Kashmir looks rosy from the high-ceilinged offices of North Block: the government claims there have been only 32 verified cases of human rights violations by the army and paramilitary in the valley in the past 12 years.
The stunning claim was made by the Ministry of Home Affairs in response to a Right to Information application from the Hindustan Times. The Department of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs at the ministry also said that no records of human rights violations were available for the period between 1989, when the insurgency began, and 1994. That period witnessed some of the worst violence of the insurgency.
The ministry said that 1,122 complaints of alleged human rights violations have been received against army and paramilitary personnel between 1994 and December 2006.
“Of these, 1,089 complaints have been investigated, 1,057 of them were found false; in 32 cases where the complaints were found genuine, penalties have been imposed on 61 personnel, while in six cases compensation has been awarded”, it said.
Justice M.Y. Kawoosa, chairman of the J&K Human Rights Commission, dismissed the claim. “I don’t believe this. We have received at least 3,600 cases. We have already disposed of 2,500 cases,” Kawoosa told HT. “And even that is not the complete picture. In those days, the turmoil was such that when people were murdered or tortured, their families were too scared to complain”.
Allegations of human rights violations from security forces and militants have been widespread in Kashmir for the past 17 years, amid wide discontentment against Indian rule.
An unspecified number of people have disappeared after being taken away for questioning. Civilians have been found dead after being branded militants.
Hundreds of allegations about old cases are tumbling out after a sweeping investigation into the killing of Abdur Rehman Paddar, a 37-year-old Kashmiri carpenter who was described as a Pakistani militant, killed and buried. The discovery prompted demands for a South Africa-type Truth and Reconciliation Commission to finally reveal the true picture of what has happened in Kashmir over two decades.
At least 300 cases of alleged human rights violations by the army are pending with the state’s Crime Branch, waiting for government permission before they can be prosecuted, a police official said on condition of anonymity. Militants have also been accused of human rights excesses. They have allegedly tortured and killed several people suspected of being informers. They often lob grenades at military vehicles driving through crowded public places in which civilians are routinely wounded and killed.
Since 1990, the Indian Army says that 12,389 civilians have been killed by militants, 3,323 killed in cross-fire in gunbattles between security forces and militants, and 19,676 civilians have been wounded by militants.
Other than those killed, the army says 5,246 civilians, including women, have been abducted by militants. It is not possible to independently verify the figures, and many civilians are known to have been wrongly targeted as militants.
“People are not going to trust these home ministry figures. No one is going to be misled by them,” said Sheikh Showkat, who teaches human rights at the University of Kashmir.
The state’s police system collapsed during the early years of militancy, when many parts of the capital Srinagar went out of control of central security forces, who responded with crushing force. Since 1990, the Jammu and Kashmir police force has lost 852 personnel, the home ministry says.
But apart from documentation by journalists in words and images, barely any official record is available of human rights excesses during that time.
“Human rights violations continue even now, but they are not as large scale as in the 1990s... At that time, there was civil war in every mohalla (neighbourhood),” Kawoosa said.
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