HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Abuses by Indian Security Forces and Militant Groups Continue



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Abuses in the Kashmir Valley


Human rights groups in Kashmir have documented more than three hundred cases of "disappearances" since 1990.34 Lawyers believe the number to be far higher, however, as many relatives do not contact a lawyer out of fear of reprisal. Neither the Indian government nor any of the security agencies operating in the state has provided any information to clarify the whereabouts of the victim in any of these cases.35 It is likely that in virtually all of the cases of "disappearances" in Kashmir, the victim was executed and the body disposed of in secret.

Since 1996, the Association of the Parents of the Disappeared has worked to put pressure on state and central government authorities to account for some 300 cases of "disappearance." As of June 1999, the association had yet to obtain clarification on a single case, however. The head of the organization, Parveen Akhtar, told Human Rights Watch about her own efforts to obtain information about the whereabouts of her son, Javed Ahmad Ahangar, who was sixteen when he "disappeared" on August 18, 1991. According to Ahangar, the High Court has ordered the prosecution of three army officers responsible, but as of June 1999, no action had been taken.36

The security forces routinely flout legal protections that would provide a safeguard against "disappearances." Detainees are frequently shifted from one detention facility to another, sometimes under the authority of different security agencies; records of arrest are either not kept or are falsified; and the security forces ignore writs of habeas corpus and refuse to produce detainees even when ordered to do so by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, as of May 1999, hundreds of habeas corpus petitions remained pending before the court, some dating back several years.

Abdul-Ahad Dar
Abdul-Ahad Dar was taken from his residence in Halmatpora, Kupwara, by the STF on the night of July 4-5, 1995.37 The force was headed by the Kupwara Superintendent of Police (SP) Manhas, who has since been posted elsewhere in the state. Another man who was arrested with Dar was released after a few days. The police interrogated Dar as to the whereabouts of his brother, who they claimed was a militant.

Dar's wife went to the chief judicial magistrate of Kupwara and asked him to tell her why her husband was arrested and where he was being detained. The court orderd the STF to respond, and the STF replied that it had arrested him but had released him the next day. A lawyer for the family then filed a petition before the High Court, number 400\95. The court again ordered the state to respond, and this time the STF claimed that it had never arrested Dar. The lawyer then submitted the Kupwara court document to the High Court. It was not until 1997, however, that the court ordered an official inquiry directed by the chief judicial magistrate of Sopore. During the inquiry, the other detainee, who had been released after a few days, was produced before the court, and he testified that Abdul-Ahad Dar had in fact been arrested at the same time by SP Manhas.

In 1998, after the court session in Sopore, the witness who had testified to Dar's arrest was detained for a day by the STF, who apparently pressured him to change his story. According to the lawyer, SP Manhas then tried to get the witness to return to the Sopore court, but the magistrate refused to allow him to appear again as he had already testified and had beencross-examined. The SP then took the witness to the Kupwara court, where he obtained anaffidavit from him in which he retracted his story. This affidavit has now been produced before the Sopore court, leaving it with two conflicting statements.

According to the lawyer, Dar's wife has complained that since July 1998, whenever she has tried to go to court in Sopore, which is about forty kilometers from her home, she is stopped by the STF who tell her not to go to the court and promise to resolve the case for her. In early October 1998, an official told her he would pay her Rs. 50,000 [U.S.$1,250] if she agreed to say that the police did release her husband and that he was subsequently killed by militants.38 Her lawyer told Human Rights Watch that he feared that the wife, who has small children to care for, had lost hope and might ultimately accept the money.

Ashiq Husein Malik
In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Q., stated that on the evening of May 23, 1997, he witnessed the arrest of Ashiq Husein Malik at his home in Peerbagh Hyderpora, Srinagar. At 11:00 p.m., soldiers of the 20th Grenadiers Rashtriya Rifles came to the house with an unidentified informer. They ordered Malik to come with them and find Ghulam Qadir Bhat, also in the village. They went to Bhat's house, and then left with both Malik and Bhat.

