TRIPURA IS START, AFSPA MUST GO FROM EVERYWHERE: SSSC
Announcement of Repeal AFSPA from Tripura is a welcome move. We, at Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, convey our sincere thanks to Govt of Tripura as well as MHA for considering the move. We believe that repeal of AFSPA from Tripura is a decision in favor of democracy and humanity.
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) view this incident as ‘moving from inertia of AFSPA’. It is because since many years and even after continuous demands by people and rights groups, AFSPA was not even diluted a bit. No government or security agencies have taken any positive steps towards its repeal and were isolated from this issue. No one in the government even wanted to talk about the issue and those who were in government never tried to break the ice and ignored people’s demand.
As, SSSC had already stated in several other campaigning moments, AFSPA does not have people’s mandate. We also believe that by breaking this inertia, there is a signal of something positive. A start was awaited.
As Tripura is one of the states of North East region of India, repealing AFSPA from this state also sends a message of confidence and hope among all other people who are residing in AFSPA zone presently. We also see that this start must become dynamic very soon and governments must try to repeal it from every where.
We demand with the government to immediately pay attention towards Manipur also where Irom Sharmila is on a continuous fast since the last 15 years. Keeping AFSPA in Manipur is against the will and future of state. We demand with state and central government both to coordinate and cooperate with each other to end the impasse over AFSPA. For Manipur, state leadership of central ruled patry was already promised repeal of AFSPA.
SSSC believes that AFSPA that was extended to J&K vide AFSPA-J&K, should also be repealed as victimisation and sufferings cannot be looked separately. A human rights violation is always a violation of human rights regardless of region. in J&K, so many incidents of killings, rapes and disappeances have already been reported and evidences were provided even before courts against many security officials, but due to impunity under AFSPA (section 7), nothing could be done against culprits.
SSSC also see that enjoying such an impunity that AFSPA provides is actually a corruption and it is absolutely not required for any responsible , honest and committed security force personals. In contrary, it becomes dangerous as such absolute powers divert the normal way of working of personals.
SSSC appeals with the state and central government to immediately act upon this long pending demand of Repeal AFSPA. AFSPA is not required not only in Tripura but in no other AFSPA state. AFSPA is a failed law.
SSSC will continue its efforts and will be organising protests and active campaigning in coming months for advocating Repeal of AFSPA from every where.
In Kashmir, a rare guilty verdict for Indian army officers who killed three local men offers hope for the future
NADIHAL, India — At 3 o’clock in the morning of April 30, 2010, a unit of the Indian army’s 4th Rajput Regiment was patrolling an area of the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The soldiers were in a sector called Machil, near the Sonapindi Pass, where the foothills give way to mountains — a notorious route for armed groups infiltrating India. The soldiers “observed three persons moving suspiciously in own territory,” according to a report they filed the next day. “Sensing situation, the party commander alerted his troops, allowed terrorists to close in. At a closed quarter, 50-70 m, terrorists noticed our party and opened fire on them. Unmindful of the volley of bullets, our ambush party returned fire resulting killing of three terrorists.”
The army asked villagers in Sonapindi to bury the three men and added them to the tally of 40 “unidentified foreign militants” — fighters from Pakistan — killed in 468 infiltration attempts that year. The deaths were also added to another grim statistic: the thousands of anonymous graves found all over the hills along the LOC. The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice has documented 2,943 such graves in three border districts of Kashmir. The area is the front line in the long-running conflict over territory between India and Pakistan and ground zero of an armed Kashmiri separatist insurgency.
But the bodies buried at Machil did not remain anonymous. Three Kashmiri families claimed the men as their sons, laborers, they said, who had nothing to do with Pakistan.
Their deaths have reverberated far beyond the mountains. Police and local activists say they were killed not in the heat of battle but by soldiers motivated by greed and a draconian law, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, that they knew would protect them from civil prosecution. Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch, who has written extensively on the region, says, “This particular case became an example of everything that had gone wrong in Kashmir.”
But the story of Machil — told through interviews with the families of the men who were killed and extensive access to the police records documenting the incident — has also become a sign of what’s possible. It set in motion a rare prosecution by the Indian army of its own soldiers, with the last verdict being announced just last week, and a chance to finally end Kashmir’s decadeslong cycle of violence. Ganguly says, “Machil is the beginning.”
Three boys from Baramulla
After a 2003 cease-fire between India and Pakistan, Baramulla, the traditional trading center of Indian Kashmir, was briefly a symbol of everything that has gone right in the region. Though the main road there had become impassable during the height of the separatist insurgency in the early 1990s, India later rebuilt it in an effort to encourage cross-border trade.
