Posts Tagged ‘Kashmir’


Amnesty International’s report on Jammu & Kashmir, ‘Denied’: Failures in Accountability in Jammu and Kashmir, reminds us of what we know but choose to ignore – that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) confers an impunity on its personnel which is abused to commit the gravest violations of human rights, that civil courts cannot entertain charges against soldiers without sanctions from government which are almost never given, and the only recourse therefore is to the tender mercies of military justice which, like military intelligence, is usually a contradiction in terms.

The ground it covers is a via dolorosa, over which everyone who follows human rights to its crucifixion in that state must trudge. In 2012, for instance, when the UN Human Rights Council conducted India’s second Universal Periodic Review, the process through which every country’s record on human rights is assessed by its peers, the submission from the National Human Rights Commission included this:

“The Armed Forces Special Powers Act remains in force in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-Eastern States, conferring an impunity that often leads to the violation of human rights. This, despite the fact that India’s 2011 report on the Optional Protocol to the CRC states that “India does not face either international or non-international armed conflict situations”.”

Nothing has changed since then. By concentrating on AFSPA however, a blot though it is on Indian democracy, Amnesty’s report presents only a facet of the systemic faults that make it almost impossible for victims of human rights violations in J&K to get relief, or to punish the men who violated their rights.

The NHRC is the only body in the country that has a reasonably accurate tally of the number of deaths that take place every year in what are called encounters, and which tries to establish the truth in each case. Under its guidelines, police superintendents (SPs) must report to it within 48 hours any death in police action in their jurisdiction. Each case is then taken up by one of the five members, until all documents are received, at which point it is transferred to one of two division benches, with two members on each, which meet twice a week only on these “encounter killings”. J&K, however, is a blind spot for the NHRC, and where it has been able to do the least, for a number of reasons.

Army excluded

The problem is that the NHRC asks only for reports on deaths in police action. There is a legal reason for this, which brings no credit to our systems of governance. Unless the Army or paramilitary forces conduct a joint operation with the police, the SP simply receives a first information report (FIR) from them, but sees no reason to report deaths for which his force bears no blame. When J&K was at its most troubled, in the 1990s, the NHRC only received reports on a fraction of the deaths that took place, through sporadic complaints, some from NGOs which collated several cases, others from families of victims.

The NHRC is unable to get comprehensive reports from the Army or the paramilitaries because its powers vis-à-vis India’s armed forces are shamefully restricted by Section 19 of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA). This lays down that the Commission can only act if it receives a complaint against them, when it may ask for a report from the Central government, and take a view on the reply it gets. If there is no complaint, and in J&K there were few because civil society was muzzled and the families terrified, there is no inquiry. And the inquiry cannot be as thorough as it is on encounter deaths or disappearances for which the police are responsible, because the NHRC can only act on what the Ministries of Defence and Home send it, which is whitewash stippled as typescript.

No other public servants enjoy this screening from the NHRC’s scrutiny, including police up against the Maoists in conditions at least as difficult as those where the armed forces are deployed. Section 19 of the PHRA is as obnoxious as AFSPA; both should be repealed, but are unlikely to be, because the armed forces will fight it tooth and nail. In a case pending for several years at the Supreme Court, the Commission has therefore urged it to read down the provisions of Section 19. However, in a PIL matter which it filed recently asking for a ruling that it had the power to demand substantive reports from the Central government on complaints against the Army, the court recently ruled against the NHRC. That does not bode well.

Kashmir body no solution

The Kashmiri families to which Amnesty spoke told it that after the State Human Rights Commission was formed they now had a body to which they could take their complaints. This is forlorn because though the J&K SHRC has been far more active than many others, which are moribund, it is also powerless to help. The state government ignores its recommendations, and on cases involving the armed forces, victims or their families get an entirely false hope that they can get justice through the SHRC, which, even without AFSPA, has no jurisdiction on complaints against central forces.

