Posts Tagged ‘Sopore’

Rakib Altaf, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, April 28, 2013

Toxic chemicals sprayed on fruit trees in Kashmir orchards is causing fatal brain cancer in the valley.

A study found that 90 percent of patients who die from malignant brain tumor in the valley is linked to orchards where pesticides, insecticides and fungicides are used. It says that the incidence is alarming.

Jammu and Kashmir has around 347223 hectares of land area under orchards and most of it is situated in the valley where apples, apricots, walnut and almonds are grown in huge quantities.


Every year until harvest season orchardists spray tens of thousands of metric tonnes of chemicals like Chlorpyriphos, Mancozeb, Captan, Dimethoate and Phosalone to prevent fruits from disease. Most of the chemicals are established carcinogenics.

The study titled ‘Pesticides and brain cancer linked in orchard farmers of Kashmir’ revealed that 389 out of 432 patients who had died of brain cancer from 2005-2008 were orchard-farm workers, residents living near orchards or simply children playing there.
The youngest of them was a female infant.

“About 31.9% (124 out of 389 who died) of these were younger than 40 years, beginning exposure at an early age,” says the study published by Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology.

“They include 23 pregnant women and 11 lactating mothers.”

The study was published in 2011, but Dr Abdul Rasheed Bhat of the neurosurgery department at SKIMS, who led the study team, told Hindustan Times that the number of brain cancer patients admitted in the hospital is rising.

“Most of the patients I operated upon had a history with orchards and pesticides. During the study we also found cases where various members of the same family were diagnosed with brain cancer,” he says.

The study, quoting data from agriculturists, says that the use of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals in Kashmir has increased drastically in the past three decades. It blames orchard farmers who often “abuse” and spray trees with more than the recommended doses.

The fatal chemicals are “directly absorbed through skin, inhalation and ingestion.”

Dr Rasheed believes the toxins also affect those who are not orchard owners, but live in the vicinity.

“The pesticides sometimes go into wells in the orchards and somebody drinks that water. Or sheep may eat grass sprayed with these chemicals. Even high winds can take the carcinogenic dust and affect those who inhale it,” he says.


Instead of punishing the men in uniform who tortured two young men, the J&K Police is targeting those who exposed the act.
Baba Umar

January 17, 2013, Issue 04 Volume 10

Exposed Video grab of J&K policemen stripping a youngster before thrashing him

Exposed Video grab of J&K policemen stripping a youngster before thrashing him

WHAT WAS hidden in police lock-ups so far is slowly coming out in grainy videos from the Kashmir Valley. A video clip uploaded on YouTube recently shows personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police stripping two young men naked before whipping them with belts.

The two-minute video clip titled ‘Kashmir: Indian militiamen assault detained Kashmiri teenagers’ — apparently shot with a cell phone by a policeman inside what is believed to be a police station in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district — shows a group of policemen forcibly taking off the two youngsters’ clothes and thrashing them, while the two keep pleading that they are not guilty.

After the video went viral on the Internet from 8 January, the police filed an FIR (No. 12/2013) under Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act at the Baramulla police station. Under the controversial section, those who send “false and offensive messages through communication services” can be jailed for upto three years. Rights activists in the state say the police are targeting the whistleblower instead of taking action against those seen torturing the young men on the video.

“The FIR has been lodged against the person who leaked the torture episode. But there is no investigation into the role of those who were watching the crime and taking sadistic pleasure in it,” says Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based rights activist. “Had this video been about a similar incident outside Kashmir, the entire nation would have demanded answers.”

This is the latest in a chain of videos from Kashmir to have emerged on social networking sites and YouTube. In 2011, a video clip showed a soldier of the Indian Army shooting an unarmed man point blank after pulling him out from the rubble of a demolished house. The army did not question the authenticity of the video and claimed that the man shot dead was Pakistani militant Ahsan Bhai.

In September 2010 a three-minute video clip titled ‘Indian Army repeating Abu Gharib in Kashmir’ showed CRPF and policemen parading Kashmiri boys naked in Sopore town of north Kashmir. The video triggered massive outrage against the security forces, and Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Shiv Murari Sahai promised a fair investigation. More than two years later, the probe is yet to pin down those responsible for the atrocity.

Reacting to the latest video clip, top politicians have sought an impartial probe and demanded that a case be filed against the policemen who tortured the two youngsters. PDP leader and former CM Mehbooba Mufti says the subsequent FIR lodged by the police is “yet another incident of silencing the whistleblowers.” Mufti believes such incidents are routine in the state. In 2010, more than 120 boys were shot dead, 95 percent of them students, and yet no justice was done, she says.

Promising to take up the issue with the government, Mufti says the Delhi-based media has glossed over “such a heinous act under the garb of security and nationalism”. The ruling National Conference’s senior leader and J&K Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar declined to speak with TEHELKA. “Let me enquire from the police officials first,” he said.