In this fragile peace, the people of Baramulla district patch together a living. They eat rice from the paddy fields that haven’t yet been sold to developers, sell fruit in the markets whenever the roads are open and, failing all that, send their sons out to work as day laborers on construction sites all over the Kashmir Valley. It is a tenuous existence, but better than the open conflict of the previous decade, when young men could choose only between two kinds of exile: the life of a migrant laborer or a militant.
These difficult choices about how to earn a living are made every day inside the brick houses of Nadihal, a village about seven kilometers (roughly four miles) west of Baramulla town where sheep, chickens and pony carts make up the only traffic. In a brightly painted room — green walls, yellow door, pink flowered curtains — Shahzad Ahmed Khan’s mother, Ayesha, talks about her eldest son. At 25, he was married with a 6-year-old child, and his only steady work was packing apples in the orchards of a neighbor. He would sometimes hitch rides to Srinagar or Baramulla for jobs, Ayesha says. “He would go with whoever paid him more.”
No matter where he went, Shahzad always carried two things in the pocket of his black checkered woolen tunic, or pheran: his mobile phone and a small diary in which he kept careful accounts of how much money he owed other people and what they owed him. One day in April 2010 Shahzad met a neighbor, Bashir Ahmed Lone, who promised him 500 rupees (about $8) for a day’s work as a porter for the army. Bashir arranged for an SUV and driver to take him to the army base at Kalaroos. Shahzad came back that day humiliated; his mother says he hadn’t been paid.
Riyaz Ahmed Lone, a handsome 20-year-old motorcycle mechanic, had a similar offer, according to his father, Yusuf. (Lone is a common surname in Kashmir, and they are not related to Bashir.) The second of eight children, Riyaz liked to wear track suits and left his brown hair long enough to tumble into his eyes. He worked with Yusuf at a motorcycle workshop and earned about 3,000 rupees a month, but constantly complained, “My pay is too little.” Riyaz went to Kalaroos without telling his parents, anticipating that they would be angry. When he got back, they warned him that he would lose his job. He told his parents he had a chance to double his pay from the first day. His mother, Naseema, says, “We never saw it, but he said he got 500 rupees.”
On April 29, Bashir again sent the SUV to Nadihal. Shahzad didn’t tell his mother where he was going, but at about 9:30 a.m., he left the house, saying, “I’ll be back at 4.” Riyaz left his house the same morning, saying only, “I’ll be back by 2 p.m.”
Mohammad Shafi Lone, 19, lived just down the lane from Riyaz. Shafi had a tractor for gathering apples but “would do all kinds of work” as long as it was close to home, according to his father, Abdul Rashid. Shafi had just one goal, his father said: to save enough for the weddings of his four rose-cheeked sisters. On the morning of April 29, Abdul Rashid said, his son spoke to someone while working just outside their courtyard and left.
When Shafi didn’t come home that night, Abdul Rashid went looking for him and soon realized that there were two other families keeping the same vigil. “For eight days we regularly called him,” says Shahzad’s mother. Riyaz’s mother, Naseema, was sure that their neighbor Bashir had something to do with her son’s disappearance and hounded him, demanding, “Why are you at home?” when her son was not. “He was rotten,” Naseema says. Bashir was employed as a “special police officer,” a euphemism for “informer.” SPOs, used by state police all over India, are paid a small monthly salary to feed information to the local police about the goings-on in their village. Naseema uses another word for him: “All the village will say he is an Ikhwani.”
For Kashmiris, “Ikhwani” is spoken with the special revulsion reserved for those who betray their own and refers to a breakaway faction of the armed group the Hizb ul Mujahideen, whose members became double agents for India. The Indian security forces had a small band of former militants-turned-paid informers, or “mukhbir.” It was an effective strategy but left behind a horrific legacy of fear. In “Curfewed Night,” his memoir of growing up during the militancy of the 1990s, Basharat Peer describes being summoned to appear before an informer waiting in an armored car: “Each man was asked to stop near the window and show his face to the masked mukhbir,” he writes. “If the informer raised his hand, the soldiers pounced upon the suspect and took him away for interrogation.”
Bashir denied having anything to do with the disappearance of the three young men. But a neighbor, Fayaz Ahmad Wani, said the trio had left with Bashir, and on May 10, the three families filed missing-person reports. Shahzad’s brother also lodged a complaint, accusing Bashir of kidnapping. He was arrested 10 days later and remains in custody in Kashmir as his trial proceeds. His lawyer, Abdul Wajid Watali, says Bashir is innocent. “Why didn’t they inform the local headman (about the disappearance)?” he asks. “Why they didn’t file a complaint before police for days together? Why they waited for long?”