The sordid problem is that the government of J&K is so jealous of its special position under the Constitution that it sees the NHRC as a threat rather than an ally in trying to get redress and relief for the residents of the state. The PHRA lays down that it will apply to J&K only for subjects under Lists I and III of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The state government’s interpretation of this provision is that the NHRC has no jurisdiction over its police, or the authority to call for reports either from them or from other civil servants on the subjects in List II. It takes this to absurd extremes.

In 2010, after the summer of rage in the Valley, the NHRC took suo motu cognizance of a report that investigated the deaths, and called for responses from the Centre and the state. Since the state government had given some financial relief to the families of the dozens of children who were killed or injured, the Commission asked for details, to determine if it should recommend that the Central government supplement it, and to get a sense of the grounds on which the state had acted, which would help it to vet the reports from the paramilitary force involved. To its astonishment, the state government refused, instead filing a writ in the J&K High Court in which it claimed that the NHRC was exceeding its jurisdiction, and asking that its proceedings be struck down as ultra vires!

Before this, on a case where the NHRC held the police responsible for a death and recommended relief, the state government took the same view, arguing that the Commission had no jurisdiction, and again took it to court. Faced with this self-defeating obstinacy, the Commission issued proceedings in which it argued that List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution simply specified the subjects on which the state had the power to legislate. The Commission’s orders did not touch on its exclusive power to legislate on the police, they simply asked it to take action against delinquent policemen and give relief to their victims. Seemingly run by “litigious men whom quarrels move”, the J&K government took the NHRC to court on this as well.

More than AFSPA

On AFSPA, as Amnesty International notes, the Jeevan Reddy Committee found that “the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness”.   What it does not recall is that the committee recommended that AFSPA be repealed for this reason, but also felt that in the North-East, there was an “overwhelming desire of an overwhelming majority of the region that the Army should remain (though the Act should go)”.  No such distinction is made in J&K between the Act and its brutal wards, and the cure the committee prescribed – to transfer the powers of AFSPA to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – would be worse than the disease, spreading its contagion throughout the country.

Amnesty argues that “the continued use of the AFSPA violates India’s constitutional guaranteed rights to life, justice and remedy” and, by not addressing the violations committed under its cover, India has “failed its own Constitution”. These are strong words, though true, but AFSPA saps our constitutional structure in far more insidious ways. As a law that permitted the armed forces to be deployed in aid of civil authority, AFSPA as originally enacted conferred the power only on a state government to designate an area “disturbed”, after which the Army could enter. An amendment in 1972 extended the power to the Central government as well. The extraordinary implication of this is that states in which AFSPA applies could not be trusted to ask for Central help, which must therefore be foisted on them even if they do not feel the need for it. This amendment undermined the basic structure of the Constitution. On the one hand it makes elected state governments look like traitors if they decline to invoke AFSPA; when the army is deployed over their objection, it becomes an army of occupation.

Since the Centre’s decisions on whether AFSPA should be lifted invariably depend on the wishes of the Army, now openly voiced, it also gives the Army a veto on when, where and how long it should be deployed within the country, overriding the wishes of elected state governments. That is a subversion of democracy, and must be anathema. If for this government the Constitution is the only holy book, and if it is serious about cooperative federalism, it should repeal AFSPA for these reasons alone.

Satyabrata Pal is a former Indian diplomat. He served as India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, and as a member of the National Human Rights Commission


Bernard D’Mello

When it comes to Kashmir, official mendacity in India seems to cross
all bounds. So even a prominent member of the Indian Establishment
felt that the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s recent (May 22) open
advocacy of “kaante-se-kaanta-nikaalte-hein”
(a-thorn-to-remove-a-thorn) counterinsurgency tactics was “terrible”
and that he should withdraw his out-of-line statement forthwith. “You
have to neutralise terrorist through terrorist only”, Parrikar had
insisted, but the Establishment, which knows only too well that this
has been the norm in Kashmir since 1994, obviously doesn’t consider it
prudent to admit to it openly. The Establishment’s propaganda is all
too familiar, though it is very hard to effectively counter it, what
with big media on its side. Be that as it may, one should never
forget the past — memory has to be kept alive.

