Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Torture victim reveals plight of Kashmiri inmates

Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir dt April 28th, 2009 by Showkat Nanda
Baramulla, April 27: Peer Mehraj-u-din is yet to recover from the mental torture at the hands of his interrogators who had even prodded him to confess to plan of killing BJP leaders, L K Advani and Narendra Modi in a bid to frame him on false charges. Resident of Baramulla district’s Mukam, Potukhah area, Mehraj-u-din had gone to Mumbai in 2002 to apply for MBA course in Rizwi College, Bandra when at the Mumbai Railway station he was picked up by some unidentified men in civvies.“They asked about my identification, and when I resisted and asked them to identify themselves, they were infuriated. They dragged and bundled me in a vehicle and I found myself in a room with four other young men,” Mehraj recalls, adding, “Three days had passed and I was in Delhi, which I didn’t know then.”Mehraj recalls how he and the other boys were interrogated in the same room for hours together.“Every question was followed by punches and blows. All of us were hanged upside down and they urinated on our faces,” he said.He also revealed how his two fellow inmates were killed in a “fake encounter.” “In the dead of the night, we were taken in a cab to a lonely place where two of the boys were shot dead and we were asked to run. As soon as we started running, our captors shouted at us drawing the attention of nearby people,” recalls Mehraj, adding that they shouted, “We have killed two and arrested three.”“The people also started calling us terrorists and beat us with stones after the policemen presented it as a genuine encounter,” Mehraj said.Later, Mehraj was asked to sign some blank papers.“They told me to confess before media that I had plans to kill Advani and Modi,” he said.Mehraj was accused of possessing explosive material which he denies even today. After being convicted under POTA, he was shifted to Tihar jail where he was kept for more than four years. He says he was subjected to third degree torture for months together.“For the first few days I would be regularly stripped naked and beaten. They would give me electric shocks almost daily. An officer known as Roy Singh would urinate on my face,” recalls Mehraj amid sobs, adding that he filed a writ petition (381/2005) against Singh and other jail authorities later.He added that he was not the only victim, but all the Kashmiri inmates would undergo severe mental torture.“Apart from being abused, we were forced to do Puja every morning. Even copies of Holy Quran would be trampled under the feet before our eyes.”Like Mehraj, hundreds of Kashmiris have been falsely implicated and subjected to third degree torture, asserts Abdul Qadeer Dar, Chairman of People's Right's Movement (PRM), an organisation fighting for the rights of released militants."Mehraj is one among hundreds who were treated inhumanly in Tihar jail. There are more than 60,000 people, some of whom are working as PRM volunteers now, have been severely tortured,” Dar said, adding, “There is an immediate need to start a vigorous campaign against this state-sponsored evil.”


Srinagar, Apr 27: The High Court on Monday issued notice to Army and the state government in custodial disappearance of two persons eight years ago. The court has directed the army and the state government to respond to the notice within three weeks. Ghulam Hassan Dar and Ghulam Muhammad Lone of Shamaspora Islamabad filed two petitions in the High Court about the disappearance of their sons. Their counsel Ghulam Qadir Bhat informed the Court that on November 23, 2001 Sajjad Ahmad Dar, son of Ghulam Hassan Dar and Feroz Ahmad Lone, son of Ghulam Muhammad Lone were picked up from their houses by Ikhwanis who were working with the Army and since then they disappeared. The Ikhwanis who lifted the civilians have been identified as Tariq Ahmad Bhat and Manzoor Ahmad Paddar of Maloon in Islamabad. The parents of both the boys immediately registered a complaint with the police station. However, the police didn’t help them to locate their sons. Meanwhile, they received a call from Kupwara resident Muhammad Yousuf Dar that their sons were lodged in Palpora Kupwara. The parents rushed to Kupwara and informed the concerned police station. The SHO concerned informed them that he had taken up the matter with the Army and it had agreed to release them after questioning. However, they were not released and the SHO forced the parents to leave the place. The resident Muhammad Yousuf Dar who had informed the parents was shot dead. The police inaction forced the parents to approach the State Human Rights Commission. On October 17, 2006 the SHRC in its judgment confirmed that they have been subjected to enforced disappearance during custody. It ordered the government to give compensation to the relatives of the disappeared persons. The Commission had also passed remarks against the then SHO police station Kupwara. The SHO concerned didn’t provide records before the Commission. He also didn’t appear before the commission despite the directions of the commission and orders of the Director General Police. The Commission had ordered that the case of murder and kidnapping be registered against the Army. But years have passed neither the case has been registered nor the recommendations of the SHRC regarding the ex-gratia have been accepted by the Government. The Court directed the Union Home Secretary, 14 Rajput Unit of Army, DGP Police, SSP Kulgam and deputy commissioner Islamabad to respond within three weeks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shamsuddin was made human shield by troops, cries Kupwara

Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir dt. April 21st, 2009 by Shahjahan Afzal
Kupwara, April 20: People in Chack Nutnussa and adjacent areas on Monday staged a massive protest demonstration demanding probe into the killing of Shamsuddin, 65-year-old retired head constable in Jammu Kashmir Police, who was allegedly made human shield by troops during a gunbattle in the area on Sunday.Protesters raising pro-freedom and anti-army slogans blocked Kupwara-Srinagar Highway demanding stern punishment to the guilty troopers and the Ikhwanis allegedly involved in the killing.Stating that it was discretion of armed troopers to enter the house where the holed up militant was, they said that Shamsuddin was made human shield by the troopers and killed in cold blood. The protestors also complained that the notorious Yousuf Ikhwani has unleashed a rein of terror in the area and is involved in grave crimes. Accusing that he has killed five innocents in the area, they demanded that he be disarmed and brought to justice. The Deputy Commissioner Kupwara and top police officials assured the protesters to conduct a probe to establish the circumstances which led to the killing of Shamsuddin.SP Kupwara, Uttam Chand told Rising Kashmir that he has assured people that an inquiry will be conducted to establish the circumstances which led to the killing of the civilian. “Any body found guilty will be treated as per law,” he said.Shamsuddin’ son, Muhammad Ashraf told Rising Kashmir that his father was forced by the troops to enter the house where the militants were holed up. An employee in the police department, Ashraf said, “My father was asked to persuade the holed up militants for surrender. When he refused the army officers and notorious Ikhwani Yousuf Khan who was accompanying the troops dragged and forced him to enter the house,”Eyewitnesses said Shamsuddin after entering the main door of the house loudly called upon the militants that the army was asking them to surrender, and returned back. Yousuf who was positioned at main door fired at Shamsuddin, one bullet hitting his abdomen and one hitting his right hand which led to his death by the time he had reached back to the main door of the house. After the death of Shamas-u-din, troopers resorted to heavy mortar shelling and razed the house to ground which was constructed last year.Shamsuddin is survived with four sons and three daughters who were all wailing on the death of their father. Saeda, wife of Shamsuddin, who is said to be a heart patient and has been relieved from hospital recently, was in a state of shock.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saffron agenda in Jammu - Creation of an unholy divide

Courtesy: Daily Kashmir Times By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
It is not known whose agenda Sinha was pursuing. But that he had the partial, if not full, backing of the centre all along even as power changed hands from BJP led NDA government to Congress led UPA government in New Delhi, was quite evident. Despite his objections and the prolonged confrontation over yatra duration, Mufti had to give in after centre's insistence. That time, Congress was in the saddle in New Delhi. After Ghulam Nabi Azad took over as chief minister of the coalition government in November 2005, it was known in the official circles that Azad was using Sinha as a counter weight against Mufti. But how does a constitutional head of the state become such a super power without backing from somebody at the power centre? The PDP kept resisting efforts to transfer the land to SASB for three years right up till March 2008, as is evident from reports about the coalition members confronting each other on this issue. Then what happened between March 2008 and May 2008 to have prompted the PDP to give up its stand, that too at the fag end of Sinha's career? Sinha's tenure ended on June 2 but was extended by a few weeks during which resentment against the land transfer was building up. Congress spokesperson Jayanti Nataranjan maintained, only after Sinha's exit from Jammu and Kashmir, that he was a communalist, pointing out at his equally admonishable role in Assam. That it took over four years for the Congress to understand Sinha's troublesome quality is difficult to digest. Was Congress oblivious of his past, also even of Indira Gandhi government rejecting his name for army chief owing to his right wing leanings. If such facts were known, they were conveniently ignored for whatever reason, making