Azad’s ‘zero Custodial Death’ Claim Angers Pro-India, Pro-freedom Camp

6 May 2008

Srinagar: Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s assertion that no custodial killing took place during his rule in the state has evoked strong response from both pro-Indian as well as pro-freedom parties, with opposition National Conference terming it “an attempt to conceal facts.”Azad during his speech on the opening of Civil Secretariat here Monday said that the situation in Jammu Kashmir had “immensely improved” and that the custodial deaths have “reduced to near zero during my tenure.” “Azad’s statement is an illustration of government’s callous and insensitiveness towards the human rights violation in Jammu and Kashmir. This is a part of attempts to conceal facts and mislead people,” provincial secretary of NC Dr Mehboob Beig told Etalaat on Tuesday. Dr Beigh added: “The State Human Rights Commission recently put the number of people killed during custody in 2007 at 17 while government in written reply during the budget session (of Assembly) itself accepted that seven custodial deaths occurred in the foregone year.” “If (Azad’s) claim is right why don’t they repeal black laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act?” the NC leader asked. “There is no value of Kashmiris lives before the present government. Our lives have become cheap and we should keep the fingers crossed and hope for the best.” Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani rejected the Chief Minister’s statement as untrue. Its spokesman Ayaz Muhammad Akbar told Etalaat that there were six custodial killings in April alone. “As recently as on April 2, troops killed Gama Gujjar in custody at Nagabal Tral in south Kashmir and on the same day troops killed a youth in front of his father at Dodu Marhama in Islamabad’s Bijbhehara town.” On April 8, the Hurriyat spokesman added, troops killed Ghulam Hassan Wani in custody at Gandwa Doda in Jammu region. “On April 10 troops killed a mentally challenged Shakeel Ahmad Malik at Mazbugh Sopore while on next day police killed a Pakistani national Abu Nasir during a staged encounter at Harwan. Troops arrested Mushtaq Ahmad Mir of Vilgam Kupwara on April 6 while his body was recovered on May 01. Troops also killed (militant) commander Sajad Afghani at Sopore on April 29 in a fake encounter,” Akbar added. All these incidents, he said, “deflate the claims of puppet Chief Minister that custodial killings have become a thing of the past in Jammu and Kashmir.” Senior Hurriyat Conference (M) leader and president of Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Ahmad Shah termed Azad’s statement as “fiction.” “Azad Sahib is acting as if nobody sees him. Custodial killings in Jammu and Kashmir are no secret and everybody is aware of it,” Shah told Etalaat. “What bigger proof does someone need than presence of nearly 1000 graves in Uri? Is this not the violation of human rights.” Shah said that killings and peace process cannot go together. Pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (Maisuma) also castigated the Chief Minister’s claim. Its spokesman said: “This is too much. Only a few days back, a 9th standard boy was killed in Vilgam Kupwara. Azad’s statement can be taken that the government backs the killers of Kashmiris.”