10 December 2007
On the occasion of World Human Rights Day on 10 December 2007, it becomes expedient to take a reality check on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Separatists and other outfits organised large-scale protests in Jammu and Kashmir against alleged 'increasing human rights violations' and demanded implementation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance on zero tolerance to human rights abuse by the security forces. While the so-called custodians of human rights regularly cry hoarse over violations allegedly commited by the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, they turn a blind eye to the abuses undertaken by militants since the onset of militancy in the 1980s. Acting under the behest of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), these militant outfits do not even spare innocent children and women. Also, the militant outfits have frequently resorted to selective killings on the basis of religion in order to communalise the situation for their vested interests.
There have been numerous incidents when militants have killed innocent women and children for no fault of thiers. One of the most gory incidents in Kashmir's history took place on 26 January 1998 when militants killed 23 Kashmiri Pandits in Wandhama, Ganderbal. Several militants, dressed in police uniforms, had come to the village and asked the people to assemble. They were then lined up and shot dead. In another incident on 18 April 1998, militants massacred 26 Hindus belonging to 4 families at Parankot, Udhampur. The militants also killed the numbardar (headman) of the village for providing his house to be used as a polling station during the 1998 Lok Sabha elections. Militants have often targeted innocent men and women during festivities. In one such incident on 19 June 1998, militants killed 26 Hindus who were part of a marriage party in Chapnari, Banihal in Doda district. Migrant labourers from outside the State have also become a key target for the militant outfits. Even though these labourers are in no way linked to the Kashmir issue, militants routinely target them in order to strike fear among the non-Kashmiri population as well as deter tourists from visiting the pictureseque state. The migrant labourers are a critical part of the state's economy as they contribute significantly to the exchequer. On 29 June 1999, militants killed 15 Hindu brick kiln workers from Rampur (UP) and Bilaspur (MP) while they were sleeping after a hard days' work. The labourers were part of a larger group which had migrated to Sandu, 9 km from Anantnag district. On 12 June 2006, militants lined up and killed 8 Nepali Hindus and 1 Bihari labourer at Budroo village near Yaripora in Anantnag district. A group of armed militants, numbering between 15-18, swooped down on the village and herded out a group of around 15 Nepali labourers from a brick kiln where they were working. Forcing them to line up between two Chinar trees the miltiants coolly shot them. While five labourers died on the spot during the 10 minutes of firing, four others succumbed to their injuries on their way to the hospital.
Analysts say that militant outfits have particularly carried out attacks against minorities and non-Kashmiris whenever there is a positive development in the peace process between India and Pakistan. The militant outfits under the direct influence and control of the ISI have always resorted to ruthless killings in order to derail the peace efforts. One of the first instances in this context is peace initiatives undertaken in the wake of the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Hizbul Mujahideen on 24 July 2000. On the intervening night of 1/2 August 2000, militant outfits killedas many as 70 innocent Hindus. The breakup of those killed included 23 Amarnath Yatris at Pahalgam, 20 brick kiln labourers at Village Kadran Qazigund, 7 Brick kiln labourers at Sandoo, Achhabal, all in Anantnag District, 8 Hindus at Village Kiyar, P.S.Madwah, Doda and 12 Hindus at Kunda, P.S. Banihal, Doda. These targeted killings were clearly intended to derail any steps towards peace in Kashmir.
One of the worst-ever attack took place on 14 May 2002 when militants lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately on the KP Lines family quarters in the Kaluchak Army cantonment in Jammu. The attack left 32 people, mostly members of families of army personnel, dead and over 60 others wounded. A group of five militants in Army fatigue boarded a Pathankot-Jammu passenger bus near Vijaypur, 30 km south of Jammu. They alighted from the bus between Kaluchak and Ratnuchak Army area where they killed seven unsuspecting passengers after asking them to disembark from the bus. Following the attack the militants sneaked into the cantonment where they killed many more people. In another attack on the Hindu community, militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) killed 30 Hindus on 13 July 2002. The attack took place at the Hindu-dominated Qasim Nagar locality in Jammu. Militants hurled two grenades and resorted to indiscriminate firing in the slum cluster when the residents of the locality were watching a cricket match between India and England.