the constitutional head of Jammu and Kashmir all powerful and almost unquestionable. Anyhow, the notion of the land transfer as a design to bring about demographic change in Kashmir did not have roots in Islamic fundamentalism but in Sinha's sinister moves that created suspicions. Whether or not there was a design to do so in so inhospitable a terrain, there were legitimate reasons for insecurity and anger. It has been contended that 800 kanals of land was not enough space to effect any kind of a demographic change in a place where 99 percent population was Muslim. Certainly one is well aware that 800 kanals of land in the possession of Amarnath Shrine Board headed by a non state subject may not be enough to bring about a demographic change but one has to keep the sequence of events in mind as well to understand the skepticism and insecurity of the Kashmiris for which Sinha alone is to be blamed. Whether one calls it diversion or permanent transfer, the impact of such a move on the psyche of the people, who had earlier agitated against offering vast tracts of land in Gulmarg to hoteliers and big companies from outside the state, was the same. Sinha had already made himself a suspect in the eyes of the people and his moves were being viewed as a well conceived agenda against the locals. 800 kanals of land may not have been sufficient to even settle a few non state subjects. But this could well have been the beginning with a person as constitutional head of the state who had become too demanding. After all Gaza strip was created bit by bit, not overnight. The psychological impact of such fears coupled with the pent up anger of the people due to continuum of suppression, human rights abuse and increased alienation and their increasing disillusionment with the peace process is what led to a spontaneous agitation in the Valley. The final spark was provided not as much by Islamists, petty politicking between different parties, the unity moves of the two Hurriyats or their creation of the Action Committee Against Land Transfer but by the Chief Executive Officer of the SASB, Arun Kumar. Responding to Muzaffar Hussain Beig's remarks about being arm twisted into okaying the deal, at his venomous press conference on June 17, Arun Kumar stated that the land transfer was 'permanent'. Arun Kumar's press conference became significant for the fact that his remarks became the final provocation, setting the tone of a massive agitation in Kashmir. The reason was not simply the 'permanent land transfer' he referred to, remarks which he later tried to distance from, but also his provocative comparison between Haj pilgrimage and Amarnath pilgrimage as also his insistence that the SASB would make the Amarnath yatra a permanent feature to accommodate the increasing number of Hindus in the world. (Interestingly Arun Kumar's mysterious role also comes into focus on an earlier occasion in 2005 when the initial proposal of allocation of 3600 kanals of land was sent to the forest department of the state. His wife Sonali Kumar, who happened to be the forest commissioner that time blindly gave the proposal a green signal. When Mufti learnt of this, he cancelled the order, which as per norms should have been cleared by the cabinet and also on the grounds that transfer of forest land would amount to violation of supreme court directive.) Arun Kumar's outburst strengthened the fears and insecurities of the people whose obsession with history of Palestine invoked fears of this being the first step towards creation of a Gaza strip here. PDP pulled out of the government on June 28 and the next day governor NN Vohra wrote to the chief minister that the Board was not interested in pursuing the land if the state government could give an assurance that it would create suitable facilities for the yatra. Two days later, the cabinet of a minority government met to cancel the land transfer order. There were two reasons to revoke the order and it was obvious that the pressure to do so had come from the Centre. First, the land agitation had strengthened the hands of the separatists and New Delhi felt that any further delay would totally fritter away the gains of the peace process. This was not the first agitation against government policies in the Valley but the fact that it was assuming the shape of a revolt, especially at a time when Indian government was hoping to cash in on the decreased militancy related violence and the weakening of the separatist leaders. It had rung alarm bells. Secondly, there was finally a realisation that the decision to transfer land had been wrong and also of the damage that had been done by Sinha and the land deal. By June 19, violent protests, brutally dealt with, had begun in the Valley. On June 27, Friday, complete bandh was observed in Valley to both oppose the land transfer issue and the killing of two persons in police firing during protests in Srinagar's down town. After the Friday afternoon prayers in various mosques of the Valley, where imams and separatist leaders called for assembling on the roads in protest against the land transfer, thousands of