Posts Tagged ‘Border Security Force’

Investigate Border Security Force Actions
July 19, 2013

(New York) – The Indian [2] government should appoint an independent commission to promptly and transparently investigate the killing of four protesters by Border Security Force (BSF) troops in Jammu and Kashmir state, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should act to end the BSF’s longstanding impunity for large numbers of killings over many years.

The unclear circumstances resulting in the deaths of four protesters, and the wounding of nearly a dozen more people, highlight the urgency of an independent inquiry. The BSF reported that on July 18, 2013, in Ramban district, its troops interrogated a local resident who it said “made baseless and false allegations about being mistreated.” After protesters gathered and “started stone pelting vigorously on the BSF post,” troops fired at the protesters in self-defense, the BSF said.

Local residents allege that BSF soldiers entered a mosque during a search operation and were rude and disrespectful to the mosque staff. When unarmed protesters gathered at the post, the BSF troops called for police support. The security forces then opened fire on the protesters, the local residents said.

“The loss of life at the Ramban mosque needs a prompt investigation by an independent commission,” said Meenakshi Ganguly [3], South Asia director. “Any finding of illegal use of force by BSF troops should result in prosecutions. Too often the BSF’s version of events is simply accepted, allowing killing after killing for which no one is held to account.”

Senior Indian officials have responded appropriately to the incident, but need to follow up with action, Human Rights Watch said. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that it is “highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters.” Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has promised an investigation and said that “any use of excessive force or irresponsible action will be dealt with strictly.” Previous investigations of BSF abuses have often been delayed and prosecutions stalled.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented [4] misbehavior and serious human rights violations by BSF troops along the Bangladesh border. The border guards, who are deployed to prevent infiltration, trafficking, and smuggling, had engaged in numerous cases of unlawful use of force, arbitrary detention, and torture, and killed over a thousand Indian and Bangladeshi nationals. The BSF was ordered to exercise restraint and use rubber bullets instead of live ammunition, which led to a decrease in the number of people fatally injured, though unlawful killings continue.

The government has repeatedly failed to prosecute BSF personnel responsible for serious abuses. Inquiries by the National Human Rights Commission receive a standard response that fatalities occurred when troops had to fire in self-defense.

Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to publicly order the security forces to follow the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The Basic Principles state that security forces shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms,” and that “whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; (b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life.” Furthermore, “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”

Since the shootings, violent protests have broken out in several parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and authorities have imposed curfews in some areas. Human Rights Watch called on organizers of protests to take steps to deter supporters from engaging in violence, including attacks on law enforcement officers.

Security forces sometimes react with gunfire when outnumbered by an angry crowd, which is why they need to be properly trained in nonlethal crowd control methods,” Ganguly said. “Incidents that end in shootings are not only terrible for all those involved, but set the stage for unnecessary bloodshed in the future.”


 

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By Izhar Nazir Ali, Kashmir reader

Published: Sun, 06 January 2013

 