Here, of course, memory takes one on a passage to hell. You cannot
but encounter the demons of violence, the devils of rapacity. But as
one goes through the horror, the grotesque and the macabre, one should
never lose one’s capacity to reflect, one’s faculty to be in empathy
with the feelings of the Kashmiri people. In a way, the truth about
the Indian Establishment is revealed in Kashmir — cruel, destructive
and malicious; the lie of Indian democracy is evident in Kashmir.

Take the “terrible” terror-for-terror counterinsurgency tactics that
have been practiced with a vengeance in Kashmir since 1994. Of
course, you’d have to go back to what happened in 1953 and the period
until 1975 when Kashmir was governed by the Delhi-centred
Establishment’s chosen ones from Srinagar; to 1984 (the hanging of
Maqbool Butt); and then to the manipulation of the 1987 state assembly
elections that denied the Muslim United Front (MUF) the democratic
representation that was its due, culminating in the insurgency. The
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front’s (JKLF) leadership of the insurgency
didn’t last long, indeed, 1990-92 marked its high points, and then it
lost out, but the mass appeal of its goal of independence (neither
Pakistan nor India) is still alive and well.

With the decline of the JKLF, another organisation, whose
social-political roots were indigenous, came to lead the insurgency —
the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Its social and political base came from
the Jammu Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami, which was an important constituent
of the MUF that was the victim of the rigging of the 1987 elections.
The HM held on, and together, much better than the JKLF in the face of
the brutal counterinsurgency (even today, there are 600,000+ Indian
troops, including the paramilitaries and the J&K armed police, in
Kashmir). But when defectors from the insurgents were adopted by the
Indian state — they came to be known as “Ikhwanis” — to join the
counterinsurgency in large numbers, former militants who knew much
more about the militants and their families and sympathisers, and
assumed a crucial role, including that of local intelligence, in
targeting the latter, the Jamaat had to move away from supporting the
HM. By the beginning of the new millennium, the Indian security
forces and the Ikhwanis forced the HM to retreat. As a WikiLeaks
cable of 4 June 2007 puts it: “Ikhwan has a reputation in the Valley
for committing brutal human rights abuses — including extra-judicial
killings of suspected terrorists [insurgents], and their family
members, as well as torturing, killing, raping, and extorting Kashmiri
civilians suspected of harboring or facilitating terrorists

The broader testimony of what is one of the world’s most militarised
zones is, of course, more grotesque and macabre. For the period from
1989 onwards, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and
Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and the Association of Parents
of Disappeared Persons estimate that 8,000 to 10,000 Kashmiris — the
earlier Omar Abdullah-headed state government is said to have admitted
to a figure of 3,744 in the J&K legislative assembly — were subjected
to enforced disappearance and subsequently killed in fake encounters.
But the Indian state and the Establishment are in denial of the
enforced disappearances and Indian society is not willing to listen to
any of these findings. The Establishment successfully gets across the
idea that “Indian democracy” could never have done such things;
indeed, the very victims of the violence are blamed for the violence.
They happen to be Muslims and there are deep prejudices against
Muslims; moreover, Pakistan supports them, and the Pakistani state
stands discredited for its role in the insurgency. That many
Kashmiris do not want to integrate with Pakistan is never mentioned.
Nevertheless, Pakistan is a legitimate party to the dispute over
Kashmir, even as the Kashmiris have the right to decide for

As part of the Indian state’s propaganda, the mistreatment of the
Kashmiri Pandits invariably comes up. Kashmiri Muslims however
believe that the Kashmiri Pandits were not forced to leave; it’s just
that they became a political minority because of their support for
India, and when the insurgency erupted, they naturally felt insecure
and apprehensive, and left. Of course, the collaborators of the
Indian state among them were targeted, not because they were Kashmiri
Pandits but because they were Indian-state collaborators, just like
the many, many more Kashmiri Muslims who also collaborated with the
Indian state and were also targeted by the insurgency. Nevertheless,
non-combatant political collaborators should not have been killed.
And, more generally, the predicament of the Pandits needs to be
resolved by the Kashmir national liberation movement. Opposing
sections of the Indian Establishment have been treating the Pandits as
pawns in the dirty games of one-upmanship they are constantly engaged
in, and right now, the section calling the shots in the union
government has floated the idea of Israeli-style, separate Pandit
settlements in the Kashmir valley!