MEANWHILE, POLICE officials say they are investigating the veracity of the video. “The probe may throw up a lead against the officers who stood by doing nothing when the boys were being thrashed.”

Section 66(A) of the IT Act was used in this case even as a public interest litigation against the controversial clause has already made its way to the Supreme Court. SC lawyer and cyber law expert Pavan Duggal says the section is used to gag freedom of speech. “If the video shows police atrocity, it was wrong to file a case under the IT Act.” Agrees Brinda Karat of CPM, who says, “Section 66(A) is being misused to give impunity to the police.”

Anil Parashar, an official of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the country’s apex statutory human rights body, told TEHELKA that the video needs to be examined first. “If we find a violation of rights, then the NHRC will help the victims get justice.”


Jammu and Kashmir may have failed to hog media headlines in recent times, but stories of personal tragedy have continued to unfold in the picturesque valley, without respite. These are stories of young men who the government and the army believe to be ‘terrorists’ who got what they deserved. But the relatives of these ‘terrorists’ insist it was atrocities by the State that pushed these men into the folds of militant outfits. Baba Umartraces three case studies of Kashmir’s new breed of militants.
Baba Umar

January 10, 2013, Issue 3 Volume 10

Photo: Abid Bhat


MUZAMIL AHMAD DAR, 24 Operation Theatre Assistant from Sopore

IN 2009, Muzamil topped his course to become an operation theatre assistant in a Srinagar hospital. But three years later, he was romancing an AK-47. The then Union home minister P Chidambaram described him as an “absconding Lashkare- Toiba (LeT) militant”. And on 21 October last year, he was killed in an encounter with security forces in north Kashmir’s Sopore town, 66 km north of Srinagar.

Born in a middle-class family of electronics traders, Muzamil once used to teach at a training centre run by the Rajiv Gandhi Literacy Mission. In a picture taken several months before his killing, Muzamil in his white cap and small black beard gives a confident gaze. His friends say he was working hard to pay off a family debt.

Muzamil’s father Mohammad Amin Dar, 55, will never forget 17 November 2010. “On that day, two men on the run from the police tossed a black bag into the kitchen garden of our house. My wife was there. Scared, she dumped the bag in the well. We never knew the act would take our son’s life,” says Dar. Soon, personnel of the army and the police’s Special Operation Group (SOG, a counter-insurgency force that human rights groups have often criticised for excesses) raided their house. Muzamil was detained along with his father and two brothers.

Dar sobs as he recalls what happened next: “I was made to watch as Muzamil’s brothers were forced to pull his legs in opposite directions as he sat bound to a chair. The cops were laughing aloud at his screams. It was humiliating.” Muzamil was charged under the Public Safety Act and kept in police custody for nearly 10 months, before the case was quashed. And when Chidambaram called him an LeT mastermind on 28 February last year, it shook the family’s faith in the system. “Police torture and harassment left Muzamil with no recourse but to pick up the gun,” argues Dar.


ATIR AHMAD DAR, 19 1st year Arts student from Sopore

ONCE EVERY week for the past few years, Atir would ask for 200 from his father Mohammad Yousuf Dar. This wasn’t pocket money, however. As the family later learnt, he was using this money to bribe the constables inside the police camp to beat him a little less. Atir’s journey from a boy who played cricket on the streets of Sopore to an LeT militant is another story of how some young men in Kashmir end up clutching guns after suffering atrocities at the hands of the security forces.

On 20 December last year, the villagers of Saidpora — 5 km west of Sopore town — woke up to the sounds of a gunfight that left five Pakistani insurgents and a local militant dead. In their rage, the soldiers not only blasted the houses where the militants had found shelter during the encounter, but also bulldozed over 170 apple trees. The local militant who engaged the troops in the gunfight before being killed turned out to be Atir.

Atir’s family treasures a photograph that shows him as a young boy in a blackand- grey striped sweater, sporting the hairstyle made popular by soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. Atir’s friends and relatives blame the police for his transformation from a student into an LeT militant. They accuse the police of “implicating” young men like Atir in false cases of stonepelting and meting out “collective punishment” to their families.

It began when the boy was tortured inside Sopore police station to confess that he was involved in a stone-pelting case of 2011. “He was released on bail, but only after he was mercilessly beaten up for four weeks. He told us how he was repeatedly kicked in the abdomen, caned and lashed with belts,” says Atir’s mother Sara Begum.

The harassment and torture did not end after Atir got bail. Begum says Atir was regularly summoned to the police station and the nearby Special Operations Group camp where the Station House Officer Gazanfar and Deputy Superintendent of Police Iqbal Tantry would allegedly monitor the torture.

“And one day in July last year, he just stopped appearing before the police and disappeared,” says Atir’s polio-afflicted brother Tawheed Ahmad Dar. He says there was no other way for his brother to escape the relentless harassment. Atir’s family never heard of him again until social networking sites flashed images of his bullet-riddled body on 20 December.