The next day and from then on, Malik's family went to a number of police stations

and army camps to look for them, but could not locate them. They tried to file an FIR, but the superintendent of the Badgam police station refused to register the case. Q. told Human Rights Watch:

Ghulam [Bhat] was released after five days and said he had been badly tortured and that Ashiq [Malik] had been with him during those five days. When Ghulam was released, he was brought in an army vehicle, and he told us that Ashiq had also been in that vehicle. That's the last we heard of him. I don't know why Ghulam was released and Ashiq was not.39

According to the bar association, Malik had previously been arrested in 1995 and released. After he was again arrested and "disappeared" in 1997, his lawyer filed a petition with the High Court. The state counsel asked for a week's delay, which the judge granted. But that same day, after the family's lawyer had left the court, the state counsel submitted a response stating that Malik had been released in 1995, that is, after his first arrest. On the basis of that response, the judge dismissed the case.

Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, Meraj Din Dar, Mohamed Sha'ban Khan, Mohamed Yahya Khan, Shabir Ahmad Dar, Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, and Nizar Ahmad Wani

Over a period of about a month between March and April 1997, at least eight men were arrested in the Batmaloo area on the outskirts of Srinagar by the Alpha Company, Boatmen Colony Unit, of the Indian army. As of June 1999, the whereabouts of all eight remained unknown. In several of the cases, the army has since denied arresting the men.

F., a villager from Tengapura, Batmaloo, Srinagar, told Human Rights Watch that at midnight on the night of April 13, 1997, a force of twenty grenadiers of the Alpha Company, Boatmen Colony Unit, came to the house of Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, twenty-five, the son of Mohamed Sultan Khan. The force was headed by an officer named Sahb Singh, who wore two stars on his uniform, and a second officer of the Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI). Mushtaq Khan was taken from his bed and put in a room by himself, where he was interrogated by the two officers. His family, including F., was locked in a room and beaten. That same night, another resident of Tengapura, Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, the son of Ghulam Mohamed Dar, was arrested by the same raiding party and interrogated. MushtaqDar had been in prison twice before and released. Both men were taken to an unknown location and have not been seen or heard from since.40

The next day, April 14, the family of Mushtaq Ahmad Khan filed an FIR with the Shergali police station. They also went to the inspector general of police, the director general of police, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the army headquarters, and the Alpha Company based in Bimna, Srinagar. None of the security forces acknowledged taking the men.41

On April 18, the same unit headed by the same officers arrested Meraj Din Dar, the son of Abderrazzaq Dar, who was also a resident of Tengapura. The family has not been able to locate him since. He was a released militant who had spent two and a half years in prison. After his release he was managing a shoe store out of his home.42

Also on the night of April 18, Mohamed Sha'ban Khan, who was in his forties, and his son, Mohamed Yahya Khan, twenty-five, were arrested in Nasrullahpura, Bargam, seven kilometers from Tengapura. They were taken by the same military unit to an unknown location. The father-in-law of Mohamed Sha'ban Khan filed a suit in the High Court and lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi. On January 1, 1998, the NHRC ordered the Ministry of Defense to respond no later than February 16, 1998.43 In a response to the High Court appeal, the government stated that it had never arrested the men.44 The High Court ordered an inquiry, the results of which were not available to Human Rights Watch as of June 1999.

In early April, about a week before the arrest of the Mushtaq Ahmad Khan and Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, two young men, Shabir Ahmad Dar, twenty-three, son of Ghulam Nabi Dar, resident of Gangabuk, Srinagar, and Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, twenty-one, son of Ali Mohamed Sheikh, were arrested on the bypass road that separates Tengapura from Srinagar proper. They were walking along the road when members of the same unit in a military truck picked them up. The families have been unable to locate them since. Shabir's father filed a case before the High Court.

Nizar Ahmad Wani, seventeen or eighteen, the son of Ghulam Mohamed Wani, a bicycle repairman of Diarwani, Batmaloo, was arrested by the same unit in March 1997. As of June 1999, his whereabouts remained unknown.

