November 1999 News


Foreign militants call the shots in J&K

17 November 1999
The Hindu
By Shujaat Bukhari

JAMMU: The character of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir has undergone a significant change in recent years, with foreigners taking over its complete control. Security forces have been fighting a war in the State that too under civil law which was a very difficult act to follow.

These views were expressed by the Governor, Mr. Garish Chandra Saxena, while inaugurating a day-long seminar, "Human Rights-Commitment of Indian Army", organised by 16 Corps here on Tuesday. "We should not consider the issue of human rights only in abstract", said Mr. Saxena, adding, "we have to view it in the background of the threats that India and particularly some sensitive State like J&K are facing from cross border terrorism".

He said militancy had undergone a significant change and foreign militants, mostly Pakistanis and Afghans affiliated to militant organisations like Lashkare Toiba and Harkatul Mujahideen based in Pakistan, had now taken over the control of armed militant movement. The local militants, he said, were playing a subsidiary role of providing local intelligence and logistics besides striking at soft targets like political activists, surrendered militants and other innocent civilians. "The militancy has thus shed much of its earlier colour of being an indigenous insurgency and has acquired the form of a proxy war" he said.

Disputing the figures about killings in Kashmir as made out by separatist forces, Mr. Saxena who has earlier served as Governor of State from 1990-93, said so far, around 25,000 people had been killed in militancy-related violence. Over 10,600 militants have been killed by security forces, about 8000 civilians killed by militant actions, and around 2,600 killed in incidents of cross-fire while 2,000 security force personnel have laid down their lives during the period of ten years. Though the security forces have been fighting a war under civil law, nevertheless, they have a good record of human rights. The Army has not used, tanks, gun-ships and APCs and have always avoided civilian causalities and collateral damage.

Lauding the role of the Army in coming to the rescue of general public in other spheres also, he said under the civic action programme, they had been doing a lot for the people. "It would be therefore unfair to paint the Army and other security forces as ones who are a threat to the people" he opined. Mr. Saxena said the issue of human rights had been used as a tool by the militants to put the security forces on the defensive while as Pakistan has been exploiting it to internationalise the issue. "It has to be understood that human rights problems are bound to arise in the circumstances and conditions created by militants and their foreign masters in J&K", he asserted. Mr. Saxena called for working together to create conditions in which people could lead a dignified life with basic human rights. Senior journalist and BJP member in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Arun Shourie, urged for giving a free hand to security forces in curbing militancy by whatsoever means. Lambasting the human rights groups for talking about allegations against the security forces, he said it had become a fashion to talk about human rights violations which were not based on the facts. Undermining the importance of protection of human rights, he said it was desirable and could not be put above security considerations of the nation.

Mr. Shourie felt dismayed on "always being on the defensive on human rights issue". "I feel we should document the human rights record of America and other forces so that we are not on the defensive". Commenting on the reports of various groups on alleged human rights violations, he said these reports are always motivated and fabricated. "We must nail their fabrication", he asserted.

He demanded an inquiry into the antecedents of various human rights bodies and said "we should come to know who are funding them and for whom they are working".

Having a dig at People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), he said this organisation had been involved in fabricated and unfounded allegations of human rights violations against security forces in J&K. He impressed upon security forces to "define yourselves and win", Mr. Shourie regretted that there was no protection to officers who fight militancy and then were entangled in the allegations of human rights violations.

Distinguished journalist of the State and Chairman Kashmir Times group of Publications, Mr. Ved Bhasin, said the people of J&K had always been deprived of their basic rights. "Human Rights is an essential ingredient of democracy", he said, adding that to protect human rights should be the prime duty of all individuals.

Mr. Bhasin said it was not the question of statistics when to talk about killings, but "we have to know the root cause of the problem". He wondered as to why the jurisdiction of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was not being extended to J&K State. He maintained that the primary role of the Press does not change from time to time and it had to perform its duty more vigorously. He said people in the State had been denied basic rights including that of "right to self determination".

He lashed out at the national media for keeping the Indian people in dark about real situation in Kashmir under the cover of "so called national interest". They (Media) are not doing any service to the nation by putting glorified tales in their papers, he said, adding "by treating every Kashmiri as a traitor would not solve any problem".

Among other speakers was Mr. D. R. Kartekan, former director, CBI, and at present DG (Investigation) NHRC.

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