June 2000 News

Security forces excesses in J&K angers Farooq

14 June 2000
The Asian Age

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has taken strong exception to unabated incidents of organised violence against innocent civilians by sections of the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Reliable sources said that the chief minister was disturbed over the reports of sexual assaults on women in far-flung areas of mountainous Doda district by the security forces in league with members of the village defence committees belonging to a particular community. Though the preliminary reports submitted by the district authorities deny incidents of rape committed on village women in recent weeks, the chief minister''s office has asked for thorough investigation into the allegations made by local residents to the media and conveyed to him via local ruling National Conference activists. It was at Dr Abdullah''s instructions that minister of state for home Mushtaq Ahmed Lone has sought reports from the police on a number of alleged extra-judicial murders and other excesses committed by the security forces. One such case is that of a Srinagar shopkeeper Rafiq Ahmed Baqal, who was along with five others detained at a makeshift BSF bunker at Amira Kadal on Saturday night while returning from a marriage ceremony. While the others were allowed to go, Rafiq was allegedly taken inside the pillbox, tortured and then shot dead. The incident sparked off protests and marketplaces in many parts of the city remained shut for the fourth day running on Wednesday when a large number of mourners attended the fourth-day ceremony of the slain trader. At places, small group of angry youth forces closure of shops and pelted stones on passing vehicles, witnesses said. The BSF had apparently after hearing from the official involved in the act, said that the troopers had found 50 kg explosives from the car Rafiq was driving and that he had tried to escape from the scene but was shot dead. But finding no takers of what seems is purely concoction, it has ordered in-house inquiry into the incident. Protests and widespread condemnation of the murder by even mainstream political parties has also forced the security authorities to convey to the bereaved family that the culprit would not be spared. On the other hand, the police has also confirmed that Rafiq was innocent, had nothing to do with militancy and was living a peaceful life with his family-wife and three children. He had while being pushed inside the pillbox told the officer that he should have no problems in recognising him as the officer had visited his cosmetics shop in the neighbourhood to make purchases a number of times. The latter did not listen to the plea and started bashing him. He asked his men to make the others travelling with Rafiq to flee the scene ''after each one of us was kicked and abused.'' Dr Abdullah has also chosen to publicly vent his anger over such gruesome incidents out. He told a rally organised by the Army on the birth centenary of Brigadier Rajinder Singh at Bonyar near the Line of Control on Wednesday that while weeding out militancy, the Army, paramilitary forces and police must take extra precautions of not harassing innocent civilians. ''While no tears would be shed on killing of ISI agents or militants, killing of innocent civilians will not be tolerated,'' he added and cautioned the security forces against motivated information by some elements presumably working at the behest of the enemy to harass innocent civilians with obvious purpose. ''You must double check the information that reaches you before taking any action,'' he said. Dr Abdullah has also instructed the police and other security agencies falling under his command that they should take stern action against so-called counter-insurgents found inflicting atrocities on civilian population. The state home department is flooded with complaints about extortion, revenge killings, rape, molestation and loot and plunder by former militants who surrendered before the security forces from time to time and were now helping them in counter-insurgency operations.


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