The ambitious officer
The missing-person case fell under the jurisdiction of Altaf Khan, the superintendent of police or SP of Sopore, a district that is considered the ideological home of the pro-Pakistan separatist movement. At the time, this was one of the few places in Kashmir where armed groups seemed to be gaining strength: About 50 fighters were believed to operate in Sopore with logistical support from a population of 300,000. Khan was assigned the career-making task of flushing out terrorists and their sympathizers from the area. “Should I be honest about it?” he asks. “To me, out of every six, one is working for a terrorist or is a terrorist.”
Tall, broad-chested and voluble, Khan, who has since been promoted to another district, lives in a spacious two-story house in one of Srinagar’s new housing developments with his wife, a banker, and their children. He entered law enforcement more than 14 years ago after abandoning a career as a scientist, and he approaches his work with academic detachment, writing action plans and papers about emerging trends in terrorism. Without guidance, he says, young people in Sopore fall prey to terror networks that offer them money to buy SIM cards, procure supplies or act as “mules” for weapons. He has tried community policing, drug de-addiction camps and “moral education” to win them over, he says, but “People are very reluctant.”
The disappearance of three laborers normally would not merit the attention of the SP, but this case intrigued him because of the alarming possibility that these young Kashmiris might have crossed the LOC to be trained in Pakistan, as thousands did in 1989. That earlier generation of indigenous separatists has been killed or co-opted or has just grown old, but there is a growing fear among security experts of a new uprising of Kashmiris joining the armed groups operating in Pakistan. “From the case-study point of view it’s very interesting, whether the locals are lured toward terrorism or not,” Khan says. “So that is actually what captivated me toward it.”
The police began with Bashir. Under interrogation, Khan said, Bashir implicated two other men, Abbas Husain Shah and Abdul Hameed Bhat, who both worked as paid informers for the army. There are few other good sources of intelligence about terrorist activity in Kashmir, according to Maj. Gen. Dipankar Banerjee, a retired Indian army officer who served in Kashmir, including in Machil. Telephone intercepts rarely reveal detailed plans, and Indian intelligence services are believed to have few, if any, human agents on the other side of the LOC. They rely on paid informers, Banerjee says. “Without them, an operation cannot succeed.”
Before he was taken into judicial custody, Abbas described his work in an interview with The Indian Express newspaper. He said his handler was Maj. Upendra Singh, an Indian army officer stationed in Baramulla, and Abbas’ job was to feed him intelligence about suspicious people in town and the surrounding villages. In April 2010, Singh had a bigger job for him: “Major sahib [Singh] asked to arrange few young men and told me that we have to send them across to Pakistan.” The men would be asked to help fighters trying to enter Indian Kashmir, carrying weapons for them and serving as their guides through the mountains. It was a clever ruse. Local Kashmiris frequently act as paid guides to groups of foreign fighters. “The infiltrators depend upon them,” Banerjee says.
Abbas asked Hameed for help and Hameed roped in Bashir. They recruited Shahzad, Riyaz and Shafi from Nadihal, brought them to the army base at Kalaroos on April 29 and got their reward: 150,000 rupees, two bottles of whiskey and two bottles of beer. Police later found 50,000 rupees in cash in a raid of Bashir’s house. Phone records submitted as evidence show numerous calls between Singh, Abbas and Hameed in the weeks leading up to April 29. Under interrogation, Abbas said the laborers had been brought to Machil and were killed on April 30 in a staged encounter made to look like a firefight. It was the same incident described so vividly as an ambush at close quarters in which the army men described shooting three “terrorists” crossing the LOC, “unmindful of a volley of bullets.”
“Encounter” is the term of art used for extrajudicial killings in India, and it is a shockingly common tool used by the Indian army and state police. Human Rights Watch reported in 2006 that police and army officials in Kashmir admitted “that alleged militants taken into custody are often executed instead of being brought to trial because they believe that keeping hardcore militants in jail is a security risk.”
In Kashmir, the families of men who have disappeared often suspect that they have been killed in encounters, but their complaints are seldom investigated. “You have to match the person with a body,” says HRW’s Ganguly. “That’s the trick.”
With Machil, however, Abbas’ statement matched the three missing laborers with the bodies reported by the army near the LOC. According to procedure, the army must report any killing on the LOC to the local police station. This is meant as a check on the army’s operations and also creates an official record of who was involved in any deadly encounter, which the army takes into consideration when determining raises and promotions. Khan couldn’t believe his luck. “They had actually named the chaps who did that encounter with the terrorists,” he says. “We never needed to prove that they have killed. They were telling on their own that we have killed terrorists. The only thing we had proved was that they were not terrorists. They were civilians.”