Where then does one go from here? If the Indian Establishment has any
respect for democracy and international humanitarian law, the
Occupation of Kashmir must end and the perpetrators of the crimes
committed, including those who led the institutions responsible for
those offences, must be punished. But with India’s defence minister
endorsing “terrorists-to-eliminate-terrorists” counterinsurgency
tactics, the home minister backing him, and the chief minister of J&K
choosing to remain silent at this crucial moment — the Indian Army is
under the defence ministry, the paramilitaries involved report to the
union home ministry, and the J&K armed police takes orders from the
state government — Kashmir is likely to be more of the hell of
internal colonialism than what it already is.

Already, following the Defence Minister’s kaante statement, and
emboldened by such official backing, Rashid Billa, an Ikhwan commander
and the main culprit in the 5 October 1996 killing of seven members of
three families in Sadrakoot Bala in Bandipora district of Kashmir,
has, according to the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,
stepped up his intimidation, including life threats, of the
petitioners in the case against him in the J&K High Court. Also, it
is significant that all sections of the Kashmir national liberation
movement, including the United Jihad Council, have condemned the 25
May attack on the office of BSNL, a state-owned telecom company, in
Sopore town in Kashmir in which one civilian was killed and two were
injured. They have also denounced “Lashkar-e-Islam”, the terrorist
outfit claiming to have carried out the attack. Such terrorist groups
must be seen in the context of the proliferation of terrorist groups
that have been set up to counter and discredit the Kashmir national
liberation movement. Indeed, in the light of incidents like the
above, Indian Defence Minister Parrikar’s ominous kaante statement is
pregnant with sinister indications.

Ensure Hospitals in Kashmir are Tobacco-Free Zones, Says Officials

Representational Image

SRINAGAR:  The authorities in Kashmir today directed health officials to ensure a complete ban on smoking at hospitals and other medical institutions to make them tobacco-free premises.

The Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir has directed all its subordinate offices including that of Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) and Medical Superintendents of district and sub-district hospitals to ensure that hospitals and various other health institutions were made ‘tobacco-free premises’.

The move is aimed at strengthening the public health measure at the district and sub-district level to achieve the status of ‘Tobacco-free Kashmir’.

The order asks officials to identify nodal officer from health institutions, display ‘tobacco-free premises’ boards at the entrance of the boundary wall and ‘no smoking’ signages, along with the name and contact details of the nodal officer, at all prominent places.

The officials were also directed to ensure ban on the sale of tobacco products within 100 metres of all buildings or premises under the Health Department

The Indian Express

The CBFC and the FCAT had suggested that some angry remarks — made by parents of children killed during the 2010 stone-pelting clashes in Srinagar — should be censored.

Delhi High Court, Pankaj Butalia, Pankaj Butalia movie,, Kashmir documentary filmmaker, Pankaj Butalia, Textures of Loss, Censor Board, Kashmir violence documentary, Central Board of Film Certification, CBFC, Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, FCAT, Indian express, express news

A still from the documentary.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Updated: May 26, 2015 5:26 am

The Delhi High Court on Monday allowed the release of a documentary by filmmaker Pankaj Butalia on Kashmir violence, noting that the “right to censor films, shown in whatever form, constitutes a prior restraint,” and should “necessarily be reasonable”.

Butalia’s work focuses on the spate of violence in Kashmir between 2005 and 2013 and contains interviews of people affected by it. The fimmaker had approached the HC after the Central Board of Film Certification and Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal suggested some major cuts in the 61-minute documentary.

The CBFC and the FCAT had suggested that some angry remarks — made by parents of children killed during the 2010 stone-pelting clashes in Srinagar — should be censored. They had also directed Butalia to include a disclaimer stating “all views in the film are personal”, before the beginning of the documentary.

