End Impunity and Investigate Human Right Abuses and Killings by Armed Forces
As death, pain and suffering marks seasons in Kashmir, the summer has arrived with the news of more deaths and atrocities at the hands of military forces. On April 09, 2017, a mere 6.5% voters voted in the Srinagar by-poll. In the repoll at 38 booths on April 13, the vote percentage was even lower – just 2%. This shows that for Kashmir’s people, the movement of resistance that began in July last year has not ended. Armed forces shot dead eight civilians during the election process on April 9. At least one of these was summarily shot dead in clear violation of standard norms for dealing with civilian protests. Since then, a slew of atrocities against civilians have been videotaped and released – apparently by members of the troops themselves.
On the day of re-polling, Farooq Ahmad Dar, a voter was picked up the 53 RR unit of Indian Army, and tied to the front of their jeep as the convoy passed through several villages. While this was supposedly done to ‘deter stone pelters’, this image reminds us of the brutal human shield policy used by Israeli forces against Palestinians. Taking human shields are not only prohibited under Geneva conventions (it is considered as hostage taking), it’s also the most inhuman form of warfare any ‘civilized’ military force can use. Shamefully, the Attorney General representing the Central Government has declared that this illegal act was a ‘smart thing’ for the officers to have done. Unfortunately, though this the first time such an incident has been photographed, military forces have been using relatives and family members of militants as ‘human shields’ in counter insurgency operations for long. We must also recognise that the claim that Dar was used as a ‘shield’ is a pretext, the reality is that he was subjected to public humiliation to remind the entire Kashmiri people of their subjugation. The incident can be compared to the incidents of stripping and parading etc that occur during atrocities against Dalits and adivasis.
On 15 April, at least one armoured vehicle entered the campus of the Pulwama Degree College, followed by attempts by police to shift their post to the gates of the College. Students’ protests against this were met with brutal repression, in which more than 50 students were injured. The same evening, Sajjad Hussain Sheikh was killed after being shot in the head by BSF allegedly for protesting and pelting stones.
Outraged over the brutal crackdown on students, and killings by the forces, Kashmir is witnessing a massive student uprising with thousands of students, including women across the region protesting on streets. As usual, these students’ protests were encountered by crackdown by police and paramilitary forces which left hundreds injured. Iqra Sidiq, B.Com first-year student of women’s college at Nawa Kadal in Srinagar suffered a serious skull fracture when she was hit on the head by a stone thrown by a CRPF trooper into the campus. There is video documentation of paramilitary troops lobbing tear gas shells and rocks over the walls and under the gates of the women’s college campus, indicating that students were attacked not just while protesting on the streets but even inside their own campus!
With pictures and videos of atrocities against Kashmiris going viral, rather than addressing the issues the state is now trying to ban the internet and social media platforms.
In sections of the Indian media, there are attempts to justify the atrocity videos by highlighting a video of CRPF jawans being subjected to abuse and slaps etc by civilians. We need to underline here that there is a vast difference between unarmed civilians displaying anger against CRPF jawans, and Army, paramilitary and police indulging in organised, systematic, repeated acts of illegal torture and summary execution. Moreover, we need to recognise that if the jawans rather than political leaders are facing people’s anger in Kashmir, it is because the political leadership in New Delhi and Srinagar has abdicated its responsibility of addressing the political issues being raised by the Kashmiri people.
We demand an impartial investigation into each of the incidents of atrocities and violence that have come to light since April 9, and punishment for the perpetrators. We appeal to students and people of the country to go beyond the highly opinionated and frenzied ‘broadcasts’ on mainstream TV screens and stand by the principles of democracy, justice and peace in Kashmir