The bodies were exhumed, and post-mortems found that all three had multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso; one also had a fractured skull. DNA analysis of hair, skin and nails matched blood samples from the three sets of parents. The men were reburied in plots adjacent to each other near their homes in Nadihal on May 29, and Khan quickly built the rest of his case. With Abbas’ statement, the DNA reports, mobile-phone records and other circumstantial evidence, Khan says, he did not need to take any of the army men into custody. That is usually a big hurdle when investigating disappearances in Kashmir: The army rarely allows civilian authorities to take custody of active-duty military. “I never needed to arrest anybody,” Khan says. On June 24, he filed charges against the three informers and the eight soldiers named in the Machil report — Abbas’ handler, Upendra Singh; his commanding officer, Col. Dinesh Pathaniya; another major; and five junior enlisted men — charging them with criminal conspiracy, abduction and murder.
The army began court-martial proceedings in 2013, and Singh, Pathaniya and three of the enlisted men were found guilty, stripped of their rank and pension and sentenced to life in prison. Abbas was exonerated. The court martial’s verdicts were announced in November 2014 and put under review for approval by the army’s northern command. In February, the army upheld the five convictions and, additionally, ordered a reinvestigation into Abbas’ case. Last week he, too, was convicted and received a life sentence. His sentence must also be approved by the northern command before it can be carried out. The convicted officers and soldiers have been in custody since 2010, and none of the court-martial proceedings were in open court, so it is impossible to determine how, or if, the soldiers were given any legal representation. All the soldiers involved have two more opportunities to appeal — to an armed-forces tribunal and to the Supreme Court.
Hameed and Bashir are in custody and awaiting trial on conspiracy and abduction charges in a civilian court for allegedly taking money to bring the three men to the border. Their lawyer, Watali, says there is no proof that the three laborers were seen in the company of his clients, other than the statements of the families; the court-martial verdicts have no bearing on the civilian case, he adds. “My contention is that statements of the accused who is now convicted by the court martial are not binding on me.”
The meaning of Machil
While the army would like to look at Machil as an aberration, the case has become an emblem of the larger struggles in Kashmir, between the Indian army and civilian authority, between transparency and the fog of war, between Kashmir’s past and its future.
The civilian charges filed against serving army officers represent, in one sense, a clear break from the past, when extrajudicial killings were common but prosecution was rare. “The Machil verdict should mark a turning point for human rights in Jammu and Kashmir,” wrote Shailesh Rai, programmes director at Amnesty International India, when the first convictions were announced in November.
The relative calm prevailing in Indian Kashmir has helped to make this possible. There is also an elected government in Srinagar and a police force that is trying to assert its authority over the army and show that it can maintain law and order on its own. “The police are much more empowered now,” Ganguly says. “A civilian government is much more accountable.” In addition, Indian officials and independent security experts say that popular support for militants has largely dried up, with the remaining terrorist activity rooted in Pakistan.
And yet these peacetime deaths shocked Kashmir even after a decadeslong conflict, in which an estimated 60,000 civilians have died. The three men from Nadihal were not caught in crossfire or in a case of mistaken identity; they were not accidentally killed during interrogation or by soldiers in the heat of battle. Nor were they hardened terrorists subject to frontier justice, a common perception in India of fake encounters. Ajai Sahni, an expert on counterterrorism and director of the Institute for Conflict Management, explains the rationale: Soldiers think, “So the guy is going to get out and again do what he was doing, so shoot him,” Sahni says. “So there is a kind of institutional sanction … This is not that kind of a case.”
The motives in Machil, according to the charges filed by police, were more banal: greed and ambition. The 4th Rajput battalion was due to leave the LOC in early May 2010, and until the encounter on April 30, the unit at Machil had reported no successful kills or captures of militants, nor seized any weapons, hurting the officers’ chances for advancement. Khan says that the unit received a 600,000-rupee reward for its report of killing three militants and that it fabricated the seizure memo listing arms and ammunition recovered to bolster its case for promotions.
A 2005 diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks raised a warning about the perverse incentives for human-rights abuses in Kashmir, even during peacetime. Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross told the then-U.S. ambassador to India, David Mulford, that after the 2003 cease-fire and extensive human-rights training, abuses still continue because “security forces need promotions.”
A spokesman for the army’s northern command declined to comment on the Machil case or its significance and referred all questions to army spokesmen in Kashmir, who did not respond to multiple calls and messages seeking comment.
Undisciplined soldiers may commit excesses in any situation, says Sahni, but at the height of the insurgency, “maybe the opportunities for legitimate rewards were higher.” Today maybe some of the commanding officers find themselves kicking their heels in Kashmir and think, “‘It’s an insurgency-affected area,’” he says, ““but I am not getting any opportunity to go out and do anything.’”
The 50,000 rupees paid to each of the three informers seemed to confirm these fears. “They were literally sold,” says Sajjad Lone, a former separatist who is now a state legislator in Kashmir. “Even in the context of a lot of human rights violations in Kashmir, this will attract more outrage.”
