Striving for justice

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After losing two sons, Abdul Ahad Wani strived hard for justice till his last breath. His only surviving son has carried on the struggle. But despite SHRC recommendations and police admission, neither a charge sheet has been produced against army, nor compensation paid. Ikhlaq Qadri reports.

After shouldering coffins of his two brothers and father, Muhammad Amin Wani is striving for justice. Wani’s brothers were allegedly killed by troops, and his father died, allegedly weakened by physical torture.

Even after getting a decree from State Human Rights Commission, which directed the state to pay the family ex-gratia and book the culprits for the killing of Wani’s elder brother, Shams-ud-Din, the family had to approach the high court where the case is still going on. A police report has indicted army in the case.

Wani’s younger brother, Muhammad Ramzan Wani, was killed in firing by troops (21 RR of Zachaldara Camp) during a crackdown of their village Sirajpora in Dialgam Handwara in May 1998. The family alleges that Ramzan was picked up during crackdown, beaten in front of the people, and then asked to go.

“And when he moved, he was fired in the back,” said Wani.

The family lodged an FIR with police station Handwara (71/1998 dated 28.05.1998). The army lodged a counter FIR contending that he was killed in crossfire. Disappointed with the proceedings, the family approached National Human Rights Commission.

“NHRC responded that they have sent letter to defence secretary. We got nothing there after,” said Muhammad Amin Malik.

Ramzan was married six months prior to his death. The family was still struggling to cope with the tragedy, when another struck.

On March10, 2001 F-company of 6 Rashtriya Rifles led by one Major Ohre and lieutenant Dalbeer Singh picked up Wani’s another brother, Shamas-ud -Din from his shop at Magam.

Next day early in the morning at around 5 a.m. Shamas-ud-Din was brought home. The family said that he had been tortured brutally.

“During interrogation his arm was broken, beard pulled out and burned. His whole body was burned on kerosene stove,” said Wani.

Wani’s parents were pained to see the condition of their son. The army was repeatedly asking for the ammunition. Wani said Shams-ud-Din was tortured even in the home, and than dragged to some other place. The family tried to lodge an FIR in police station, where Wani alleged, they were misled by an official of police station.

Next day (March 12), army lodged an FIR 37/2001 claiming that they had caught a militant of Harkat ul Mujahedeen outfit, who had given some ammunition and while leading the party to hideout there was an IED blast and he got killed.

The family, however, counters the army version. They allege that he was tortured to death. Police declined to accept the body from army, said Wani, as it was only a mutilated portion, and not the whole body.

“They blasted his body with an IED, and neither hospital nor police accepted the brutally tortured and chopped body,” said Wani.

Succumbing to public protests police lodged an FIR, 38/2001 on family’s complaint, and the government ordered an enquiry under Assistant Commissioner Handwara, Abdul Jabbar. Deputy Commissioner ordered for a fresh post mortem under public pressure.

“Army pressurised doctors and managed to get report that death took place due to an IED blast and not because of torture, “said Wani.

He added that the Sector Commander offered a deal with Army paying ex-gratia. The family later approached State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). The Inspector General of Police informed the SHRC that after police investigation the case was proved against 6-RR and efforts were on to book the culprits.

The army stuck to its version that Shams-ud-Din was killed in an IED blast at a hideout.

An SHRC full bench comprising of Justice A M Mir, Qazi Muzaffar-Ud-Din and S. Mohinder Singh directed the state to produce a challan in court against army and also pay the family Rs two lakh as compensation.

“The police agency of the state has thoroughly investigated the matter and it is for them to arrest the accused and produce the challan. The matter in hand from the standpoint of violation of human rights is serious. Even if the army version is accepted, it is highly unprofessional to use innocent civilians as a human shield. If defenders of the people act in the way as revealed by the police investigation then the system is sure to collapse one day under its own burden.” The SHRC noted its judgement on March 13, 2003.   

Recommending the ex gratia, the SHRC noted that Shams-ud-Din was not involved in any anti-national or militancy related activity, as per the report of Superintendent of Police Kupwara to the commission.

“Neither the Challan was produced nor the compensation was given,” said Wani.

Not losing the courage, the family approached the High Court in 2007 to get the decision of state human rights commission implemented.

“The court also ordered the government to provide ex-gratia and consider the case for compassionate appointment under SRO 43,” said Wani, “But the order was never honoured by the government. They don’t want to have conflict with the Army,” said Muhammad Amin.

In the same year (2007), Wani’s father Abdul Ahad passed away. Wani alleges that his father died of torture.

“My father died due to repeated torture by the Army who wanted him to accept that his son was a militant, “said Amin.

He added that Abdul Ahad was picked by Army and forced to make a thumb impression on a blank paper at gun point.

Wani’s mother is suffering from depression after losing her sons and husband. But losing three members have not deterred the family from its fight for justice.

Wani, a teacher, says the family had also faced financial constraints. “Our resources have exhausted now,” said Wani. “We even lost our house as Army set it on fire.”

Their house, explains Wani, was gutted when army “set fire to some houses” during an encounter with militants in the village.

Besides he alleges that he was also harassed and tortured many times.

Shamas-ud-Din left is survived by his wife and four children. The sons live in an orphanage at Bemina, while the daughters are at home.

“Expenses were not managed and thus we send them to an orphanage,” said Wani.

Despite its constraints and setbacks, the family is fighting justice. The case is currently in the High Court.

“We want culprits to be booked under law and dealt with severely,” asserts Amin. He also has a grudge, “No one came to our help.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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