Outrage And Despair After Indian Army Shoots Two Unarmed Boys

5 November 2014
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: At around 5 pm on Monday evening, four boys were traveling in a white Maruti car. They were returning from a cricket match near Chattergam village 20 kilometers from Srinagar that connects the southern district of Pulwama with Nowgam area, when they were shot at. The Army in Kashmir said they had received an intelligence input about the movement of militants on the same road and had established three Mobile Vehicle Check Posts. Frisking of passengers was being carried out and vehicles checked when the car approached the first checkpoint 'where the soldiers tried to stop the car, but it did not stop,' The Army fired on the vehicle killing two, another one is said be critical, and is being treated at the army base hospital in Srinagar. Among the two people killed on Monday evening was Faisal Yusuf Bhat, 14, a class seven student. He was sitting on the front side of the car, in which four people were traveling towards their home. Faisal and Mehraj-ud-din Dar who were killed in the firing lived hundred meters away from each other's home in a small village of Banpure in Nowgam. On Tuesday, when angry residents protested against the killing of the two boys and shouted slogans, police fired teargas shells into their direction trying to disperse the crowd. Back in his village, Bhat's parents are speechless; there is anger and frustration among the residents, but ironically the demand for justice is last on their minds. They perhaps might be looking at the recent troubled history of Kashmir where hardly any soldier found involved in the killing of innocent people has been punished. 'Do you think it would happen? That army will punish its soldiers, has it ever happened? Why should we expect justice from a institution which rewards bravery medals to the killers of innocent people,' Shafi Bhat, a family member of Bhat said on Tuesday. 'If they wanted to check who was inside the car, and these people didn't stop, they could have fired on its tires after being warned, what was the need to fire so many bullets on the car that it has turned into a sieve,' Bhat added. Army in Srinagar say they 'regret the loss of lives and have ordered an enquiry to investigate into the circumstance leading to the incident.' But, these investigations have largely remained away from the public eye and the inquires ordered later have become a 'handy weapon to cool down tempers and buy time after innocent civilians' killings,' Bhat said. 'There is a 'zero percentage conviction' in human rights violations by the armed forces in the Valley. Commissions appointed by the government have no power to punish anyone, and even if they recommend that the government punish someone and the government complies with the recommendation, the accused, most of the times, appeals against the decision,' Khuram Parveez, a civil rights activist in Srinagar, said. Parveez says he has not come across a single case in which the army soldiers were punished in civilian courts. 'There is internal system were they have punished people but most of these punishments are crimes related to fratricidal killing among the soldiers. We have been asking for the last four years as to how many people have been punished but they have never replied,' Parveez said. Lawyer Parveez Imroz, who specialises in Human Rights cases, says families like that of Bhat should be given hope that not receiving justice at the hands of the institution which has a history of impunity is not impossible. 'But the civil society should come forward and it is their responsibility to name the people involved in the investigation, so that if investigation agencies or officers try to shield the culprits, they would be named and shamed,' he said. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted on Tuesday that the Chattergam incident was highly regrettable and an inquiry would be ordered. 'The Budgam incident in the Kashmir valley is highly regrettable. A fair inquiry will be held and action taken against those found guilty,' Jaitley wrote. Kashmir is under curfew, although not for the killing of these boys, but it is likely that the killing would have an impact on the coming elections in the state. That may be the reason the state government has asked the Election Commission of India to either order an inquiry into the incident directly or allow the state government to do so. Peoples Democratic Party's spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said they have no idea how what impact that these killings would on the coming elections. 'We are monitoring the situation,' he said If the protests and the ensuing clashes erupt in Kashmir following the killings, it would hamper the chances of a positive electorate in the coming elections, and that is something no political party in the state would like to happen.