Jammu & Kashmir state has been under direct rule from India since Jan 1989. The last elections held for the constituent assembly only attracted 2% votes. Democracy has been routed and the army continues to rule the people. No one can claim to have a right to an identity guaranteed by the United Nations charter.
Life in Kashmir is a magnificent internment camp for everyone, including foreigners. One can travel by day only and will be searched at every turn of the road or change of district; all of the luggage is opened each time. No one in Kashmir can travel after dark. There are curfews in force; people attempting to venture during the night face arrest or being shot at. People have died and pregnant women have delivered babies without medical help. No ambulances run and the local Police are incarcerated and dare not help.
An estimated 35,000 people have been put in prison without any trial. From this figure, 15,939 were arrested under the Terrorist And Disruptive Actions (Preventive) Act or TADA. This infamous act termed as 'Gravest Violation' by Amnesty International and 'Draconian' by all Human Rights Groups, has no legal safeguard and by virtue of the wider latitude given to the security forces precludes any chance for a victim to exercise the fundamental right to defend himself. Section 4 of TADA states 'Any act or speech or any other media which questions or disrupts directly or indirectly sovereignty or territorial integrity of India or cessation of any part' is liable for arrest. A public demand for a plebiscite for self-determination was taken as a breach of TADA. The military also have a 'shoot to kill' policy supported by the law.
Human Rights activist, a Kashmiri Hindu lawyer Mr Hirday Nath Wanchoo, before his assassination filed more than a hundred criminal miscellaneous Petitions (CMP) about extra-judicial executions, custodial deaths, disappearances and rapes against the Indian administration in Kashmir.
In some cases the high courts accepted the petitions and passed orders for investigation and consent orders with government counsels present. All these court orders were ignored and not complied with. Wanchoo was killed and the case files went missing. The outcry in Kashmir about missing files is haunting the legal profession and Human Rights organisations. The cause of action survives even after the demise of the petitioner, if it relates to public interest - who cares?
Solicitors have been beaten up, tortured and murdered for highlighting the violations or using the courts for helping victims. Abdul Quyum, the president of the Kashmir Bar Association, was jailed and beaten up. He was then shot at and is now crippled with injuries.
On 20th October 1995, lawyers came out on strike over the killing of a solicitor, Gulam Qadir Sailani, by the troops on the outskirts of Srinagar. He was known to help with petitions of prisoners.
India claims to have a functional judiciary to protect human rights violations. In Kashmir there is now law and there is no effective judiciary. An extract of a decision given by High Court of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar, follows.
Hon'ble Mr Justice S M Rizvi presiding, made an order on HC Petition No 850/94. He concluded, "The administration and Police seem to have thrown to the winds the rule of law. Hundreds of cases have been brought to my notice where the detenues are in illegal detention. Despite the strong direction of this court they are not being released. Hundreds of cases are pending in which the whereabouts of the detenues are not known or have been done away with. For years they are languishing in jails and interrogation centres without any legal authority. In short there is total breakdown of law and order machinery. Nobody bothers to obey the orders of this court". Chief Justice Rizvi is an Indian judge posted in Kashmir.
Anyone, in any part of Kashmir and parts of Jammu, at any time of day or night, whether sleeping in his bed or at work, travelling or visiting a friend, has a high chance of being shot dead. The administration will not own up to responsibility or take any action to investigate. The answers are readily available: it is a cross-fire, an errant fire, a sniper or killed in combat. 'Enter Kashmir at your own risk' is a warning to every Human Rights activist.
Any home can be torched, any built-up area evacuated at a moment's notice. In the name of chasing 'militants' the whole population can be cordoned off and incarcerated.
On 4th October 1995, at Khandeya village, the Indian army swept in attacking residents and sexually harassing women. The whole population, 105 families in all, fled. "We can never return there", said Safina, 30, her six year-old child slung in her hip. She wept as she related the ordeal of rape including six other women. A ten year-old showed how his teeth had been smashed. Khandeya is now a ghost village.
Transmigration of population is a striking feature. An estimated one million people are on the run, as fugitives.
There is no other example of members of a whole nation being subjected to mortification and an overt challenge to self esteem. The forces being omnipresent come in contact with the public everywhere. They use foul language and abuse is thrown at first contact. Elderly and handicapped are pushed around, paraded and stripped in roadside searches. Women in particular have been seen with arms help up in the air in the middle of streets being searched.
On 23rd September 1995, reporters saw bodies of elderly coppersmith Mohamed Yaqub Misgar and his 19 year-old on Majid killed by security forces in Srinagar. One officer, Rajindar Kaul, on the scene told the reports, "The shooting was justified. We will investigate. If they were not militants, they were at least sympathisers of terrorists". They asked an another officer, Commander B Baroah, his views of this family carnage, "The are all [Kashmiris] terrorists. Look into their eyes", was his reply. Jawhara Misgar told the reports that she tried to put some water into the mouths of her 70 year-old father and her brother who lay dying. "I was dragged away by my hair by the soldiers", she said.
In order to maintain a 600,000 strong army in the state, the administration have turned a blind eye to scavenging by their soldiers. Meat supplies for instance were obtained with 100 sheep from Gulam Mohomed Goffar of Rangha Chimman, 50 from Roshan of the same village, and 40 sheep forcibly taken from Mohimdu Goffar - in all a day's swoop. They were beaten up badly. Every crackdown ends up with complaints of theft of gold, watches and money. There are thousands of reports with the local Police and the media of yet more examples of foraying and robbing of the innocent civilians.
In August 1995 at Miskeen Bagh, Srinagar, rampaging troops smashed all the windows, looted all homes and stole gold belonging to the residents.
Indian army do not stop to ponder outside a front door and produce a valid request or order to enter. In normal life trespassing into a home is a serious criminal offence. Armed forces in Kashmir, on the other hand, smash their way through doors at any time and any place. This is apart from the cordon and search operations called 'crackdowns'. Money and gold gets taken and utensils get thrown to the floor. Home to the Kashmir women is a sacred place of abode. They take their shoes off before entering inside the home. The army use their boots to inflict damage to furniture and fixtures. The houses visited by the army have never looked normal again.
"My son Arshad Ahmed Bhat was picked up by Indian security forces during a crackdown in Dalgate on 5th December 1995", said Ali Mohomad Bhat who was apparently overwhelmed and crying with emotion. "He is missing from that time. I made pleas with the Indian governor in Kashmir, Mr Saxsena, to let me know where my son was". He has drawn a blank from the authorities. A representation was made through the UN Commission of Human Rights in Geneva. Indian government flatly denied Arshad was with them at all.
There are about 10,000 people not accounted for. They have either been killed and thrown into rivers or put away in far-of prisons.
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