Inhuman violations of human rights

Inhuman violations of human rights

The extensive print and electronic media coverage of the recent violent incidents in Kashmir have not sufficiently focused on the seriousness of the issue of human rights violations by security forces in the valley, a long standing cause of the alienation of Kashmiris from the Indian mainstream.

 To recapitulate briefly, the infamous Machil fake encounter was exposed on May 30. On June 11, Tufail Mattoo, a child of 17 years, was fired at and killed by a policeman inside a football stadium. Public outrage and an attempted police cover up followed. Tension persisted at Tufail’s funeral and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was forced to return and order an enquiry. On June 12, Rafi Bangroo was caught, tortured and killed by the CRPF. Mourners returning from the Bangroo funeral stoned a CRPF bunker. The CRPF responded with fire and killed Bangroo's cousin, Javaid Malla. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, on holiday at Gulmarg, had to return and replace the Senior Superintendent of Police in Srinagar but neither he nor the CRPF expressed regrets.

On June 25, the CRPF men again opened fire at Sopore, killing a young boy. At Baramulla too they opened fire killing a nine-year-old school boy. They also entered a house and killed three boys. On July 6, the police chased some stone throwers in Tengpora and hit with rifle butts a 17-year-old who died later. Again, the CRPF opened fire on his funeral procession and killed another person who left behind a wife and two little daughters. Massive protests were followed by police killing a woman who opened a window during curfew.

Not convincing
The efforts made by Omar Abdullah to deflect attention from these unfortunate events by focussing on the need to settle the dispute with Pakistan were far from convincing. The all party meeting called by him was boycotted by the opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti. The situation in the state became all too murky. The turmoil in Srinagar was only compounded by Omar Abdullah’s panic reaction in calling out the Army in an unprecedented move. Over 40.000 men were deployed and even hospitals and newspapers were shutdown. The fact that all the Srinagar MLAs belonged to the ruling party and did little to save the day was embarrassing to the chief minister. 

Institutionalised immunity for human rights violations in India, including in J&K, is a major issue today. A 2009 Human Rights Watch report made a harsh but convincing critique of the Indian police calling it a 'dangerous anachronism', which indulged in torture and extra-judicial executions. Its recommendations need to be acted upon. Another recent report has said that 1.8 million people are tortured every year in Indian police stations. As the democratic content of governance declines in India, sanction of immunity to law and order agencies grows and produces a distorted democracy, recently described as ‘parliamentary fascism’. A plethora of special legislation such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act have been responsible for encouraging human rights violations in India. In the tiny north-eastern state of Manipur (population: 2.5 million), a fact finding team recently found that the local police commandos extra-judicially executed over 260 persons during the first six months of 2009 on the ground that they were militant ‘underground’ elements.

The number thus killed in 2008 was 300. Manipur, just like J&K, has heavy militarisation to quell the ongoing militancy. The developments in J&K coupled with others elsewhere make it clear that the survival of the rule of law in India could become problematic unless public action on a largescale is forthcoming to check the trend.

(The writer is a former IPS officer.)

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