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Repression in Indian-controlled Kashmir

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    International report documents repression in Indian-controlled Kashmir By Parwini Zora and Daniel Woreck 30 November 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2006
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      International report documents repression in Indian-controlled Kashmir
      By Parwini Zora and Daniel Woreck
      30 November 2006

      A recent report by the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents the
      systematic human rights abuses carried out by the Indian security
      forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the protection of the
      Indian government and legal system.

      HRW conducted research for the report, entitled "Everyone Lives in
      Fear: Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir," from 2004 to
      February 2006 in Indian-controlled Kashmir. It was the first time
      since 1989 that the Indian government had allowed an international
      human rights body to visit and report on the state. HRW also conducted
      research in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir in 2005 and 2006.

      The report provides detailed accounts and interviews implicating the
      Indian security forces in torture, disappearances, arbitrary
      detentions and summary executions, which are concealed as "encounter

      The report stressed that the estimated 700,000 Indian soldiers and
      paramilitaries in Kashmir carry out widespread repression with
      impunity. Indian laws protect members of the armed forces and civilian
      officials involved in crimes against Kashmiris. Soldiers responsible
      for murders and torture are rarely investigated or held accountable
      for their crimes.

      The Asian director of Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams, told the press
      in September: "Human rights abuses have been a cause as well as a
      consequence of the insurgency in Kashmir.... Kashmiris continue to
      live in constant fear because perpetrators of abuses are not punished.
      Unless the Indian authorities address the human rights crisis in Jammu
      and Kashmir, a political settlement of the conflict will remain illusory."

      The report also covers in significant detail the massacres, bombings
      and political killings committed by various armed groups opposed to
      Indian rule of Kashmir. While HRW equates the violence of the Indian
      military and that of the militants, the outbreak of the armed conflict
      in the late 1980s resulted from decades of oppressive, anti-democratic
      Indian rule of the majority Muslim state.

      The continuing conflict in Kashmir underlines the inherently
      reactionary character of the 1947 partition of British India into the
      current Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu-dominated India. The division of
      the subcontinent along artificial boundaries that cut across national,
      ethnic and language groupings laid the groundwork for future conflicts
      and wars that resulted in some 2 million deaths, turned millions more
      into refugees and divided the Kashmiri region into Indian and
      Pakistani-held areas.

      Subsequently, successive Indian governments have proved incapable of
      meeting the aspirations of the Kashmiri Muslims for genuine democratic
      rights and decent living standards. Seeking to ensure Indian
      domination over Kashmir, the Indian elite rescinded an agreement to
      give more autonomy to the state. Kashmiris began to take up arms in
      the late 1980s after the Indian government blatantly rigged state
      elections in Jammu and Kashmir

      Since 1989, at least 20,000 Kashmiri civilians have been killed as a
      result of the armed conflict and tens of thousands more have been
      injured according to the HRW report. About 300,000 Hindu Kashmiris
      have been internally displaced and another 30,000 Muslim Kashmiris
      have fled to neighbouring Pakistan as refugees.

      The report cited evidence of summary killings of suspected militants.
      Police and army officials told HRW that detained suspects were often
      executed rather than being brought to jail, on the grounds that
      "keeping hardcore militants in gaol is a security risk". The deaths
      were often falsely recorded as the result of "encounter killings". One
      example was the case of five men shot supposedly in an armed
      "encounter". While the army and police claimed the men were
      responsible for the massacre of 36 Kashmiri Sikhs in 2000, forensic
      tests later showed the men to be innocent local villagers.

      Indian security forces have extensive powers under the Jammu and
      Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir)
      Special Powers Act to use lethal force against anyone "who is acting
      in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in
      the disturbed area". The report cited an incident on February 23, 2006
      in which soldiers in Handawara shot at a group of people playing
      cricket because they suspected that a Kashmiri separatist was among
      them. Four boys, including an eight-year-old, were killed.

      Kashmiri human rights defenders estimate that over 8,000 Kashmiris
      have simply "disappeared" since 1989. Most were last seen in the
      custody of Indian troops, who in turn denied holding the person. Many
      were tortured and then executed.

      One case involved Manzoor Ahmed Mir, a 37-year-old state employee. A
      group of soldiers accompanied by three masked men took him away on
      September 12, 2004. Manzoor's brother recognised the men as a police
      sub-inspector, with whom Manzoor had quarrelled, and the
      sub-inspector's two sons. Manzoor's family filed a habeas corpus
      petition in the Srinigar High Court but by February 2006 the police
      and army had not responded.

      The HRW report stated that thousands of Kashmiris have been
      arbitrarily and illegally detained. One of India's Additional Advocate
      Generals recently stated there were 4,500 suspected militants awaiting
      trial in jail. Many have been held for 10 years or more without being
      brought before a court. Indian authorities often detain Kashmiris
      under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for
      detention without trial for up to two years, because they have no
      evidence of guilt.

      Many people have been detained beyond two years by simply rolling over
      preventative detention orders. Amnesty International reported on the
      case of Farooq Ahmad Dar, who was detained in November last year under
      his ninth consecutive PSA order. He has been in continuous detention
      since 1991.

      Based on information from Mian Abdul Qayoom, president of the Jammu
      and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, HRW reported that individuals
      had filed at least 60,000 habeas corpus petitions since 1990 to
      contest detentions or "disappearances". However, according to HRW,
      there are few, if any, cases in which "officials have been held
      responsible for failing to respond in a timely manner to a court order
      in a habeas corpus case or for failing to release a detainee pursuant
      to a court order in Jammu and Kashmir".

      Those in state custody are commonly tortured. "Relatives of militants
      are also taken into custody and tortured, either to discover the
      whereabouts of a suspect, or as a way of forcing the militant to
      surrender," the report stated. The brother of a wanted Kashmiri told
      HRW that Indian forces had beaten him and given him electric shocks
      while in custody to try to force his brother to surrender. The torture
      only stopped when soldiers killed his brother.

      Legal immunity

      Most cases of serious human rights abuse in the Jammu and Kashmir
      region are not officially investigated. In the rare instances where
      abuses are probed, there has not been a single individual in the
      Indian army, paramilitary or the police convicted of a criminal
      offence. In fact, since 1989 only 134 army personnel, 79 members of
      the Border Security Force and 60 policemen have been subjected to
      "disciplinary action".

      There is no civilian control over the proceedings of the military
      justice system. In addition, the provisions of the Criminal Procedure
      Code of 1973 protect any member of the armed forces from arrest for
      "anything done or purported to be done by him in the discharge of his
      official duties except after obtaining the consent of the central

      Section 197(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code is a sweeping immunity
      provision that applies throughout India. In the words of the HRW
      report, this code "makes it mandatory for a prosecutor to obtain
      permission from the federal government to initiate criminal
      proceedings against public servants, including armed forces
      personnel". According to Amnesty International, the Jammu and Kashmir
      government had made almost 300 requests for permission to prosecute
      last year, but none were granted.

      Security forces have used the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act
      and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act to justify
      firing indiscriminately on peaceful demonstrations, including protests
      in January and October 1990 in Srinagar and in 1993 in Beijbehara.

      The HRW report is one more account of the widespread and sustained use
      of repression for over a decade in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no
      reason to believe that the current Congress-led government in New
      Delhi will take any more notice of its recommendations than any of the
      previous calls for justice.

      The report underscores the fact that in India, which is commonly
      referred to as the world's largest democracy, the systematic abuse of
      basic democratic rights is widespread.



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