ASHIQ AHMAD LONE, 22 1st year Arts student from Shopian

ASHIQ WAS summoned to a police camp in Shopian almost every week. Though he never spoke about being tortured there, every time he went to the camp, his mother Zareefa Akhter, 45, made sure to keep some hot water ready to remove the blood stains from his body when he returned in the evening.

“Those days, at least, he used to come back home,” says Zareefa. Today, she fears that her son, who went missing in July last year, might get killed in a gun battle with the security forces.

Ashiq was a Class 10 student in 2010 when he had first strayed into militant ranks. However, he returned after 15 days and spent the next two months in police custody. And immediately after his release, he opened a grocery shop in his village and enrolled in a nearby college to study arts. But the ordeal had, in fact, just begun.

Ashiq was often summoned to the SOG camp in the area, where he was tortured every time. This continued until July last year when he went missing again and joined the militants.

The police regularly harassed the family and also offered to help Ashiq get a government job if he surrenders. “We don’t trust the police. They first made Ashiq a militant by subjecting him to torture and abuse, and now they promise to give him a job,” says Zareefa.

IN KASHMIR, police harassment of local youth is a problem for the army as well. A senior official of 44 Rashtriya Rifles told TEHELKA: “Police harassment is not a new thing. The army mostly focusses on foreign elements, but the police is sparking this conflict again. That’s why there are more young men at army recruitment exercises than at police job rallies.”

In all the three cases above, the police has dismissed the relatives’ version as “rubbish and propaganda”. Sources claim nearly 40 boys have joined the Hizbul Mujahideen and the LeT in 2012 alone, most of them educated and coming from welloff families. This is a considerable figure keeping in view the total number of militants (223, according to police figures) in the state.

Kashmir’s new militants may be a mere addition to this statistic, but for the majority of its people, they are “martyrs” created as a result of the “atrocities perpetrated by the police and army”.


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


 Altaf Ahmed Khan
15th August 2012

Celebrating tyranny and victimization

It is despicable that the police officers responsible for serious human rights violations are receiving awards despite the crimes they have perpetrated. Today’s awards to some of the Jammu and Kashmir Police officers are an act of celebrating tyranny and victimization.

Superintendent of Police, Altaf Ahmad Khan is one of the officers who has been awarded with the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry. Altaf Ahmad Khan is notoriously known for perpetrating human rights violations in the areas where he has served.

On 3rd July 2004 a 16 year old girl (name withheld) was abducted from her school by Altaf Ahmad Khan, then Deputy Superintendent of Police Handwara, and taken to the Zachaldara Police Post. The girl was kept at the Police Post for three hours. Altaf Ahmad Khan and his associates tortured her. Altaf Ahmad Khan tore her clothes. Her shirt and pyjama were removed and she was thrown on the floor. When she asked for water and she was given water with salt and chilli. A heavy roller was rolled over her legs as well. She was kicked in the abdomen by Altaf Ahmad Khan and this resulted in her falling unconscious. Subsequently, the victim realized that she had been raped while she was unconscious as she was bleeding profusely from her vagina.

The victim was hospitalized for close to fifty days where she was operated upon and her uterus was removed.

The girl approached the State Human Rights Commission and on 19 November 2008 the final decision was issued where it was stated that the victim had been subject to “the worst type of human rights violations at the hands of two lady constables and the Dy.S.P. Altaf Ahmad Khan”. The SHRC recommended appropriate relief and an enquiry by a senior administrative/police officer. Despite the SHRC recommendation for an inquiry, it appears no investigations have taken place. Further, Altaf Ahmad Khan was promoted as the Superintendent of Police and has multiple accusations of human rights violations while he was posted in the Sopore area of Baramulla District.

On 31st July 2011 Nazim Rashid Shalla died in police custody in Sopore, due to torture, after being picked up by a joint group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the army. In the extra-judicial execution of Nazim Rashid Shalla, Altaf Ahmad Khan was implicated and transferred from Sopore. During the pendency of the enquiry in the same case Altaf Ahmad Khan on 26th January 2012 received Gallantry Award from the army and now today he received a President’s Police Medal for Gallantry.

Pertinently in 2008, it was reported in the media that Supreme Court Justices Aftab Alam and G.S. Singhvi made observations in court in relation to the practice of fake encounters for rewards in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the past two decades several armed forces personnel and Jammu and Kashmir Police officers notoriously known for human rights violations have received gallantry awards, which suggest the institutional endorsement of the crimes perpetrated by these men in uniform. This policy of awards and the perpetual impunity in Jammu and Kashmir shows the complete disregard of the Indian state towards the human, civil, political and democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

On the other hand Police officers who have shown exemplary service towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir have either been dumped or reprimanded. The police officer who conducted the investigation on unmarked graves and mass graves in North Kashmir on the orders of SHRC has not been encouraged. The Assistant Superintendent of Police, Bandipora after carrying out investigation regarding the recent fake encounter killing carried out by Army, was demoted and humiliated, which has sent a message to other officers that performing their duty diligently is undesirable for the government.