Pattan: It was a chilly January morning. Flakes of snow had just started descending from the overcast sky. Like every day, Ali Mohammad, then 52, moved his coach to ferry passengers. By the time the bus reached near Sopore town, and Mohammad lifted his foot from the accelerator, it had turned into a mobile mortuary. Glass pieces spread over the floor, seats drenched in blood, bodies piled up. Fifteen dead and many injured. Mohammad was the only survivor in the ill-fated bus as the tragic day in the bloody history of Kashmir came to be known as the Sopore massacre of January 6, 1993. At least 45 unarmed civilians were killed in cold blood—many reports put the toll at 54—and about 350 shops set ablaze by paramilitary BSF men to avenge the killing of two of their colleagues by militants earlier in the day.
Twenty years after the event, Mohammad says the “carnage will haunt me till death. Many years have passed but I can still hear the screams of innocent people. I remember the face of a former bus conductor who was talking to me before he was shot dead. I can’t forget another youth who was gunned down outside the cinema when he ran for his life. I can’t forget how people entered the shops to save their lives but were charred alive,” 72-year-old Mohammad told Kashmir Reader at his modest single storey house in north Kashmir’s Pattan town.
Narrating the events of the day that saw Valley exploding with anger, Mohammad, who was then a driver with government-run State Road Transport Corporation, said: “Around 11 am that day, as usual I moved the coach (JKY/1901) from bus stand to Bandipore district. With dozens of passengers onboard, I had to abruptly stop the vehicle on reaching the town square. The people were running. No one knew what was going on. In the meantime, a BSF party carrying an injured trooper passed by.”
“Boondh daalo saalon ko (kill all these…),” the officer leading the party, Mohammad said, ordered his men. “We were silently watching troopers firing in all directions. Suddenly karakulli cap of my friend Abdur Rashid, the former conductor, fell down. I bowed to pick it up. In the meantime, a bullet smashed the front window of the bus. I got up and saw Rashid dead. Within seconds, two BSF men boarded the bus from the front and the rear doors and started firing indiscriminately at the passengers. The cries for mercy and screams of the civilians went unheard in the bursts of gunfire.”
As the guns were booming, Mohammad says, he quickly jumped out from the driver’s door and crawled to take shelter in the nearby Samad Talkies, an erstwhile cinema. Outside, he said, two BSF men were firing on the civilians “as if the victims were flies.”
“A young boy ran in front of me. He too was shot dead by the troopers. I don’t know how I survived. I don’t know why BSF men didn’t notice me while I was running towards the cinema.”
Mohammad’s belief that the cinema was a safe place was proven wrong. “Scores of men, women and children who had taken refuge inside the hall were crying for help after the cinema was set on fire by the troopers. The flames dashed hopes of our survival. We just gave up. We thought our end was near. Suddenly, I noticed there was a window in the rear that led to a graveyard. We smashed the window and ran to save our lives.”
When the dust settled, Mohammad says he revisited the spot in the evening to retrieve his vehicle. “When I boarded the bus, I saw glass spread all over. Blood drenched seats. It was a horrible scene. I just fled away leaving the vehicle there.”
After the massacre, Mohammad says, he boarded a Srinagar-bound bus that was coming from the frontier Kupwara district. On reaching near Sopore bridge, the BSF men, he says dragged the passengers from bus and thrashed them savagely.
“They didn’t spare anyone. They thrashed men, women and children with batons and rifle butts. They were angry over the death of their colleague. However, for them the slaughter of 54 civilians didn’t matter at all,” he adds.
Back home, Mohammad’s village was in mourning as news had spread about his death in the massacre. “My name had figured in the list of martyrs. My colleagues and officials had thought I was dead. They even visited my house to offer condolences to my family,” he says.
“Incidentally, a man had died in my village. My colleagues and officials came and offered prayers at his grave presuming it to be mine,” he adds with a smile.
Mohammad says the events of January 6,’93 left an “indelible mark on my heart and mind.”
“Since then, I haven’t visited Sopore. I don’t drive anymore. I shouldn’t be alive. I survived thrice on that day. Some divine help saved me from the clutches of death,” he add

Four Sons of Jana Begum

A MOTHER’S TRAGEDY

MAJID MAQBOOL, Greater Kashmir

SRINAGAR, SUNDAY, 17,MUHARRAM 1434 AH ; 02 DECEMBER 2012 CE

 

