs of the government perpetuate the state of human rights violation. This has resulted in enforced and involuntary disappearance of an estimated 8000 persons, besides more than 70,000 deaths, and disclosures of more than 6000 unknown, unmarked and mass graves as of November 2012. There is hardly any prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators. The unwillingness of the Indian State is revealed in the mass grave issue where the Kashmir Home Department on 19 October, 2012 expressed inability to carry out DNA tests because there are no more than “15-16 recognised labs in the Government as well as Private Sector”.  And then turns the entire issue into a farce when they ask that the blood relative should indicate “with fair amount of certainty the exact location of the graveyard and the grave”!

The study highlight that the state structure specifically sanctions commission of crimes through provisions such as the system of cash incentives, awards and out of turn promotions for anti-militancy operations, and prioritizing for the victims the system of monetary compensation over justice. The venerable Supreme Court has also ended up shielding criminals by upholding in the Pathribal fake encounter case denial of sanction for prosecution under AFSPA thereby raising yet another wall to protect the perpetrators.

The recent Universal Periodic Review by UN agency tasked with human rights, on India, revealed that Indian Government has rejected 67 recommendations out of 168 made by the committee which had among other things asked the Indian State to repeal AFSPA, and to ratify and bring domestic laws in accordance with International Convention Against Torture, Enforced Disappearance and Genocide. This blatant refusal by the Indian state currently engaged in taking its claim to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council only lends credence to the study which concluded by indicting India State and establishing that victims of armed conflicts stand little chance to get justice from Indian state institutions because they are themselves implicated in the perpetuation of impunity.

PUDR in extending solidarity with IPTK/APDP demands:
•         Adherence to domestic and international obligations and punishment to all perpetrators of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
•         Withdrawal of security related legislations that are in contravention of international humanitarian laws and norms.
•         Ratification of Convention Against Torture, Convention Against Genocide and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by the Government of India.

Asish Gupta and D. Manjit
(Secretaries)

 

With two years remaining for Assembly elections in the state, Abdullah said he will approach the Centre again and make a case for partial withdrawal of the AFSPA

J&K CM Omar Abdullah hands a cheque to a worker in Srinagar. PTI photo

Jammu (PTI): Pushing for partial lifting of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Monday 7 January asked all stakeholders concerned to shed rigidity to help take a decision based on the ground situation and for the benefit of people of the state.

“It’s surprising that whenever we have talked about lifting of AFSPA, certain vested interests have been working overtime and making projections as if we want it to be removed from the entire state whereas we want it to be lifted from certain parts only,” Omar, who completed four years as the head of the National Conference-Congress coalition government Sunday, said.

With two years remaining for Assembly elections in the state, 42-year-old Omar said he will again approach the Centre and make a case for partial withdrawal of the AFSPA.

“It was never a political issue or an emotional argument from us. Our stand has always been based on sound logic and a realistic assessment of the ground situation,” he said.

Questioning the claims of ‘vested interests’ that partial withdrawal of AFSPA will see a rise in militancy, the chief minister asked “whom are they trying to fool? This is an insult to the Army and other security agencies who are manning the border. Those propagating such an idea indirectly mean that Army is doing nothing. This is an absolute misinformation campaign launched to demoralise the Army, CRPF and state police.”

“First and foremost I never advocated lifting it from areas close to the Line of Control or so. I have suggested that it could be lifted from areas like Srinagar and Jammu cities,” Omar said in reply to a question about apprehensions that the areas, where the AFSPA will be withdrawn, would become a safe haven for terrorists.

Asked about the response for his attempts so far on the AFSPA issue, the Chief Minister said, “We have not been successful but this does not mean that we should not try. We are trying and I know for sure that something positive will emerge.”