On 23 March 2003, militants attacked a J&K police post and snatched arms from policemen after which they went to a nearby village Nandigram in Pulwama district and shot dead 24 Hindus. The barbaric methods adopted by militant outfits is also evident from the fact that they even slit the throats of their victims. In one such incident, militants killed 5 Hindus by slitting their throats at Thup Dhok, Kotranka, P.S. Kandi in Rajouri district on 28/29 July 2005. In another brutal incident, militants slaughtered to death Aijaj Ahmed, a 4-5 years old child at Village Hubbi in Rajouri district on 11 November 2007 (see photograph). The apparent reason for the killing of the child was said to be that his father, Mohd. Rafiq, was working in the Territorial Army Company, attached with 15 Rashtriya Rifles unit at Kandi. In fact, one of Rafiq's brothers, Abdul Rashid, a resident of Hubbi had earlier been slaughtered by terrorists at Panch Gabbardhok, Kandi on the intervening night of 16/17 August 2007. The fact that the militants are the worst human rights violators is evident by these gory attacks against minority communities and non-Kashmiri people in J&K.
Separatists Remain Silent
On the occasion of World Human Rights Day, separatist outfits organised several protest ralliers across Kashmir. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, led a silent march from his party's Rajbagh headquarters to Sher-e-Kashmir Park. Speaking to the protesters, Farooq said that "The law of the jungle prevails. They [security forces] kill with impunity." He demanded for a complete withdrawal of troops and said that "as long as troops are stationed in such abundance in Kashmir, the situation on human rights front cannot improve." Mian Abdul Qayoom, former president of the Kashmir Bar Association said with regard to human rights violations that "It has become a pattern with the forces." Qayoom also blamed New Delhi for "giving licence to forces to kill the people." Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, who broke his day-old fast, said that "The response of the people spoke volumes about the magnitude of the problem in Kashmir." He also urged New Delhi to take note of the protests against human rights violations by Indian security forces. The hardline Dukhtaran-e-Kashmir (DeM) organised a protest at the Press Enclave though only few people participated. Chanting pro-freedom slogans the DeM activists demanded an end to 'harassments' and release of detenues. The Kashmir High Court Bar Association and the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani organised two separate seminars where eminent jurists, scholars and intellectuals spoke about the human rights situation in Kashmir. Those who spoke at these seminars included President of Democratic Freedom Party Shabbir Ahmad Shah and Bar President, Advocate Nazir Ahmad Ronga. Though most of the protest marches were allowed by authorities, police had to arrest protesters and some leaders at several places in order to maintain law and order.
A common feature of the protests organised by the separatist outfits and other groups on World Human Rights Day was the fact that while they unanimously condemned the human rights violations by Indian security forces, they chose not to utter a word against the atrocities being committed by the militant outfits. Analysts say that there has been a marked improvement in the human rights record of the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir due to greater media scrutiny, civil society supervision as well as internal mechanisms to make the security forces more 'people-friendly'. Also, the commitment to protect human rights and punish those who violate it has come straight from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However the most important contradiction in the separatists' stand on human rights violations is the fact that they continue to turn a blind eye to the massive atrocities committed by militant outfits. Even when there is undisputable evidence of human rights violations by a militant outfit, the separatists have chosen to blame the security forces for the incident. The incidents mentioned above are just a few instances from the large number of human rights violations by militant outfits. Observers also say that unlike security forces, the militant outfits are not answerable to the media or undergo any internal scrutiny of their actions. In comparison, security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir are always in the spotlight of scrutiny. However, these steps have clearly not impressed the separatist outfits who continue with their propaganda against the Indian security forces while deliberately ignoring the actions of militant outfits.