Sitting near the window of her modest home in Diver, Lolab, 120kms north of Srinagar, Jana Begum, 51, emptily stares around, heaving long sighs of “haye meray Khuda”, before talking about what she has lost in the past sixteen years: four sons killed, including her husband, all of them by STF (Special Task Force) and Army in Kupwara.
Jana Begum can no longer bring herself to weep now. Tears have dried up in her sunken eyes that speak of immense pain. Sometimes, when she looks at you while talking about her sons, it seems as if she is looking through you. She now survives on medicine she can’t name. She seems indifferent to what is happening around her. But talk about her sons and she remembers and recounts, in a calm and composed voice, how and when her sons were killed one by one. She recalls little details of the days when they left home, one after another, never to return. She narrates how her husband was tortured, and how he latter died at home, unable to survive the torture wounds inflicted on his body.
Does she want justice after all these years?
Will the killers of her sons and husband be ever brought to book?
Is she even hopeful of getting justice now?
Whenever Jana Begum is asked such questions, she answers them by asking another question:
“koun sa insaaf mileaga ab itnay saal baed?”(What justice will I get now after all these years?)
Ask her about the photos of her sons, and Jana brings out a framed large size colored photo. The photo is a mosaic of five small pictures: three small photos of dead bodies of her three sons, a picture of her young son and that of her husband when they were alive. Below the photo is inscribed in bold, capital red letters, “FOUR SONS OF JANA BEGUM.”
While holding the framed photo in front of her, she narrates the story of each small picture. It’s the story of murder, of torture, disappearance and harassment and injustice, and immense pain. In between narrating the painful stories of the loss of her three sons and her husband, she tenderly rubs the family portrait with her hands. The photo is too painful to be looked at for long.
One night in the year 1996, Jana’s first son, 20-year-old Muhammad Lateef War, a student in a Darul Uloom in Lal Bazar, Srinagar was repairing his watch in the kitchen of his home.  At nine in the evening a shot rang out from the window. Some armed men, which Jana believes to be some STF and BSF personnel, shot her son.  “The bullet pierced him from one side and left him dead,” says his mother. At a young age Jana says her beloved son had memorized the whole Quran. He was a Hafiz Quran.
Two of her sons, Muhammad Sharif and Bhaktiyaar War, both in their early twenties, were arrested from Bohama in Kupwara by STF while they were travelling to Srinagar in 1998. They had to join back their madrassa in Lal Bazaar after their vacations were over. “We later heard that they were brought down from the bus and taken away by STF in a vehicle,” says Jana. “We came to know after four days that they have been killed.”
Jana says when they came to know that in Kupwara some “militants from Pakistan” have been killed, they rushed there and found the clothes of her sons hung from a walnut tree. They were not shown the dead bodies of the “militants” by the police. “We recognized them from their clothes,” she recalls. “The Task Force had shown some guns recovered from them that were placed near their dead bodies.” In the FIR registered in the Kupwara police station, Jana says her sons were shown as “foreign militants.”
Jana’s elder son, Muhammad Sharifuddin War, 25, mysteriously disappeared one day in 2000. After finishing his Quranic studies from Deoband, UP, he had returned home and was teaching Quran in a local madrassa. One day, while going to his in-laws place about three kilometers away from his home, he disappeared. At home they thought he was staying at his in-laws place. But when they went searching for him, they couldn’t find him anywhere. When Jana approached DCs office in Kupwara to seek the whereabouts of her son, she says she was threatened there with a pistol. When she went looking for him in the Kupwara army camp, they denied having arrested him.  “We came to know about his death after four days,” says Jana Begum. They couldn’t even trace his clothes. Only his identity card was found by an old man in the jungles of Dardpora.
When Jana lost her four sons, her husband, Abul Karim War, 60, went to collect some relief from the local administration in Kupwara in 1998. He was picked up by BSF and STF personnel from Kupwara bus stand, says Jana, and tortured for four days inside the STF camp in Kupwara. “The Task Force took away the relief as well and returned one thousand rupees out of one lakh he had collected,” says Jana.  When Abdul Karim was released after four days, he couldn’t talk. He was bedridden. He couldn’t even walk a few steps at his home. Jana says during his torture his hands were tied at the back and he was kept in cold water. He was also given electric shocks. A roller was used on his body. “There were torture marks near his ears, feet and head,” recalls Jana. “After four days he died of heart attack,” she says.
Even after losing her four sons and her husband, Jana says STF and BSF men would often raid their home, beat them up, and ask for the whereabouts of militants and weapons they never had. “All my sons were innocent,” she says, “still they killed them and did not spare my husband too.” Jana says she was also tortured when she went to the STF camp in Kupwara to free her husband who was in their custody in 1998. She says her two-year old son, who was in her lap at that time, was also beaten up inside the STF camp. “My hands were touched with the bukhari and I was asked to leave the camp,” she recalls.
Since Jana’s sons were dubbed as “foreign militants”, no ex-gratia relief was sanctioned to her. Despite losing everything she loved, she says no one helped them in all these years. No MLA visited their home, she says. “No Hurriyat leader bothered to help us.”
Every year, before Eid, Jana travels to Srinagar to seek some financial help to run her house. She comes back home disappointed.  “We have to beg even to buy clothes for the rest of my children and three unmarried daughters,” she says. “Only Khuda is with us,” she laments.
Jana’s youngest surviving son attends school only a few days in a week. For the rest of the days, he does labor work to earn a living for his family. “I know how my mother suffered over the years and no one came forward to help us,” he says. “We were left alone to suffer.” On Eid days the family does not prepare any dishes. They don’t eat anything on that day. Festive occasions turn into days of remembrance—and mourning—for this family.
“People celebrate Eid but how can we?” Jana’s youngest son asks.
Whenever Jana Begum visited the residences of Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar, with the pictures of her dead sons and husband in hand, she says she was stopped at the door. She was not allowed to meet them. When she went to the residence of Shabir Shah, she says she was not allowed to go beyond the gate. “Someone at the gate gave me Rs 200 for the return bus fare,” she says.  When she went to the residence of Syed Ali Geelani, she says she was given Rs 30 at the gate. Another leader told her that money for her will come from Pakistan.
The word Insaaf (Justice) has lost its meaning for Jana Begum. For her, the idea of justice is a mockery, a joke in this godforsaken part of the world. When there was no Insaaf for the past sixteen years even after I lost four of my innocent sons and my husband, she asks angrily, what can I expect now?
“Kaun deaga insaaf Khuda kay bagear?”
(Feedback at maqbool.majid@gmail.com)