The final reckoning
It began with a small protest organized by the families in Nadihal after their sons disappeared. The anger grew, moving along the Baramulla road to Srinagar in the summer of 2010. During one of those demonstrations, a 17-year-old boy was killed, allegedly by a tear-gas canister fired by security forces. His death sparked wider protests demanding not only justice for the three killed at Machil but also an end to what many Kashmiris consider a 20-year occupation by the Indian armed forces. During the protests, more than 100 Kashmiris were killed by police, fueling the outrage and, according to some security analysts, renewed radicalization among young people who were not even born when the original Kashmiri separatist movement began. Recent clashes in the border areas — by Pakistan-trained fighters as well as local Kashmiris — have added to those fears.
India has a chance to break this cycle of violence. The army insists that military courts like the one that handed down the convictions in the Machil case will hold soldiers accountable for abuses. After two young men were shot and killed in November 2014 at an army checkpoint in Kashmir, the military quickly claimed responsibility and said it would prosecute. But under intense popular pressure, the fragile coalition government in Kashmir has made a repeal or, at least, a scaling back, of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act a centerpiece of its legislative agenda. That will be difficult with a strongman, Narendra Modi, as prime minister, and few in the government willing to challenge the army. Until AFSPA is repealed, many Kashmiris will always view India as an unaccountable, occupying force and the desire for “azaadi,” or independence, will persist.
The army is one of the few institutions in India that is widely respected as meritocratic and disciplined, and the Indian government is unlikely to challenge it, but this is a rare opportunity to raise questions. The armed forces are already on the defensive after a series of corruption scandals over the past few years that have muddied their image. Machil has prompted some further soul-searching. Ajai Shukla, a retired colonel in the Indian army and the strategic affairs editor for the Business Standard newspaper, said the case is the “inevitable outcome” of prolonged counterinsurgency deployment in Kashmir over the last 20 years. “It has deeply corrupted the culture of the Indian army,” he said. “I am almost convinced that there are more Machils that take place which never come to justice.”
Twenty years of counterinsurgency operations have also badly eroded Kashmiris’ faith in India’s institutions. What would restore it? Shukla and many other observers say that only a political settlement in Kashmir and an end to militarization in the region can change the culture of the army. Human-rights groups have called for a comprehensive investigation into all the unsolved disappearances and anonymous graves that pockmark Kashmir’s hills. But there is little political will in New Delhi to subject the armed forces to general scrutiny for past actions. “A lot of unspeakable things have happened,” says M.K. Bhadrakumar, a political analyst and retired diplomat. “What do you gain on the balance sheet when you go to the bottom of the pit?”
Meanwhile, both countries continue to ignore the unspoken truth about azaadi in Kashmir: that for all their anger, very few Kashmiris on the Indian side of the LOC truly want to leave. The pull of India is strong, and the appeals of Pakistan are few. Yet “azaadi” persists as a hope and a dream. As long as the violence of the past remains unaccounted for, it will mean not just “We want to be free from India” but also “We will never be free to join you.” One day, there may be a reckoning. “The gaps that remain in people’s lives — that has to be accounted for,” says Ganguly. “How hard is it to tell these families that their loved ones are dead? That … truth-telling shows the character of a nation.”
Riyaz’s mother, Naseema, refers to all this, the trouble and fear and doubt, as “the bad halat,” the situation: “This is why people think of India as the enemy.” She has a more immediate fear: reprisal from Bashir and his allies. Still, the families in Nadihal have the peace of mind that comes from knowing what happened to their sons, enough to feel sorry for the families of the other men still buried on the LOC. There have been so many graves that the village religious committees took up the task of marking each one with a piece of metal sheeting nailed to a wooden spike. Shahzad’s mother, Asha, displays the marker for her son’s grave. Painted on it in black Urdu script is the date of burial, a number (Shahzad’s body was No. 2, of three buried in that row), some identification of personal effects (his black checkered robe) and a prayer (“He came from God, and to God he will return”). She treasures this. The other mothers have only ghosts.
Srinagar: Expressing deep concern over the deteriorating health of their beloved ones languishing in different jails of India, scores of family members, mostly the mothers of these Kashmiri political prisoners Wednesday staged a peaceful protest in Srinagar appealing Government of India either to release their sons or shift them to Srinagar Central Jail.
More than 400 people from Jammu and Kashmir implicated in anti-India cases are languishing in different jails of India. Thirty-Seven Kashmiri youth are serving life imprisonment and most of them are spending their days and nights in narrow cells of Tihar and Rajhstan Jails.
The protest was organized by Muslim Deeni Mahaz, the organization that demands the immediate release of Dr Muhammad Qasim, who has been languishing in the jail from last 23 years.
