Probing the probes

Ever since the conflict erupted, successive governments have launched a number of probes to investigate various cases of human rights violations and mysterious killings in Kashmir. Despite recommendations for initiating action against the culprits, very little has been done to bring justice to the victims, Bilal Handoo reports.

A woman lamenting her lost son
A woman lamenting her lost son

When the news that an Army unit of 27 Rashtriya Rifles posted in north Kashmir had allegedly killed 22-year-old Hilal Ahmad Dar in a fake encounter in Aaloosa, Bandipora, broke, the J&K government swung into action and a probe was ordered into the killing. This was not the first time that a probe was ordered to bring justice to the victims of human rights abuses by security forces. In the past, hundreds of cases have been reported from Kashmir valley but the supremacy of New Delhi to decide on such cases in Kashmir has done very little to ensure that the culprits are brought to justice.

This year, the state ordered at least seven probes to investigate cases of alleged human rights violations and killings by security forces, along with other criminal cases. The year started with the killing of Altaf Ahmad Sood, who was shot dead by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel on January 2 in Boniyar, Uri. The state government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident and the additional deputy commissioner, Baramulla, Manzoor Ahmad Qadri, blamed the ‘unprovoked firing by CISF’ for Manzoor’s death.

This was followed by the killing of a youth, Ashiq Hussain Rather, in Rafiqabad, Baramulla, on Feb 11, allegedly by 32 Rashtriya Rifles. The minister of state for home, Nasir Aslam Wani, immediately asked a sub-divisional magistrate to conduct a probe into the killing and submit report within a month. Meanwhile, the Army also ordered a separate probe into the incident. General Officer Commanding of Army’s 15 Corps, Lt. Gen. S A Hasnain visited the area and assured the locals that a transparent and fair probe will be conducted. The third probe was ordered on March 22 in the custodial death of Sajad Ahmad Dar, a resident of Sangrampora, Sopore, which threatened to shatter the peace in Kashmir. The jail authorities were ‘indicted’ by the additional district magistrate, Kupwara, for Sajad’s death. “The jail authorities were not the only party at fault, although they have to share the blame. The promotion of the superintendent of Kupwara jail has been postponed and he was been denied one-year’s salary increment,” AGDP (prisons), Naveen Aggarwal, told Kashmir Life. No criminal proceedings were initiated against the culprits.

On July 4, 21 Rashtriya Rifles allegedly shot dead Bilal Ahmad Magray, 22, in Zachaldara, Handwara, triggering fears that protests might erupt in Kashmir valley. The J&K police registered a case of murder against the Army but the culprits were not brought to book.

From 2003, the successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have ordered 162 probes in different incident. In 2003, 33 probes were ordered under the PDP-Congress coalition government; high-profile among them was the massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pandits by unidentified gunmen in Nadimarg, Shopian on March 24. Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had ordered a probe to investigate the security lapses but the report was not made public.

In 2004, 25 probes were ordered again under Mufti’s regime and 21 probes were set up in 2005. Prominent among them was the assassination of the then education minister, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Lone, by unidentified gunmen on November 20 near his high security Tulsi Bagh residence. Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, was asked to enquire into the circumstances that led to the assassination and point out lapses, if any, by the security forces. In 2006, 11 probes were ordered which included the alleged extra judicial execution of four students in Handwara by 33 RR led by one Major Rambo on Feb 23. Not much was done in these cases too.

In 2007, 12 probe committees were set up including the manhandling of a Kashmiri scholar by the Army, the fake encounter of three men and subsequent killing of a woman who witnessed the encounter which was followed by violent clashes in which an infant was killed. In 2008, when the Kashmir valley erupted against the transfer of land to Amarnath board and scores of youth were killed, eight probes were ordered. In 2009, 19 probes were ordered including Justice Jan Commission on May 31 in the alleged double rape and murder case in Shopian and Bomai killings. In 2010, the state ordered probes into a number of killings by security forces. Last year, 10 probes were ordered into various human rights abuses which included the alleged custodial killing of Nazim Rashid and Kulgam rape amongst others. In all these cases, very little was done by the government to bring the culprits to justice.

Sources said the records of the probes ordered by the state government prior to 2003 are almost non-existent. While the cases involving the security forces are meeting a quiet death with the forces claim impunity under the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, successive governments have been rendered useless when it comes to bringing the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice.

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