 

 

Author: Saadut
•7:46 PM
Ye kamsund’oo naad, kusu aallav divaan?
Ye’ kamsind’e dupmm’phit tchoupi’ seeth aalam dazaan?
3.30 am is just between midnight and early morning when the night is still in transit and sleep still grips you tight. It was at this time in the late autumns of late 1990’s when piercing decibels from the Masjid loudspeaker announced an Army crackdown in the locality, ordering all males to assemble in the abandoned barren orchard that lay by high ground almost 900 meters away from my home.  A repeat of these announcements for the next 30 minutes or so seemed to drive more fear inside us, more of dread. In sleep deprived eyes mother was seen frantically looking for a safe place for her valuables, many crackdowns had been known to magically disappear many savings and valuables from households. By 4.15 am a half asleep habitation, now rubbing eyes and shaking heads was being herded in fading dark towards the high ground, that suddenly seemed so faraway today. Children in long pherans, tripped over each other, adults gripping their hands unsuccessfully tying to make them walk at an adult pace. Whispers were exchanged, whereabouts of extended families sought in this crowd. The autumn changeover to winter had just begun and most of us were already in our winter ‘astronaut’ dresses, spare for some deep sleepers who wore pheran draped over night trousers in their forced hurry to join the crowd.  The crowd grew by every lane, every turn; I never knew so many people lived in this habitation. These crackdowns were one social leveler; all classes, all levels of society were pushed and herded here like cattle by the security forces. As the peeping sunrays over the eastern hills created extended shadows of the breaking morning, crowds merged into the abandoned orchard. Like crowded packs of domestic animals let out in confined grazing grounds, security men were seen shouting and driving us to close in, on one side of the orchard slant which descended to the middle ground. On the opposite side of this orchard slant were rows of army vehicles, the whole orchard ringed by lines of uniformed men, looking down upon in stern glaze and finger on trigger at ‘helpless us’, as if in jeer and mock. And if the setting winter chill had not already set in our bones, the chilly stare and tone of these uniformed completed the freeze. We had nothing to beat this chill with; kangris for the day in Kashmiri homes are only prepared early morning, not in the middle of the night and there were clear instructions by the herders to assemble without any of these firepots. The overnight dew having inundated the barren orchard, all of us sat still on our knees; the vapor of our whispers mingling with the cold morning air. The shame of watching your elders and teachers being paraded the same way as you, forced on knees before gun trotting and stick wielding uniformed men, pushed and heckled like animals, is unexplained.  Showkat the tailor was holding his 7 year old son in the lap, juggling between his own balance and the cold wet grass; a stick wields, a blow comes his way, Showkat is unbalanced and his son falls from the lap, forcing them to sit separate. Soon such herding became the norm, as we were made spectators to our own shame.
By 10 Am that ‘CAT’ was already in the Gypsy, people were driven in extended queues to slow identification lines before the vehicle. In most likeliness an informer or a renegade, the ‘Cat’ lay firmly seated in the front of the vehicle, hooded and identity less deciding the life and death fate of people. It was no fancy act to walk past the ‘Cat’ even if you have had not even the remotest connection with militancy. Many a times these ‘Cats’ were known to have settled personal scores or dislikes in identification parades; his one hint would have the commoner bundled in or bundled out. Renegades were known to have created personal fiefdoms with the help of security forces in Kashmir where ‘God’ like aura was self assumed by them deciding the face of lesser mortals. While here our fate was being decided by ‘faceless hoods’ behind armed escorts, we were also worried about the ‘search operation’ by the uniformed forces back home, where only female folk had been retained.
A lean and tall boy with patches of a beard, in an old worn pheran and slippers was marked, pushed out of queue and segregated as he came in front of the ‘cat’. The quiet boy dragged, lay stone faced as he was taken behind the line of armored vehicles. After a brief jolt, the queue continued to trod, the masked hood continued to decide. It looked like an eternity at the barren orchard, the noon sun passed its peak, and dew absorbed some by the sun rest by the restless people who sat on it. Masterji (that is how we called him, was a retired teacher in his 80’s; flowing beard, a lifetime of humble reputation and lots of respect) was sitting by Dad’s side, felt restless for want of water. He dared standup and approach the herding uniformed soldier close by “where to drink some water”, the soldier raised his stick, frowned and pointed towards a muddy water cesspool that lay by a depression. Masterji quietly sat down, my Dad holding his hand. By afternoon there were already more than 8 boys marked by the ‘cat’, who lay bundled to behind the line of armored vehicles, fate unknown.
Zain, my cousin had recently returned from the US, his once in a lifetime holiday to Kashmir. We had in fact been in touch for long and decided that both of us would come to Kashmir on holidays at the same time.  His morning excitement of experiencing his first crackdown in Kashmir had already evaporated by the noon, now overtaken by a griping fear, the shake and trembles visible on his face. My own fears making me numb, I extended my arm on Zain just to soothe him, but he could see the blankness on my face, the brave mask that I was trying to put on failed. I tried to look up Dad sitting next to me, but failed to meet his eye, that was visualizing what we could not comprehend.