“My son Javid Ahmed Khan was implicated in Lajpat Nagar bomb blast while the fact was that Javid was working as a salesman in Nepal and on way to Srinagar in 1996, Delhi police arrested him for being a Kashmiri,” Fatima Banoo the mother of Javaid who is the resident of Dukan-i-Sangeen Fathekadal Srinagar told CNS.
Nahida Banoo from Khankah Srinagar whose son Latif Ahmed is behind the bars in Rajhstan said that she gets so disturbed when she meets her son in Rajhstan. “I can’t tell you the condition of detained Kashmiri youth in Rajhstan jail. They have been suffering from different ailments and in a such a scorching heat, the jail authorities force these youth to spend all the time in narrow and dark cells while other inmates from other Indian states are allowed to spend their time in the open,” Nahida with moist eyes told CNS.
“We are so much depressed and concerned about the safety of our children. They have been living in hell. How can a mother rest after listening sordid tale from her son. We vehemently appeal to the government of India to shift our ailing children to Srinagar Central jail,” a couple of mothers who were part of the protest said with tearful eyes.
Thirty-Seven Muslim youth from Jammu and Kashmir are serving life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in anti-India activities. They include Javaid Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Ayub Dar, Nazir Ahmed Sheikh, Muhammad Ayoub Mir, Sheikh Imran, Sheikh Farhat, Showkat Ahmed Khan, Nisar Mirza, Muhammad Ali Bhat, Latif Ahmed Waza all residents of Srinagar, Muhammad Amin Dar, Muhammad Amin Wani, Abdul Wahid Naik residents of Banihal, Ghulam Qadir Bhat of Kupwara, Muhmud Topiwala of Ganderbal, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, Dr Muhammad Shafi Khan residents of Budgam, Barkat Ali Khan, Muhmmad Iqbal Khan, Muhammad Sadiq Gujjar, Sai Muhammad Gujjar, Mehandia Gujjar all residents of Reasi, Noor Muhammad Tantray, Parvaiz Ahmed Mir, Feroz Ahmed Bhat all residents of Pulwama, Muhammad Aslam, Muhammad Akeel Wani residents of Rajouri, Muhammad Sayid Bhat of Islamabad, Fayaz Ahmed Shah, Muhammad Ishaq Pala residents of Shopian, Gul Muhammad Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Hussain Malik all residents of Kathua, Mushtaq Ahmed Malla and Shabir Ahmed Bhat of Handwara, Maqsood Ahmed Bhat of Baramulla and Abdul Gani Goni of Doda.
There are some Kashmiri prisoners who have been under trial from last 8 to 15 years and they are Gulzar Ahmed Wani of Baramulla and Tariq Ahmed Dar, Muhammad Rafiq Shah, Muhammad Hussain Fazili and Bashir Ahmed Kota all residents of Srinagar. (CNS)
Srinagar: Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) have reportedly let loose a reign of terror in India’s Tihar Jail. Kashmiri prisoners there have been facing relentless atrocities. In an open letter to his family from Tihar Jail, a Kashmiri inmate Muzaffar Ahmed Dar of Chichilora Tangmarag in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district has narrated detailed ordeal about Kashmiri prisoners in the jail.
A copy of the letter reveals that criminals, rapists, dacoits of other states lodged in the jail avail all kinds of facilities while Kashmiri inmates shut up in the jail for alleged anti-India activities are not only harassed but also given a cruel treatment.
Dar who was arrested for his alleged affiliation with militant outfit Hizbul Mujhadeen from Sadrabal Hazratbal area of Srinagar city in April 2009 has written that TSP on the directions of Tihar Jail authorities care a fig of law and Jail rules and these men always force Kashmiri prisoners to lick their boots.
“On 8 April 2015, all the Kashmiri prisoners present in High Risk Ward were forcibly separated from one another and shifted to separate narrow and dark cells. The doors of these cells were locked suddenly and opened only after over a week.”
Dar has written that Kashmiri prisoners are being treated like animals in the jail. “The jail authorities charge money from us to read the newspapers every morning but we are not allowed now to go through any news paper. We are not given any facility now, even ailing Kashmiri inmates are not taken to hospitals.”
“On 10 April Tamil Nadu Special Police suddenly raided our cells, ransacked our items including books and seized everything. Even our medicines and utensils were snatched from us. Some of our items were given back to us, after we went on a hunger strike.”
