167% increase in civilian deaths in Kashmir: Home ministry report
Civilian deaths in Jammu and Kashmir rose by a staggering 167% last year compared to 2015, official data released on Wednesday showed, underpinning the high price paid by the state while battling a surge in insurgency in recent years.
The home ministry’s annual report for 2017-18 also showed a 2.44% decline in the number of security personnel deaths over the previous year.
The report comes amid growing allegations by human rights activists and groups over what they say was excessive use of force by security personnel while dealing with civilian protests in the troubled Valley.
The army and state police deny the charges and claim that most of the civilian deaths were due to their interference during counter-insurgency operations.
“The year 2017 witnessed an increase in incidents of terrorist violence and causalities of civilians as compared to the last year. However, casualties of security forces have decreased in comparison to the last year,” said the report’s ‘Security Situation in J&K’ section (see graphic).
“The year 2017 also witnessed a 6.21% increase... in the number of terrorist incidents... in comparison to the corresponding period of 2016,” the report said, adding that the number of militants killed went up by 42%.
The death of civilians in Kashmir spiked after security forces gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2015, triggering months-long street protests.
More than a 100 people were killed as security forces retaliated against stone-pelting protesters, most of them youngsters.
Hundreds of civilians were left with severe eye injuries by pellets fired by the forces.
Incidents of left wing extremism (LWE) — the official term used to describe Maoist violence — fell by 20%, from 1,136 in 2016 to 908 last year, the report said.
Human casualties related to LWE also fell from 397 to 263, a decline of 33%.
In the Northeast, where several militant groups are active, the number of insurgency-related incidents in 2017 was the lowest since 1997, the report added.
The report listed 822 communal incidents in which 111 persons lost their lives and 2,384 were injured countrywide last year.
While the report did not provide a complete list of the incidents, it mentioned “one major communal incident” at Baduria-Basirat of North 25 Parganas district, West Bengal.
The annual report is more like a report card detailing the home ministry’s endeavours, achievements, ongoing projects and activities throughout the year, besides providing comparative numbers.