Hunger and thirst pangs had overtaken when our turn in joining the queue came must have been already 5 PM. I tried of be ahead of Dad and Zain but a violent push by the soldier entrenched me behind Dad and Zain. The serpentine queue moved so slow, while I lost pace of my own thumping heart beat, “get over with it damn it, will you” I kept repeating. We kept tracing steps of the earlier queues in slow motion, as if novices walking on a tight rope between two cliffs. The first cliff was our fear, the second being our fate, in between the two we were hung as if by a slender thread. The queue moved like a snail and so did our fate.
Dad stood composed facing the ‘cat’, there was no reaction from the vehicle, “move on” shouted the officer standing next to the vehicle. When Zain faced the ‘cat’ next, his shoulders had dropped dead and his ‘always cool’ composure was all gone. As white as cold marble, his face stared into a windshield, the officer signaled to move on and I heaved a sense of relief for him, my own fate yet unknown. I extended my step towards the precipice, heart galloping when I heard voices ‘wapas aao’ (come back); Zain had been marked, called back and hastily dragged to behind the line of these armored vehicles. I froze, everything became blurred in front of me and I wanted to cry out loud but could not. Suddenly I head noises, somebody pushed me and suddenly I realized a soldier was kicking me to move one ‘aage chalo’.  Dad had lost his composure on the other side, all my life I never saw him so pence, as clueless as on that day. Zain had been our responsibility in Kashmir, my responsibility, and now the unimaginable had happened.
The queues kept passing by the ‘hooded marker’ and by late evening as the process had been completed a few more boys had been ‘marked’ by the ‘cat’, only to be bundled up into the unknown. By 9.00 PM the cordon had been lifted and people were heading back home. Our standing at the same spot yielded no results, no amount of pleading with the officers helped. The boys had all been taken away in armed vehicles to the forces camp, destination we knew nothing of.
Back home, Mom had been successful in salvaging her valuables but our rice storages (Kashmiris store rice for long winters) had been all scattered from the store into the backyard; while in our rooms wardrobes were so disheveled, belongings ravaged as if relics of a war. By 10.00 PM Dad was ringing anybody he could lay his call on, his friends in the bureaucracy, acquaintances and a trunk call to an ‘connected’ uncle who lived in Delhi. Desperation was transmitted via the landline; whereabouts of the army camp (and Zain) were sought. Tears, sobs were heard from the kitchen, neighbors sat with us through the night consoling, assuring. The night never seems to end, I must have moved out in the garden barefooted unmindful of the winter chill, just wanting to grab the dawn and end this night as soon as I could. Morning Fajr prayers brought with them a telephone call from one of Dad’s friends who had traced the camp and Zain there.  Prayers done, we set out for the camp; I drove, shivered, rattled and lost. Over potholes and clayey paths, these undone roads seemed to never finish.
Dad’s bureaucrat friend had already talked to the camp commander, and only Dad was allowed to get inside the camp to meet him. I and my younger uncle waited seemingly in eternity outside the camp, the obnoxious fortifications standing like a monster before us.  When at around 9.00 Am Dad came out, seemed after ages he had gone inside the camp, he took my younger uncle to one side and all I could hear was ‘saas’ (thousands) to which uncle nodded and pointed to his bulging waist coat pockets (from the sides of his shawl) and both went inside the camp again.
It took another 30 minutes for Dad and uncle to come out of the camp along with Zain, who looked drained zombie like and limping bare footed like a recovered corpse. If you had seen Zain in better times, you would not believe this was the same Zain coming out of the army camp, being supported by Dad and uncle. I offered him my shoes, but he kept quiet, with a lowered gaze he hardly spoke in the car, a silence that made me feel the culprit for his condition. I felt wretched, had I not insisted on his Kashmir visit with me, he would not have gone thru this suffering. Back home Zain withdrew into recovery and reclusiveness for some days, recovering gradually from his shock and wounds; one reality of Kashmir had touched him very hard. But why had Zain been picked up in the first instance, why had he been called back by the ‘cat’? During the course of our conversations later it dawned that while Zain stood before the ‘cat’ (Zain was sans a Kashmiri pheran) on that fateful day, it was his ‘New Balance’ sneakers that had attracted the attention of the ‘cat’. And it was only when Zain had been asked to move on, did the ‘cat’ have an afterthought and signaled him to be retained; the American stuff had done him in. His sneakers, watch had been relieved of, he had been made to sit on a bare floor all night, despairing. And when he started hearing tormenting cries of torture in the room close by all night, he seemed to living close to his brutal nightmares. Close to midnight he himself had been caned, abused, beaten in this cell; his legs had been run over by jackboots, torture that had shattered him. Dad never told us about the ‘saas’ (thousands) bargain he had to undertake to free Zain, we never asked.
Some of the boys picked up on that fateful day were released within days, some detained longer. I could only guess if the ‘saas’ (thousands) tradeoff had helped any. The lean and tall boy with patches of a beard, in an old worn pheran and slippers who had been taken on that fateful day never came back home. Later found that he was the mansions son, who worked real hard through his school, did well in studies and had been preparing for a professional career. The poor boy used to support his studies by working as a laborer on odd days and later as a Mansion apprentice along with his Dad. The only son of his father, he was used as a conflict fodder by those in uniform, his erasure lost to decades of state denial. His crackdown never ended.
Along years, thousands of such poor, lean and hapless young men were to fall prey to state forced erasure, exhausting and depleting their improvised families of life and hope. Such people may have been lost to denial, but such stories live in our memory till eternity.
Saadut
28th September, 2012 ; 19:44 PM