people all over the Valley descended on the roads. In Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, alone over a lakh people were part of different peaceful demonstrations. The police and the security forces, in view of the killings in police firing, had probably decided against any direct confrontation with the protestors and allowed them to move. Most of them converged at Lal Chowk, some hoisting green flags at the historic crossing's Clock Tower. Slogans of 'azadi' dominated the scene. But also heard were pro-Pakistan and religious slogans. The agitation against land transfer had become an occasion for political revolt, suppressed by years of indifference and to some extent by an increasing weakening of the separatist leadership. But when slogans of 'ham kya chahte hain..azadi' turned into 'azadi ka matlab kya.la allah-al-allah' the reaction was just the opposite in Jammu region where an agitation was waiting in the wings for the collapse of state administration. When some Kashmiri youth hoisted green Islamic flags at Srinagar's historic Lal Chowk and electronic media gave liberal coverage of that very incident, common masses in Jammu, unmindful of the history of events, perceived it as a war between two religions, not as a people's war for their land or even as people's struggle to decide about what happens on their land. In 1990s massive agitations had rocked in the Hindu dominated Katra town, the base camp of the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage, of Jammu region against the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board's move to build a motorable road to the shrine. It went against the local interest and protests were supported and justified. When protests for similar reasons took place in Kashmir, they were given a religious colouring. The green flags and Islamic slogans only further contributed to this religious paranoia. The PDP's pull out from the government on June 28 coincided with NN Vohra taking over as the new governor on June 24, left behind a one legged Congress government. The latter failed to offer any explanation either for the land transfer or the need to cancel the order, following Vohra's letter to the chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad stating that the SASB was not interested in pursuing the land if the state government could give an assurance that facilities for pilgrims would be taken care of by it. Because the Congress was busy politicising the issue and getting even with PDP, both washing dirty linen in public, the government had no explanations to offer to the people either in Kashmir or Jammu, the constituency which Congress was eying. This seems to have acted as a catalyst for the agitation in the winter capital of the state. The cancellation of land transfer order had an adverse fallout in Jammu region where the Sangh Parivar, prompted by its mentor Lal Kishen Advani, was already up in arms against what they had begun to call 'surrendering to separatists and anti-nationals'. In Kashmir the religious slogans, green flags and pro-Pakistan slogans, as always, were expressions of an anti-India sentiment. The anger had both a history and reason. In Jammu, Sangh Parivar sought to legitimise the agitation on grounds that this was an expression of Jammu sentiment, a euphemism for Hindu sentiment. Peoples' sensibilities, nurtured on the notion of discrimination to Jammu for years, were easily whipped by the panic inspired by the 'unity' displayed by the Kashmiri leadership including the mainstream political parties on the issue. Not many coming out on the streets to protest knew the basis of the agitation. The popular sentiment was anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim, fed by myths that Hindu land had been taken away by the Muslims which the Sangh Parivar had so cleverly perpetuated. It took three days for the Congress ministers to respond to the agitation in Jammu where they pursued a more apologetic posture, maintaining that the land was sought by the former governor, so it was transferred, the new governor didn't want it, so it was cancelled. Two days later, chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad addressed a hurried press conference, maintaining that 'this was a win win situation for Jammu'. The lack of any explanation, about what the land transfer signified, what its repercussions would have been, why it was opposed in Kashmir Valley and how the cancellation of the order would impact or not impact the yatra, created conducive conditions for the fertility of the Sangh Parivar propaganda, something that these groups had been waiting for a long time. Azad's remarks on the day the land transfer order was cancelled - that the agitation in Kashmir is over a non-issue - itself legitimised the agitation in Jammu for revoking the cancellation of the previous order i.e restoring the land back to the SASB. Virtually, the government had no story to tell. Or, it didn't want to. But the media had, especially the local electronic channels, without any exception, in Jammu. They ran almost a round the clock 'soap-opera', projecting