J&K Police reports shed light on civilian deaths during encounters, activists allege 'gross human rights violations'
As per data from the police and human rights groups, at least 53 civilians were killed in the past six months in Kashmir during anti-militancy operations.
A report by the Jammu and Kashmir Police has noted that the army resorted to indiscriminate force on stone-pelters and fired on a mob in Shopian on 27 January, resulting in the killing of three youth.
As per data from the police and human rights organisations, at least 53 civilians were killed in the past six months during anti-militancy operations. Many of them were killed while they were trying to help militants escape from encounter sites. From January to the end of May, 37 civilians were killed. As many as 16 people were killed in the past month, three of them on 7 July.
A complaint with respect to the incident of firing on 27 January was filed by the chairman of International Forum for Justice and Human Rights, MA Untoo, with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
Youths in Shopian had pelted a convoy of 10, Garhwal Rifles which was travelling from Balpora to Ganawpora with stones, in retaliation to which the forces fired, resulting in the deaths of three people.
The police have registered a case of murder under Section 302 of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), but army officials have not responded to requests for getting their statements recorded.
As per the police report, a summons was issued under Section 160 of the CrPC to Brigadier Harbeer Singh, Commander, Sector 12, through letter no ppk/5-A/2018/49. He was asked to record his statement at the police post, Keegam, or send his written statement pertaining to the incident. To this, he replied, "Due to the exigencies of service, I won't be available on 1 February, 2018." Another summons was issued to Lt Colonel Pranay Shrivastava of Sector 12, Rashtriya Rifles, and he was also asked to record his statement. However, Lt Colonel Shrivastava also wrote a similar reply. The police also sent a letter to the General Staff Officer, Sector 12, RR headquarters, Balpora, and asked him to furnish details of ammunition used by army personnel. He only replied saying that the 'matter is being investigated.' On the issue of vehicles of the army being damaged in stone-pelting, the officer replied to a communication from the police that the matter was being 'verified'. A similar response was received from the army about the number of its personnel who were injured. On 10 February, Sector 12, Rashtriya Rifles responded to a police communication and said that the concerned of 10, Garhwal should be approached for the inquiry. The police report said that subsequent communications on the issue also proved to be futile.
Colonel Rajesh Kalia, defence spokesperson, said that he will 'look into the matter as to why the army did not respond to police communications to record statements in the case. He added that the police report, a copy of which was sent to him, 'would be examined.'
The police have also noted that when a team went to record statements of witnesses, protesters prevented them from doing so.
A report of Amnesty International has noted that in Kashmir, 'the impunity for human rights abuses has persisted.' It said that government forces are resisting civilian trials. The report noted that in June 2017, a General Security Forces court acquitted two BSF soldiers of killing 16-year-old Zahid Farooq Sheikh in 2010. "The forces had successfully prevented the case from being prosecuted in a civilian court. In July, an appellate military court suspended the life sentences of five army personnel convicted by a court-martial of the extra-judicial executions of three men in Machil in 2010,” the report said.
Untoo said that the 'gross violation of human rights and the lack of standard operating procedures (SOPs) have resulted in unabated killings in Kashmir.'
The police have said that many other youths died in the anti-militancy operations at encounter sites. As per another police report on 10 April, government forces cordoned a house in Khudwani area of Kulgam, where they had information about the presence of militants. At the encounter site, people engaged in clashes with the forces, and subsequently, four civilians lost their lives.
The police have also come out with a report on another anti-militancy operation that took place in the Pahnoo area of Shopian on 4 March. Two civilians were killed in the operation by the army. One Major Parveen Menon of 44, Rashtriya Rifles stated to the police that the personnel were in the process of establishing a mobile vehicle checkpoint (MVCP) near Pahnoo school when two cars — a red Santro and a silver Swift — approached them. The army said that when these vehicles were signalled to stop, the people inside fired at the forces, and in retaliatory action, six people were killed. While four were found to be militants and their accomplices, there was no 'adverse case found against the other two,' police said. The investigation in the case is on.
On 31 March, an encounter between government forces and militants took place at Kachdoora in Shopian. On this, the police said that it came to know about the presence of militants in the village. Following this, a joint team of 34 RR, 13 Battalion of CRPF and the police launched a cordon, during which militants fired on them. The report noted that in the gunbattle, three army men were killed and subsequently five militants were killed in the operation. Three civilians had also died in the clashes.
One civilian also died in an encounter which took place at Draggad in the Zainpora area of Shopian on 1 April. The police said that during the encounter, seven militants were killed.
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