For more on  real picture of Kashmir http://saadut.blogspot.in/

Let your footprints be your thoughts, let your wealth be your deeds

 

 

Maimed by the state, quietly 

 Amidst a culture of silence and media inattention, torture is easy to find in the security hot zones of India. A new film bares the ugly truth. Freny Manecksha reports. 

“Soldiers got on top of me. One of them chopped my feet with a knife. I could see blood flowing and my feet twitching. … They cut the flesh of my waist. They made me eat all this …”“They pulled my nails out completely and rubbed chilli powder into the wounds.”

“They set the bottom of my legs alight and the fabric stuck to my skin …”

Truly horrific. Macabre descriptions, taken not from some archives of a medieval torture chamber, but from Channel Four’s film – Kashmir: the Torture Trail – that was aired last month. Directed by BAFTA award winner Jezza Neumann and produced by Brian Woods, the film follows Kashmir’s noted human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz, who is documenting torture testimonials of victims at the hands of Indian security forces and police, for the first comprehensive report on use of torture as a repressive weapon in Kashmir.

Recording statements and providing graphic visual images of victims ranging from Firoze, detained under PSA with a head wound, to a girl who was raped by troops, to the shepherd Kalendu Khatana, whose feet were cut off by the Border Security Forces, the film buttresses its point of institutionalised torture, by verification from the government’s own human rights organisation or statements by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or the United Nations.


India has signed but not yet ratified the UN Convention against Torture. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has been denied permission to visit India. 

 

The State Human Rights Commission, which has probed Khatana’s claims, found them not only to be true but made the damning observation that it was one of clusters where Indian security forces had hacked away at limbs of suspects so badly that amputation was inevitable. Twenty years after his feet were cut off, Khatana’s wounds fester, as does his claim for compensation.

The film’s promotional video calls it India’s best kept secret, but torture, like the presence of the unmarked graves, has long been an accepted fact in Kashmir – one that has been difficult to document, however.

Parvez Imroz, who has been actively involved with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, and who worked along with the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir on Buried Evidence – the extensive report on unidentified and mass graves, has been speaking out against torture. In the film he declares, “Some people must stand up and say ‘No this is not acceptable. We will campaign against it.”

It was the publication of the WikiLeaks cable last year that brought to light concerns by the international community over the extensive use of torture in India. The dispatches reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which said that out of the 1296 detainees it visited in Kashmir, 681 said they were tortured.

The film also looks at the way the draconian Public Safety Act or preventive detention is used to detain hundreds without trial, and the way in which young street protesters and stone pelters continue to be rounded up and tortured.