“On April 11, I was suddenly shifted to Jail number 8 of Tihar against the orders of the doctor. Tamil Nadu Special Police raided my cell again and seized all the items again. Despite suffering from multiple ailments, Jail authorities do not provide me standard medicines. Doctors had advised me take boiled water but instead Kashmiri prisoners are given a mixture of saline and sweetened water. The Jail authorities submitted a false report in the court, claiming that inmates are taken to hospitals on routine basis but the fact is that I was never taken to any hospital,” Dar writes and adds that jail authorities refused to provide him an electric kettle for water boiling purpose. “Here in Tihar Jail criminals, rapists and dacoits are permitted to avail every kind of facility but same is not the case with Kashmiri prisoners.”
Dar who was shifted to Tihar from Srinagar Central Jail in 2014 on the directions of National Investigating Agency (NIA) said that for 20 days at a stretch he was kept in solitary confinement in BSF camp Chawla House where due to consumption of filthy water, he developed several ailments.
The family members of Dar castigated People’s Democratic Party for making false promises to the people of Kashmir. “We voted for the PDP with a hope that it will shift all the Kashmiri prisoners to Srinagar from different Indian jails, but contrary has been happening on the ground now. Instead of acting in the interest of people, it is adding to the woes of the people,” the brother of Dar Irfan Hussain told.
The Tangmarag family also castigated separatist leaders and alleged these Hurriyat leaders have disappointed the people whose loved ones have been languishing in Indian jails as according to the family no Hurriyat organization ever made a serious attempt to bring back the Kashmiri prisoners back to Kashmir. “
The politics of these Hurriyat leaders is confined to the press statements but on ground their contribution towards the nation is zero,” the family said adding that they have sold a piece of land to pay to the lawyer in New Delhi. (CNS)
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In India After Lifting Of Internal Emergency: A Study in Contrast
By Dr. Paramjit Singh Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal
The whole of Kashmir valley has been likened to an open prison where people live in conditions akin to being in a state of perpetual Internal Emergency. The civil liberties and democratic rights of freedom loving people have been trampled upon by police, paramilitary and the armed forces. Draconian laws like Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 [AFPSA] continue to exist. There is an army of occupation estimated to be numbering around 700,000 armed and uniformed personnel. The print, audio-visual and the social media face a situation of censorship every time the people of Kashmir rebel against inhuman and cruel living conditions; the right to rebel is effectively crushed. Even getting a private member’s resolution to be raised in the Assembly urging for return of mortal remains of Afzal Guru is effectively thwarted. The functioning of courts in conflict zones does not inspire much confidence. Even peaceful and democratic protests, say for boycott of elections, all over the valley are quelled through the use of indefinite curfew, police firing, preventive detention, encounters and torture. Since 1947 assurances given to people of Kashmir have been consistently violated; for instance plebiscite never took place. Article 370 has been effectively diluted, even as there is a constant refrain from the right wingers urging Article 370 to be scrapped altogether. As a last resort when a movement for ‘Azaadi’ is launched brute force is used to crush it. No options are then left for the people of Kashmir by the Indian State.
One period the people of India faced a repressive situation all over the country was during the imposition of Internal Emergency by the then Prime of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1975. But that period did not last beyond twenty-one months; during which time over a hundred thousand people were imprisoned including politicians, trade unionists, academicians, intellectuals, journalists, students, ultra-left activists and many others. The arrests were made under draconian laws – MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) and DIR (Defence of India Rules). Freedom of speech was curtailed. There was press-censorship. The rulers amended and subverted the Constitution of India umpteen times for their vested interests. The right to life itself was suspended. (It is only now that Supreme Court judges of those times have started apologizing for the havoc their judgements brought on the citizens of India.) It was because of the tremendous resistance – both underground and over ground as well as nationally and globally that the Internal Emergency was revoked and political prisoners were released. It is true that even the new dispensation that emerged after overthrowing Mrs. Gandhi’s government was initially reluctant to release prisoners who are referred to as Naxalites by the establishment, but later ordered their release.
It will be in order to recapture the developments which led to the imposition of Emergency. During 1973 the Nav Nirman movement emerged in Gujarat led by students who were agitating against corruption and inflation. (Narendra Modi, the present Prime Minister is said to have been an active participant in the movement). The movement was supported by Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Congress (O), Communist Party of India (Marxist), SP and others. While it succeeded in getting Gujarat assembly dissolved – 95 people died during this agitation and 933 persons were injured due to the agitation becoming more violent which led to police firing. There was loss to public and private property. Nobody including the Sangh Parivar shed a tear for demise of the rule of law and constitutional means. A duly elected state government got overthrown using techniques like gheraos and the like; it was not through elections!
