- MEHBOOB JEELANI
A detailed fact-finding report on the effects of Armed Forces Special Powers Act portrays a disturbing picture of Indian Army.
In a report that called for an end to the use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir, human rights group Amnesty International has released a detailed report on the basis of 58 case studies of alleged excesses by the armed forces in the State.
The report, which is likely to spark a strong response from the government, recommends that India withdraw AFSPA, turn over cases of alleged human rights violations and disappearances to civil courts, and invite the UN Special Rapporteur and the UN Working Group on disappearances to visit with “unimpeded access” to victims and witnesses.
“By not addressing human rights violations committed by security force personnel in the name of national security, India has not only failed to uphold its international obligations, but has also failed its own Constitution,” said Minar Pimple, senior director of global operations at Amnesty International, while releasing the report in New Delhi on Wednesday. “Impunity only breeds further violence and alienation, making it more difficult to combat abuses by armed groups,” he said.
The report — “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu &Kashmir” — suggests that the government has neutralised all the allegations with AFSPA’s Section 7, which allows the armed forces to kill anyone in the State on the basis of a mere suspicion.
Amnesty researchers had interviewed the family members in the 58 cases and they said they hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of their dear ones at various stages of the 25-year-long Kashmir conflict.
While it acknowledges progress on a few cases like the Machil ‘fake’ encounter, where five soldiers were sentenced to life imprisonment, the report concludes that most cases involving areas where AFSPA is used go uninvestigated.
“Till now, not a single family interviewed for the report was informed by the authorities of the status or outcome of a sanction request in relation to their case,” adds Divya Iyer, Research Manager at Amnesty International India.
The issue of AFSPA has often been a point of contention between the Centre and State government, with the latter repeatedly demanding the withdrawal of the law that protects Army personnel, especially from areas where the Army is not operating. However, despite several promises in the past, the Cabinet has never accepted the demand.
One of the grim examples of AFSPA’s disastrous consequences, says Amnesty International, is the case of Javaid Ahmad Magray, 17-year-old student of Nowgam district. According to the report, on April 30, 2003, Magray was picked up by personnel of Assam Regiment. A few hours later, his family found him dead in a hospital.
The report suggests that an enquiry, led by then district magistrate of Nowgam, concluded that “deceased boy was not a militant…and has been killed without any justification by a Subedar [a junior commissioned officer in the Indian Army] and his army men being the head of the patrolling party.”
The State Home Department, as per the Amnesty report, wrote a letter to the Ministry of Defence in July 2007, seeking the prosecution of nine Army personnel of Assam Regiment. After six years, the report says, the Ministry rejected the application, arguing that “the individual killed was a militant from whom arms and ammunition were recovered. No reliable and tangible evidence has been referred to in the investigation report.”
The Amnesty report says the Army has dubbed “more than 96 per cent of all allegations of human rights violations against its personnel in Jammu & Kashmir as false or baseless.”
“However the evidence for finding the majority of allegations false is not publicly available. Few details of the investigations or military trials conducted by the security forces are available to the public,” the Amnesty report states.