Mohamad Junaid, currently studying anthropology in New York and specialising on issues of militarisation and violence , grew up in Kashmir in the nineties. He witnessed and has written about the humiliation of crackdowns, arrests and protest marches. He believes the state uses torture not so much to extract information, but to send messages to the “larger oppressed nation through broken and defiled bodies, to break their national will and determination. This psycho-somatic warfare against Kashmiris is an unconscionable blind spot in the discourses about human rights and justice in the international arena.”

Channel Four’s film comes close on the heel of a campaign by Indian rights activists protesting the use of torture against political prisoners and for reforms on issues related to torture.

Two weeks ago Amnesty International launched its petition urging the Indian government to stop the use of torture, noting that disadvantaged, marginalised groups including women, dalits, adivasis and suspected members of armed opposition groups are those most commonly abused. The petition begins with an appeal by Nazir Ahmad Sheikh, a Kashmiri from Handwara who was forced by members of 14th Dogra regiment to walk barefoot in the snow and whose feet were also later burnt with a stove.

India has signed but not yet ratified the UN Convention against Torture. At the UN Human Rights meet in Geneva this year India claimed it had a prevention of torture bill pending in Parliament. Activists say it does not comply with standards laid down by the UN Convention. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has been denied permission to visit India.

Noted documentary film maker Sanjay Kak who made a film on Kashmir, Jashn-e Azadi(How We Celebrate Freedom) believes that the institutionalisation of torture is because of growing militarisation of ever greater swathes of the country and the general public’s ability to stonily accept its terrible consequences. “At its root is a crisis in the sphere of politics where the art of persuading those who disagree has been replaced by the brutal science of torture.”

The media’s compliance in hiding the story has meant “we have managed to block out the use of torture and custodial killings in Nagaland and Manipur, glossed over its use in Punjab and managed to do that in Kashmir for over two decades. But the rot is beginning to come out in the open.”

The film has evoked strong reactions abroad. Mirza Waheed, whose book The Collaborator fictionalised torture and extra-judicial killings, said online, “Devastating, damning evidence of widespread torture by Indian forces. A sad sad night.”

But in India itself it has been met by and large with a deafening silence. Earlier this year too, there was very little public outcry when adivasi teacher Soni Sori, held in Chhatisgarh on grounds of being a Maoist sympathiser, charged the police of torturing her by pushing stones up her vagina. The case is in the Supreme Court even as a gallantry award was conferred on the police officer concerned. It is only “an overworked set of activists who are trying to keep the hard questions on use of torture alive,” adds Kak.

“The business of torture has become like a contagious disease with the state,” says Kak. “You may initially use it against those you call terrorists, and do it with the implicit and unthinking approval of ordinary people. But then you start using it against those you call separatists, then on Maoists, and then on their sympathisers and next on innocents like Soni Sori who happened to be caught in the crossfire. People will wake up only when one works towards uncovering the endemic and casual use of torture in our police stations and lock ups – against dalits for example who neither want to secede or overthrow the state.”

So can documentaries and films make some kind of impact? Kak, whose Jashn-e Azadifaced hostility and threats says that since the Indian state has to present itself to the world as a democracy – the world’s largest at that – shaming it for its widespread use of torture will work. “The state wears a thick skin, but even the thickest folds of skin have a chink where a needle can make its way through and make the beast jump.”
Freny Manecksha 

13 Aug 2012

 

A soldier guards the roadside checkpoint outsi...

A soldier guards the roadside checkpoint outside Srinagar International Airport (SXR) in Jammu and Kashmir, India. (January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

India, the world’s most populous democracy, continues to have a vibrant media, an active civil society, a respected judiciary, and significant human rights problems.

Custodial killings, police abuses including torture, and failure to implement policies to protect vulnerable communities marred India’s record in 2011 as in the past. Impunity for abuses committed by security forces also continued, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, and areas facing Maoist insurgency. New state controls over foreign funding of NGOs led to restrictions on legitimate efforts to protect human rights. However, killings by the Border Security Force at the Indo-Bangladesh border decreased dramatically.

Social unrest and protests deepened in resource-rich areas of central and eastern India, where rapid economic growth has been accompanied by rapidly growing inequality. Mining and infrastructure projects threaten widespread displacement of forest-dwelling tribal communities. The government has yet to enact comprehensive laws to protect, compensate, and resettle displaced people, although a new land acquisition law has been drafted.

