Kashmir’s human rights watchdog offered rare praise to the police for the way they responded to the staged killings scandal, but said the force had ignored its orders for years, and that excesses continued “day in and day out”.
The state is witnessing widespread outrage after the allegedly extra-judicial killing of a carpenter whose body was apparently passed off as that of a Pakistani militant. Seven policemen have been arrested and 23 detained.
The scandal was unravelled after some unexpectedly swift police work: the carpenter's mobile phone chip was tracked across the Valley to a member of the Special Operations Group. “We have not taken any cognizance… In our view, the police have been very alert in this case,” retired Justice M.Y. Kawoosa, chairman of the commission, told HT.
But at a larger level, Kawoosa shares the same frustrations as his predecessor, retired Justice Ali Mohamm-ed Mir. “In many cases, we don’t receive reports from the police for years altogether,” Kawoosa said. Inspector-General of Police S.M. Sahai responded: “Anything that has been sent to us by the commission is investigated.”
Until 1997, J&K had no human rights commission. Since its formation that year, it has received 3,575 complaints of abuses until last December. “Human rights violations are taking place day in and day out. Custodial deaths are taking place, no doubt about it,” he said.
Two new complaints were delivered by civilians even as the interview was underway.
The commission works with a sketchy apparatus in a state that perhaps needs it most — where at least 40,000 people have died in the insurgency since 1989 according to an official count. Rights groups put the number at about 70,000.
Not too far from the Dal Lake, in a street by the boulevard, a lone typewriter breaks the silence of a commission’s dreary two-storey building. The office is short of almost everything — members, investigators, stenographers, money, even a web site.
Kawoosa met the Chief Minister last week to point out the problems his panel is faced with. It has only two members of the required five. It has no investigating arm, although the law lays down that it should have an inspector-general level officer. As a result, the commission routinely seeks inquiry reports from the same police force it is investigating. “That reflects the way in which they have treated this commission.”