Jayaprakash Narayan (J.P.) inspired and encouraged a similar movement in Bihar for the dissolution of the assembly; there, too, students were in the lead. The number of fatalities was 70 and the number injured was 500. The year 1974 also saw the all India strike by railway men under the leadership of socialist leader, George Fernandes. The strike lasted for twenty days. It was brutally suppressed through use of strong arm tactics. There was flagrant violation of civil and democratic rights. Thousands of railway men were sent to jails and lost their jobs. This has been likened to a dress rehearsal for Mrs. Gandhi’s Emergency regime. In early January, 1975 L.N. Mishra, the Union Railway Minister was assassinated in Samastipur, Bihar. This was followed by an attempt on the life of the Chief Justice of India.
Indira Gandhi’s response was through the imposition of Internal Emergency triggered by her election being set aside by the Allahabad High Court. Mass arrest of political leaders of all hues followed including socialists, communists, Jan Sanghis, members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), break away factions of the Congress; members of Akali Dal, Muslim League and others. L.K. Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Arun Jaitley too faced imprisonment. George Fernandes led an underground movement and garnered support from several sources to use dynamite to blast government buildings and to “transport the explosives from Baroda to Varanasi.” Upon arrest in 1976 he was tried under the Baroda Dynamite Case; this case was withdrawn when Janata Party came to power. Later in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime Fernandes rose to be the Union Defence Minister. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the RSS and other right wing bodies were comfortable with the idea of George Fernandes as the Defence Minister; that the unity and integrity of India would not be threatened by someone who was at one time – during the underground movement in mid-seventies – self-confessedly dynamiting government buildings. Even as late as 2005 before his memory faded he had publicly acknowledged the support he had received from the DMK chief Karunanidhi in the Baroda Dynamite attacks during Emergency with moral and material support.
Fernandes and his associates had every right to rebel against Mrs. Gandhi’s dictatorship. It is appropriate that he was treated as a political prisoner and released by the Janata party government. Even as serious criminal charges were leveled against Fernandes, the attempt of Mrs. Gandhi’s government then was to ensure that civil society would be less inclined to canvas for his release. This is a standard ploy used by all regimes from the British era down to Modi’s regime. Draconian laws are framed and political activists during their legitimate political activity are framed under such black laws. As always the attempt is to discredit the political activists and ensure that a wave of protests for the activists to be treated as political prisoners is effectively prevented.
But shouldn’t such courtesy i.e. being released as political prisoners from jails, withdrawal of criminal cases be extended to those who participated in and spearheaded the May-June 2010 Quit Kashmir movement launched against the Indian Army? Those who participated in that movement were sick and tired of the atrocities committed by the army personnel. The trigger point was the staged encounter at Sona Pindi of three young Kashmiri Muslims who were taken from their Nadihal Village in Baramulla District and how eventually it was found to be fake. The Kashmiris had every right to rebel which they did through hurling pebbles – sorry stones – when confronted by the might of the police and paramilitary forces all over the valley. It resulted in the death of over one hundred and ten civilians and 537 civilians were injured during the stone pelting incidents including many teenagers and a 11 year old boy between May to September 2010. A large number of CRPF men and police personnel were said to have been injured. Just as the leader of the Quit Kashmir movement – Masarat Alam was released on 7 March, 2015, political parties of all hues protested against the release in and outside the Indian Parliament. The BJP leaders at the Central Government raised the bogey of not being consulted prior to his release insinuating thereby that they would have objected. The central BJP leadership and members of Sangh Parivar and all political parties should remember how they themselves were released from jails as political prisoners just a few decades back. Kuldip Nayar – veteran journalist, who was himself jailed under MISA during the Emergency – should have been supporting Masarat Alam’s release. The Quit Kashmir movement leaders were only urging for the army to be withdrawn from Kashmir. Contrast it with the statement of Jayaprakash Narayan just a day before the Emergency was imposed wherein he had urged the police and the army to disobey illegal orders challenging Indira Gandhi to bring charges against him if she thought he was preaching treason! Notwithstanding treason, J.P. was released.
It is learnt that a number of political prisoners of the Quit Kashmir Movement as also several hundred arrested during the earlier phases of struggle are languishing in jails in Kashmir and elsewhere. If people charged under the Baroda Dynamite Case can have cases withdrawn and released from jails, there is no reason why political activists in Kashmir have to face continued incarceration in jails. There is a very real possibility that false criminal cases under draconian laws may have been filed even against those involved in the Quit Kashmir movement. In the interest of justice and equity each one of those involved in that movement should be released forthwith.
After the release of Masarat Alam the Jammu and Kashmir government has reportedly decided against release of anymore political prisoners. Historically, political prisoners put behind bars are released when the regime changes. This is the first time that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and BJP combine is in power in Jammu & Kashmir. It would be politically wise to release all political prisoners put behind bars by the earlier political dispensation.
[Paramjit Singh Sahni, Orthopaedic Surgeon & Shobha Aggarwal, advocate are members of Public Interest Litigation Watch Group. Email: email@example.com ]