Although at this writing deaths from terror attacks had decreased significantly from earlier years, there were serial bomb explosions in Mumbai on July 13, 2011. On September 7, 2011, a bomb explosion outside the Delhi High Court killed 15 people. The perpetrators remain unidentified. Progress was made in restraining the police from religious profiling of Muslims after bombings.

Despite repeated claims of progress by the government, there was no significant improvement in access to health care and education.

An anti-corruption movement erupted into public view in August and brought the government to a standstill, with widespread street protests and sit-ins demanding legal reform and prosecutions. Activists working with two prominent efforts to address poverty and accountability—India’s rural employment guarantee scheme and right to information laws—came under increasing attack, facing threats, beatings, and even death.

Accountability

India has yet to repeal laws or change policies that allow de jure and de facto impunity for human rights violations, and has failed to prosecute even known perpetrators of serious abuses.

The Indian defense establishment resisted attempts to repeal or revise the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that provides soldiers in “disturbed” areas widespread police powers. In September Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that there was an ongoing effort “to build a consensus within the government” to address the problems with AFSPA, but no action has been taken. Various government-appointed commissions have long called for repeal.

Jammu and Kashmir

Thousands of Kashmiris have allegedly been forcibly disappeared during two decades of conflict in the region, their whereabouts unknown. A police investigation in 2011 by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) found 2,730 bodies dumped into unmarked graves at 38 sites in north Kashmir. At least 574 were identified as the bodies of local Kashmiris. The government had previously said that the graves held unidentified militants, most of them Pakistanis whose bodies had been handed over to village authorities for burial. Many Kashmiris believe that some graves contain the bodies of victims of enforced disappearances.

The government of Jammu and Kashmir has promised an investigation, but the identification and prosecution of perpetrators will require the cooperation of army and federal paramilitary forces. These forces in the past, have resisted fair investigations and prosecutions, claiming immunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

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Syed Rizwan Geelani, Rising Kashmir

Srinagar, April 10: Mohammad Ameen Zargar appears to be older than actually he is. His face is sun beaten and he looks a tired man. Zargar is tirelessly fighting for the justice of his son, Showkat Ahmad, who was allegedly killed in a staged encounter by Border Security Force (BSF) in 2002 in Rainawari.

The family members claim that the paramilitary BSF troopers killed him since he was a namesake of an active militant in old city in 2002.
“From 2002 onwards, we are fighting for justice. We want the killers to be hanged in public,” the angry father said. “My son was a civilian. He was murdered by BSF for being a namesake of a militant in the area”.
Zargar wandered from pillar to post, knocking every door, which he felt would support him to bring the “culprits” to justice. But nobody helped him.
The father of the deceased said soon after his son’s killing approached State Human Rights Commission and filed a complaint there. He said the SHRC directed the Government to punish the accused troopers.Zargar said far from being the instructions implemented, they have remained confined to papers.
“The killers of my son are roaming scot free,” he fumed.
Later, Zargar said the case was forwarded to premier investigating agency- Central Bureau of Investigation– but no probe was done till date “Our case is pending with CBI from past eight years. It seems that they are least bothered to pay any heed to my case,” he alleged.Showkat Ahmad according to his family members was picked up by the BSF 49th Battalion from his house on April 9 in 2002 and was subsequently killed.
Lending credence to his claims, Zargar said the BSF commandant of a local camp, whose men were involved in the killing of his son, later realized that they have killed a wrong man. “As a result, he gave me a special Identity card so that I was spared from the wrath of troops those days,” he said.
Recollecting past, Zargar said he remembers that night when troopers barged into their house and bundled him into a vehicle and whisked him away. “The same night he was murdered by BSF men,” Zargar recalls.Deceased sister, Azra Ameen said their mother had been bed ridden since the day Showket was killed.
“Why did they kill him? What was his fault? Mother always asks,” said Ameen and broke down.
She too reminisced that fateful day. Amen said the Showket was having dinner when troopers barged into their house and dragged him out.


“They locked all the doors. They also snapped the electricity leaving us in dark. We were shouting, crying for help,” he said.
She said that few hours later they heard the gun shots. “Our heart sank. My mother yelled a loud scream. She knew troopers have killed him in the fake encounter. We can’t forget that harrowing night,” Ameen said.
Next day, she said, the body of Showkat was handed over to them. “After his killing BSF claimed that they have killed an active militant in the area. The news appeared in a newspapers and it was run on TV also,” she said.
She said her brother was working as daily wager in Deputy Commissioner’s office at Srinagar. “They killed him for the sake of promotion and medals,” she said, adding, “We are waiting for the day when killers would be punished.”