The filmmaker was also asked by the CBFC to delete the words “disproportionate violence” from a description of the clashes. But the HC today gave a go-ahead to the filmmaker to screen the documentary — ‘The Textures of Loss’ — with a ‘U’ certificate, and without any disclaimers. “Unanimity of thought and views is not the test to be employed by censuring authorities in such situations…The response cannot be to ban, mutilate or destroy the work of another, with whom one stridently disagrees,” noted the court of Justice Rajiv Shakdher.

During arguments in the case, the counsel for the CBFC claimed that some remarks, particularly one made by the father of a child killed in police firing, were “seditious” and “would affect the security and sovereignty of the country.”

But the high court rubbished the argument, saying, “In my opinion, the FCAT has completely misguided itself by not appreciating the context in which the statement has been made. As rightly contended by the petitioner, the father, who was grief-stricken on account of the death of his eight-year-old son, was venting his anger”.

The court also noted that the CBFC had not followed proper procedure while passing the order in 2013, as it had not given an opportunity to the filmmaker to present his side. But the HC rejected the filmmaker’s plea to set aside the censorship guidelines of the CBFC on the ground that they, according to Butalia, “infringed upon freedom of speech and expression.”

The court noted that the guidelines are “ not bad in law, or ultra vires the Constitution,” as they “attempt to explain the nuances” of the “reasonable restrictions” on free speech.

First Published on: May 26, 2015 3:14 am

Cannot tell a filmmaker to delete this, delete that: HC

The CBFC had asked Butalia to cut three scenes from the documentary and insert a disclaimer.

Delhi High Court, Filmmaker Butalia, who had based his documentary on the Kashmir Valley region between 2005-2013, had approached the High Court in January this year against the cuts.
Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Updated: April 11, 2015 3:50 am

Commenting that the court “could not tell a filmmaker how he is to make his movie”, the Delhi High Court on Friday reserved its judgment on a plea filed by filmmaker Pankaj Butalia against cuts recommended by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in a documentary film on long-term violence in Kashmir.

“Which guidelines are being breached? The issue of Kashmir is a controversial issue but that cannot lead to a situation where I tell a filmmaker to delete this, delete that,” the court of Justice Rajiv Shakdher observed.

The remarks were made after Central governmentcounsel Gaurav Sarin told the court that comments made in the documentary, Textures of Loss, could “incite a law and order situation”. Sarin, in his arguments, also stated that the government apprehended a “powder keg” situation in Kashmir and “a security threat or violence” if the documentary was allowed to be aired without cuts. He further argued that the board had only recommended a five-second cut in the documentary — which is over one-hour long — and said this was a “reasonable restriction” under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

The cuts proposed by the CBFC include parts of comments made during interviews of the father of a child killed during the 2010 stone-pelting episode in Srinagar, and the wife of a man arrested on allegations of being a militant.

Butalia, who had based his documentary on the Kashmir Valley region between 2005-2013, had approached the High Court in January this year against the cuts.

The CBFC had asked Butalia to cut three scenes from the documentary and insert a disclaimer that the views expressed in the film by individuals were solely their views.

flag of the state of Jammu and Kashmir Русский...

flag of the state of Jammu and Kashmir Русский: Флаг Джамму и Кашмира (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Press Release:
15th August 2013


On 29 July 2013, Village Defence Committee [VDC] members were alleged to have killed 16 year old Shamim Ahmed Lone, resident of Noutaas, Thatri, Doda. Further, a few days prior to the murder of Shamim Ahmed, a 16 year old girl, resident of Kuntwara, Kishtwar, was kidnapped and raped by persons backed and protected by the VDC. According to newspaper reports from last over a month at many places in Doda-Kistwar region masked men have terrorized people. Over the last week, several places in the Jammu region, particularly Kishtwar, have been subjected to violence at the hands of VDC members, supported by Hindu communal groups, which resulted into loss of three lives, numerous injuries and loss of public property. The unabated support and encouragement to VDCs by Government of India, has ensured deepening communal strife.

