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



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Under Siege: Doda and the Border Districts

Extrajudicial Executions in Doda

Since the conflict began in 1989, Indian forces in Kashmir have routinely and systematically detained and executed men suspected of being members or supporters of armed militant groups. There are no known figures for the number of such killings, but in the decade since the conflict began, they number at least several thousand. In the early years of the conflict, human rights activists attempted to compile statistics on the detentions and killings, but their work was generally limited to the larger towns and cities. By 1994, most human rights documentation ceased after several prominent human rights defenders were killed and others were threatened. Since then, a few human rights lawyers have continued to compile statistics on the killings. Though incomplete, their documentation indicates that there has been no change in the government's policy or practice in this regard. "Custodial killings," as they are known in Kashmir, continue to be a hallmark of the government's counterinsurgency operations.

Human Rights Watch investigated ten cases of extrajudicial execution that had occurred between 1997 and 1998. Seven of the incidents took place in the Doda region; the others took place in or near Srinagar. We were not able to investigate reports of extrajudicial killings from other parts of the valley. Other organizations have done so,however. In its 1998 report, the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center documented fourteen incidents of summary execution and deaths resulting from torture that occurred in 1997 and 1998.9 The U.S. State Department noted in its 1999 human rights report that

Although well-documented evidence to corroborate cases and quantify trends is lacking, most observers believe that the number of killings attributed to regular Indian forces showed no improvement from the previous year. According to press reports and anecdotal accounts, those killed typically had been detained by security forces, and their bodies, bearing multiple bullet wounds and often marks of torture, were returned to relatives or were otherwise discovered the same day or a few days later.10

Reprisal killings of civilians and the routine use of lethal force on a large scale against peaceful demonstrators have declined since 1993 when a number of such incidents prompted international criticism of India's Kashmir policy. However, on January 30, 1998, in one of the deadliest incidents of its kind in years, army soldiers fatally shot at least nine villagers during a search operation in the town of Qadrana in Doda district after some of the villagers began throwing stones at the troops in protest over the arrest of a number of village men.11

Security legislation authorizes the security forces to shoot to kill and to destroy civilian property. Under these laws, the security forces are protected from prosecution for human rights violations.12 House demolitions are carried out under the Special Powers Act, and usually without warning.13

Ghulam Qadir Wani
The Eighth Rashtriya Rifles were apparently responsible for the extrajudicial execution of Ghulam Qadir Wani, a resident of Chatta, Doda, who had filed a complaint with local police against the army unit after soldiers from the unit shot and killed a woman in the village and injured Wani's son.14

N., a resident of Chatta, a village about twenty kilometers from Doda, told Human Rights Watch that at about 5:45 a.m. on October 21, 1998, when he and other family members were at home, Ghulam Qadir Wani, went upstairs to the roof of the house to pray. At that time the Eighth Rashtriya Rifles came to the house and encircled it. N. stated:

[Wani] told all of us to stay inside. Some soldiers went up the stairs; others came inside and kept us there. Then we heard shots upstairs. But we were not allowed to go there; we were pushed and beaten. At 9:00 a.m we were allowed to go outside but not upstairs. The army stayed in the house until 2:00 p.m. Then the army called the police, and they came. They went upstairs, and so did I and some soldiers. There I saw [Wani's] body with a cartridge belt next to him and a pistol. These were not his, but must have been placed there. Then the army left, telling the people in the village that they would do the same to the rest of them.15

Another villager, P., stated that when Wani's death was announced on the radio, the government claimed that he was a militant and a leader of the Hizb-ul Mujahedin.16 However, N. told Human Rights Watch that several months before he was killed, Wani had testified against soldiers from the same unit who had killed a woman named Rafiqa, the wife of Mohamed Sharif Lone, on June 27, 1998, and injured Wani's son, Mohammed Ashfaq. Both Wani and his son were detained at an army camp for three days after the incident. Mohammad Ashfaq was accused of being a militant but was then released. Afterwards, both men came to Doda and filed a First Information Report (FIR), the starting point for a criminal investigation, in Rafiqa's death (FIR 83/98).