unknown figures of the saffron brigade mouthing their propaganda, raising slogans or burning effigies. The meager protests being held in small mohallas were getting almost a live telecast. These were the only voices people heard and their only source of information, rather disinformation. At the same time, in Kashmir, there is need for realisation that even though religious slogans are popular expressions of resentment and alienation against India, they can create insecurities in the minds of the other communities of the State. The valley centric politics have been pivoted around mosques and religious slogans, not only in the last two decades, but since much before even during the times of Sheikh Abdullah whose obsession with the Hazratbal politics was too conspicuous. In fact, the use of mosques to mobilise people for political purposes or protests has become an accepted part of life. It is not necessary to justify that. If the plural fabric of the State has to be kept intact in its harmonious mould, it is time to shun politics that can create insecurities and divisions. Violent protests in both the regions of the state have ended since long and the ice has melted, at least on the surface. But not without taking its toll. The two counter agitations cost individuals thousands of crores of rupees and severely hit the state's economy. Health care and education were severely hit. And added to this was psychological impact that violence and hatred caused in the long run. But more significant is the damage that has been done with the creation of communal and regional divides which does not augur well for the social fabric of the state or for eventual peace. These have mellowed down but have not totally been wiped out. Without understanding and questioning the deigns of fundamentalists and vested interests on both sides, especially the Sangh Parivar, there can be no lasting and enduring bridge between regions and communities. While it is important for secular elements from all sides to come forward and burn the midnight oil to dispel all kinds of propaganda as also prevent a repeat of the situation witnessed in this state last summer; it is also necessary at this juncture to introspect what happened and why it happened before one gets down to working on creating a space for healing. An ideal solution, ultimately, would be de-linking State and politics from religion. But before that lies the onerous task of dispelling myths and building bridges for a consensus on that. -(Concluded)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ratify enforced disappearance convention: APDP to GoI

Courtesy:Daily Rising Kashmir dt. April 11th, 2009 byHakeem Irfan Srinagar,
April 10: Families of the disappeared persons on Friday demanded that India should ratify the Enforced Disappearance Convention to which it is a signatory.In its monthly sit-in, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) urged the government of India to follow countries like France, Senegal, Argentina, Mexico, Hundura and Cuba, and ratify the convention.Speaking on the occasion, legal advisor of APDP, Advocate Hafizullah Mir said, “India should also ratify the convention. The disappearances that took place in Kashmir, Punjab and North East should be probed by independent and credible commission.”The convention is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations intended to prevent forced disappearance. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006. As of March 2009, 81 states have signed, and ten have ratified. It will come into force when ratified by 20 states-parties.Speaking on the occasion, APDP President, Parveena Ahanger said, “We don’t want any compensation from the government. If our sons are alive, allow us to meet them and if they are dead, handover their bodies. Our demand is plain and simple.” Family members of several missing persons, mostly elderly men and women, participated in the peaceful protest holding placards demanding whereabouts of their dear ones.One of the victims, Begum Bakti whose son was arrested one month after his marriage from Tragpora Rafiabad and later went missing, said, “I am still hopeful of my son’s return. His wife has married again only six years after his disappearance and is demanding compensation in the name of my son which adds to my miseries.” Nineteen-year-old Abrar was too small to recollect his father’s disappearance after his arrest in 1993 from Narkara Budgam.“I don’t know what happened then. But now I know that my father was arrested from home. I want to know if he is alive or dead,” he said.On the occasion, APDP chairman Parveena Ahanger said, “We don’t want any compensation from the government. If our sons are alive, allow us to meet them and if they are dead, handover their bodies. Our demand is plain and simple.” The parties to the convention are bound to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice, ensure that it constitutes an offence under its criminal law, and to assist the victims of enforced disappearance or locate and return their remains. It also envisages establishing a register of those currently imprisoned, and allow it to be inspected by relatives and counsel, and also to ensure that victims have a right to obtain reparation and compensation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bomai win makes widow Tahira Hopeful

Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir dt. April 1st, 2009 by Shahjahan Afzal
Kupwara, March 31: The probe into the killings of two youth in Bomai and the subsequent indictment of accused troopers has come as a ray of hope for Tahira, the widow of Fayaz Ahmad Mir who was allegedly killed by troops of 18 RR outside his house on February 1 at Zab Khorhama Lolab in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Tahira demands a Bomai like probe into her 28-year-old husband’s killing so that the guilty are brought to book.Mother of four, 24-year-old Tahira says: “I remember Fayaz’s last words. He repeatedly alleged that he was fired by a six-member party of Army. This words strike my mind every now and then. I am neither able to sleep nor work.”Tahira along with her children Irfan, 9, Javaid, 8, Nida Jan, 7, and infant Saqib live in a shabby two roomed hut at Zab Khorhama.Memories“Fayaz was a caring husband. He would inquire about my health and well being every evening on his return from his workshop and would accompany me to the doctor when needed,” Tahira recalls bursting into tears. “On some occasions I used to be annoyed with him. At that time he would console me tenderly and always treat me humbly. Now there is no one to console me…no one, the days are gone…” Helplessness“Fayaz’s sweet memories steal my peace and patience. I am also troubled by the innocent questions my children pose about their father,” Tahira says.Demand“The government is yet to come up with the names of troopers involved in the killing of my husband even though SP sahib announced a probe into the incident by a gazetted level police officer in front of former MLA Lolab, Qaisar Jamsheed Lone. The probe has proved a hoax. Perhaps it has met the same fate which thousands of probes have met in Kashmir,” the widow says in anger.“We should have agitated like people of Bomai did. But I know nobody will accompany me now. Nobody will call a probe into the killing of my husband because I am poor,” Tahira rues.Rejecting the army claims that Fayaz was killed due to relentless firing by militants, the villagers say that neither there was any cross fire nor was any movement of militants in the area.They said that the killing was unjustified and unprovoked and the area was free from militants.Police has registered a case under section 302 of RPC to start investigation and to establish circumstances that led to the killing of the innocent tailor.Two months are about to pass but police is yet to make any headway in the case. The IncidentIt was the fateful evening of Sunday when Fayaz came out of his house to attend nature’s call. Fayaz would have only stepped down from the ladder of his house that he was ordered by troops to raise his hands. Fayaz yelled before troopers that he was the owner of the house but troopers did not pay any heed and shot at both his arms with two more bullets piercing into his chest.Fayaz’s assistant and an eyewitness to the incident, wishing not to be named, said six troopers had already laid an ambush in the area.“Sensing their mistake of killing an innocent, the troopers caught hold of Fayaz lying in a pool of blood and started to drag him toward the nearby hillock. Fayaz was pleading to let him free. Perhaps they were intending to dub him as a militant and cover up their crime,” he said. “The family shouted and called villagers who later on came to rescue him.”Residents SpeakA resident of Fayaz’s village said: “Fayaz’s children, wife and parents who are putting up in a separate house rushed to the spot with bare feet and had a scuffle with the Indian troopers. Sensing trouble, the troopers fled from the spot,” said a villager.“The people assembled and raised hue and cry. The troopers who had already laid a cordon in the area ordered the villagers not to venture out of their houses and keep their lights off just to avoid protests,” he said.A close relative of Fayaz, wishing not to be named said: “The troopers sealed all the ways connecting the village with main road and prevented the villagers from taking the injured Fayaz to hospital. It was only after a local Congress leader intervened whom we contacted over phone that a vehicle was sent. Till then it was too late.”Fayaz’s relatives said: “Fayaz was bleeding profusely and continued to cry in pain ‘Army killed me. Who will look after my children now and take me to the hospital.”Fayaz is not the only person in his family who was killed by troopers.Troopers also planted an IED to Fayaz’s paternal uncle Zia Mir at Khorhama Chowk in broad daylight but no inquiry was ever conducted in the case.He was working as a porter with the army post Kuligam and is said to have refused to honour diktats of the army.Fayaz had earned a name in the area as a tailor and was the lone breadwinner of his family. The family does not own any land and lives in a small two room hut.