The policy of the Indian State to control the people of Jammu and Kashmir through armed forces is entrenched and has resulted in numerous informal and formal networks of forces outside of the regular armed forces [i.e. army, para-military and police]. More specifically, these networks are referred to in Jammu and Kashmir as: VDCs, Special Police Officers [SPOs] and Ikhwans. Arms are distributed, minus any training, and persons appointed as VDC members, SPOs or Ikhwans, have little or no clarity of the chain of command to control the activities of such forces.

This State action is carried out with no regard for the rule of law and allows unchecked power and a complete lack of accountability. The Indian State has effectively sought to carry out statecraft that is violent and with complete disregard for all human dignity.

As per the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, in the Legislative Assembly, as of 1 April 2013, 26,567 persons were working with the VDCs to fight militancy. Further, it was stated that the VDCs were functioning in 10 districts of Jammu division and Leh District of Ladakh. Giving the break-up, the Chief Minister said the highest number of VDC volunteers – 5818 – were working in Rajouri district followed by Reasi with 5730 volunteers and Doda with 4822 VDC volunteers. Further, the strength of the SPOs working in the police department was placed at 25,474. Of these, 23,577 SPOs were working in different districts and the remaining 1897 were working in other wings/units of the police department. The Chief Minister stated that the highest number of SPOs – 3881 – were in Doda followed by Kishtwar with 2272 and 1740 SPOs in Jammu district.

Further, the Government stated that 7030 SPOs were terminated from services in Jammu and Kashmir since 2009. Of these, 1,292 SPOs had been terminated from services in 2009, followed by 1,535 SPOs in 2010, 2,067 in 2011, 1,917 in 2012 and 219 in 2013. This suggests that the Government has been aware of the criminality and other issues with SPOs that has resulted in dismissals.

Finally, the Ikhwan [Government backed militants], fully functional in the mid-1990s, were responsible for widespread and systematic attacks on civilians and the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir. While it is reported that there is no longer the phenomenon of Ikhwan in Jammu and Kashmir, the situation is far from certain. Firstly, as the Ikhwan were never created legally, it is difficult to be certain that they have ceased to exist. Secondly, it requires to be confirmed that all the arms and ammunition provided to the Ikhwan have been returned to the Government.

The communal nature of the Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir, with the recent VDC violence, is apparent from the very constitution of the VDCs. In response to a RTI application, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir provided the following details regarding VDCs in Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban Districts:

– In Kishtwar District, where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims is 35:65, of a total of 3287 VDC members, 3174 [96.56%] are Hindus. Further, out of 3287 VDC members, 865 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these 865, only 21 [2.43%] are Muslims. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs [97.57%] are Hindus [ANNEXURE 1]
– In Doda District, where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims is 30:70, of a total of 6521 VDC members, 5874 [90.08%] are Hindus. Further, out of 6521 VDC members, 1729 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these, only 126 [7.28%] are Muslims. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs [92.72%] are Hindus [ANNEXURE 2]
– In Ramban District, where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims is 30:70, of a total of 2901 VDC members, 2697 [92.96%] are Hindus. Further, out of 2901 VDC members, 177 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these, only 1 [0.6%] is a Muslim. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs 176 [99.4%] are Hindus [ANNEXURE 3][1]

The privatization of human rights abuses and the outsourcing of criminality by the Indian State besides being in violation to many international laws are also violative of India’s constitution, and the rule of law. VDCs and Ikhwan must therefore be immediately disbanded. The powers of the SPOs must be limited to minor issues of traffic control, and they must have no powers vis-à-vis the control of militancy or any political activity. Further, the recruitment and training of SPOs must be carried out at a standard that ensures a responsible and accountable force. All arms and ammunition from all three groups must be immediately confiscated. Finally, investigations and prosecutions for all crimes committed must be carried out.

Unfortunately, instead of nabbing the culprits, the Government has imposed curfew in many parts of Jammu region, scrapped internet services in entire Jammu and Kashmir and thus punished the entire population instead of perpetrators.

Khurram Parvez
Programme Coordinator

[1] All references to “Hindu” and “Muslim” are to be read as persons of “Hindu descent” and “Muslim descent”.


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.”


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’.