A neighbor of Wani's, J., stated that the day before Wani was killed, the soldiers told him that they had orders to kill three men in the village: Wani, J., and another man named Gani Darzi, a tailor. J. stated that when he filed a complaint with the police about the threat, the police would not register a case against the army unit. J. stated that he had been detained by the Eighth Rashtriya Rifles unit a number of times and tortured with electric shock. He said that he believed they had singled him out because he had a beard and was very religious.17 The family lodged a complaint in Wani's death at the police station in Doda, FIR number 148/98.

Imam Din Bhat
On July 24, 1998, Imam-ud-din Bhat, thirty-five, was arrested by the army in the village of Thakrai near Kistwar, about twenty-five kilometers northeast of Doda. His father, Ahmedou Bhat, told Human Rights Watch that when he learned that his son had been arrested, he went to look for him and followed the army as they moved.

They threatened me, saying that I should leave. I went to Kishtwar and stayed there for three days. Then I learned that the army had killed two persons they had previously arrested, and that they had buried them. We lodged a complaint with the police and then went to the burial site with the police and a doctor. There my son and Abdul Rashid, the son of Juma Bakarwal, were exhumed.

Abdul Rashid was twenty-four. According to a statement by Imam-ud-din Bhat's wife, her husband had traveled to the village with Rashid to buy some sheep. On July 28, four days after their arrest, sixteen Hindu civilians were killed in an attack by a militant group in Thakrai and Sarwan. After Bhat and Rashid were killed, the army claimed that the "foreign militants" responsible for the massacre had been killed.18 In an article published on July 31, the Kashmir Times reported that

[r]esentment prevailed amongst people in Kistwar over failure of [the state] administration to disclose the names of militants killed in an encounter ... after the killings. They alleged that security forces had killed two civilians in a fake encounter and painted them as militants. They identified the civilians as Imam Din ... and Abdul Rashid... They were reported to be missing from their villages.19

The bodies were exhumed on August 6. Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of the autopsy report, completed on August 6, which stated that Imam Din and Abdul Rashid died of gunshot wounds. Citing testimony from local witnesses, the autopsy report stated that the burial took place on July 29, 1998.

Saleema Bhat, Mohamed Husein Bhat, Sakeena Bhat and Shabeena Bhat
M., thirty-three, a resident of Kotal, Doda, described the killing of four members of a family by a joint force of the army and VDC on July 25, 1998:20

At about 2:00 a.m., four members of a family were killed by seven gunmen in military uniforms. I was there when it happened. I could not see in the dark exactly who they were, but they were a mix of army and VDC. That's the routine; they always come to the village together. They have been coming for about two years, sometimes once a week, sometimes twice. The VDCs also wear uniforms but they have different weapons: the army has the new ones, and the VDC have the old ones.

As with the case of Imam-ud-din Bhat above, the incident followed a massacre of Hindu villagers that had occurred in the villages of Thakrai and Sarwan on July 24. Bhat stated that the security forces were looking for a militant whom they believed may have been involved in the killings.

There were fifteen in the house. They started beating everyone. I hid in a nearby field. Shortly afterwards I heard gunshots and I heard the children screaming, wailing over the deaths. Then the military men left. I went to the house when it became light, and other villagers came to the house as well, as did the police. What I saw was the dead bodies of Saleema, Mohamed Husein, his wife, Sakeena, and their daughter, Shabeena.

Except for the witness himself, all the survivors were children. The family filed a complaint with the police.

Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of the autopsy report which stated that all four died of multiple gunshot wounds. Saleema was thirty; Mohamed Husein was forty-five; his wife, Sakeena, was thirty-five; and their daughter, Shabeena, was eighteen. Saleema's husband filed an FIR with the police.