Bashir Ahmad Wani and Bashir Ahmad Bhat
Ghulam Nabi Wani, a resident of Mandak Pal village, Pampore, stated that on November 18, 1997, Station House Officer (SHO) M. S. Jindral summoned Wani's son, Bashir Ahmad Wani, in his early twenties, to appear at the local police station the next day. On November 19, a large group of people from the neighborhood accompanied him and his father to the police station. They were told that he would be released again after a little while.45 He was held in the police station for four days, during which his family was not allowed to see him. He wasthen transferred to the Lethpora interrogation center.46 Shortly thereafter, another young man from the neighborhood, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, also in his early twenties, was arrested on November 24.

When Bashir Ahmad Wani was not released as promised, his family petitioned the High Court, and the court ordered the SHO to release the men. But on July 14, 1998, the High Court dismissed the case after state counsel informed the court that both men had been found innocent and released on November 23. Because the family's lawyer was unable to come to the court that day, the family could not counter the state counsel's assertions. But the men were not released; in fact, Bashir Ahmad Bhat was not even arrested until November 24. The lawyer for the Wani family then filed a new appeal, and according to the bar association, when the High Court ordered the state to respond, the state claimed that the detainees were released in the custody of two notables from the village. As evidence, it produced a statement supposedly signed by these two notables, stating that the two men were indeed released into their custody. The statement also carried the signature of one of the missing men. The lawyer for the family told Human Rights Watch that he suspected that the signatures were forged, as the two notables have disavowed any knowledge of the matter. Moreover, the missing person could not have signed his name as he cannot write; he normally would have marked the document with his thumbprint instead.

Both families have also filed a case with the State Human Rights Commission, as the case involves the police, not the army, and therefore falls within the jurisdiction of the SHRC.

Mohammad Iqbal
Human Rights Watch also received information about the "disappearance" of Mohammad Iqbal, the son of Abdul Rehman Malik, residents of Bharat Doda. Mohammad Iqbal Malik was employed as a deputy forestry officer. According to his brother, Mohammad Yaseen Malik, on the night of June 27-28, 1996, Mohammad Iqbal Malik was arrested from the Darul Iqbal rest house, extension Raj Bagh Srinagar, by Major Balbir of the 7th Rashtriya Rifles based at Camp Wailoo, Kukarnag, in Anantnag district. Major Balbir was accompanied by two countermilitants, Abdul Rashid Rather, also known as Amir Raja, and Fiaz Ahmed Ganai, of the Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon militia. When Mohammad Yaseen inquired about his brother's whereabouts, he was sometimes told that Mohammad Iqbal was in the Qazi Gund headquarters of the 7th Rashtriya Rifles. At other times he was told that Mohammad Iqbal was being held at Camp Wailoo or at Larkipura Camp. He stated:

Since then I have been searching for my brother everywhere ... but all in vain. Now more than two and a half years have passed, but I do not know the whereabouts of my brother.47

34 Interview with lawyers at the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, October 14, 1998. Previous Human Rights Watch reports have documented "disappearances" dating back to 1990. See Human Rights Watch, The Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir (New York: Human Rights Watch, June 1993) and Asia Watch (now the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch), Kashmir Under Siege (New York: Human Rights Watch, May 1990).

35 According to the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, in only one case of "disappearance" that they investigated was the victim found alive.

36 Interview in Srinagar, October 18, 1998.

37 Interview with lawyer in Srinagar, October 20, 1998.

38 Ibid.

39 Interview in Srinagar, October 19, 1998.

40 Interview in Batmaloo, Srinagar, October 18, 1998.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Letter from the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, to the Government of India, Ministry of Defence, January 5, 1998.

44 Statement by Mohammad Amin, government advocate, Srinagar, (no date), appended to High Court of Jammu and Kashmir record of Proceedings 491 Crpc 78/97, No. 9339, August 25, 1998.

45 Interview with family's lawyer in Srinagar, October 1998.

46 Interview with father published in Srinagar-based daily Greater Kashmir, October 13, 1998, p. 1.

47 From an affidavit provided to the chief executive officer , IWDP Dood Ganga Sub Water Shed, Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department, Srinagar, August 22, 1997, and a statement provided to Human Rights Watch on October 23, 1998.



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