Mohamed Ashraf
J. told Human Rights Watch that on October 22, 1998, Mohamed Ashraf, along with seven other men, was arrested by the Eighth Rashtriya Rifles. On October 27 he received a message from the army that he could go to thearmy camp at Charote to collect the body. The family refused to go to the camp and later collected the body from the local police. According to the local human rights organization, the Forum for Human Rights and Communal Harmony, Ashraf died as a result of torture. Ashraf was the only one of the eight men arrested who was killed. At the time of the Human Rights Watch interview, the family was in Doda to file a complaint with the police.

"Disappearance" of Mohammad Saleem Zargar
Human Rights Watch obtained information about the "disappearance" of Mohammad Saleem Zargar, son of Ghulam Mohammad Zargar, resident of Doda, who was arrested from his home by Maj. Bhakar Singh and Havaldar [an officer below a major] Jagdish of the 10th Rashtriya Rifles on September 14, 1995. The soldiers first approached Mohammad Saleem Zargar, a contractor, to purchase cement. When they were told that there was none available, they left after first inquiring from a servant the names of all the family members. The soldiers returned that night and asked Mohammad Saleem to accompany them to show them the way to Bhagwah, another village. As it was dark, he refused to do so. The soldiers then became angry and, after beating several family members, forced Mohammad Saleem Zargar into a vehicle and left.

That night the family reported the incident to the army unit and was told that Mohammad Saleem would be released within two hours. The next morning at 8:00 a.m., a group of soldiers from the army unit came to the house and inquired about the incident. The family approached other authorities, including the army brigadier, but were given no information on Mohammad Saleem's whereabouts.21

9 South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Report on Jammu and Kashmir-June 1997 to June 1998 (New Delhi: October 1998).

10 U. S. Department of State, Country Reports. The citation used was printed from a file made available electronically; the quote appears on the first page of the India chapter in the report.

11 BBC World Service, "Eight killed in Indian Kashmir," January 31, 1998,
Also Human Rights Watch interviews with sources in Srinagar and at the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C., February 1999.

12 The Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, 1990, Section 4. Ibid, Section 6; and Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, Section 7. On July 5, 1990, the then governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Girish Saxena, promulgated the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Ordinance, 1990, which in September was passed by the Indian parliament as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act. The act authorizes the governor or the central government to declare the whole or any part of the state to be a "disturbed area" if it is found that disturbances in the area are such that "the use of the armed forces in aid of the civil power" is necessary to prevent "terrorist acts" or activities directed towards bringing about secession. In a "disturbed area," the act empowers "any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces" to:

after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances....

Also on July 5, 1990, the state government promulgated the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act which similarly grants the security forces enhanced powers to use lethal force in the "disturbed areas" of the six districts of the Kashmir valley and a twenty kilometer belt in the border districts of Punch and Rajouri in Jammu region. Both acts provide: "No suit, prosecution, or other legal proceedings shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of the State Government against any person in respect of anything done or purporting to be done in exercise of the powers conferred [by the Acts]. "The provisions in both of these acts on the use of lethal force directly violate the U.N. Code for Law Enforcement (Article 3).

13 The Special Powers act also grants the security forces the power to "destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made, or any structure used as a training camp for armed volunteers or utilised as a hideout by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence."

14 Interview with family members in Doda, October 23, 1998.

15 Interview with N. in Doda, October 23, 1998.

16 Interview in Doda, October 23, 1998.

17 Interview in Doda, October 23, 1998. Indian forces in Kashmir have long targeted Jama'at-i Islami members and other Muslims they suspect of advocating a strict interpretation of Islam because they believe they are pro-Pakistan.

18 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Sakeena Begum, wife of Imam-ud-din Bhat, provided to Human Rights Watch staff on October 23, 1998.

19 "Curfew Relaxed in Kistwar," Kashmir Times (Jammu), August 1, 1998.

20 Interview in Doda, October 23, 1998.

21 Signed statement from Ghulam Mohammad Zargar, father of Mohammad Saleem Zargar, provided to Human Rights Watch staff on October 23, 1998.



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