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



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Abuses Involving Countermilitant Militias

Since at least early 1995, Indian security forces have been making systematic use of state-sponsored countermilitary forces, frequently called "renegades" by Kashmiris, composed of captured or surrendered former militants, in effect subcontracting some of their abusive tactics to groups with no official accountability. Many of these groups have been responsible for grave human rights abuses, including summary executions, "disappearances," torture, and illegal detention. Although the Indian government routinely denies any responsibility for the actions of these groups, they are organized and armed by the Indian army and other security forces and operate under their command and protection. The government uses the groups principally to assassinate and intimidate members of militant organizations and political groups, especially the banned pro-Pakistan party Jamaat-i Islami.

Government officials have described the recruitment of former militants as a rehabilitation program. However, members of these groups move about openly carrying automatic weapons, in full view of security personnel, even though under the government's rehabilitation program, all surrendered militants are required to hand over their weapons. Indian army forces routinely carry out patrols and other operations accompanied by members of such groups.

The state-sponsored groups operate with impunity. Even if arrested by the local police, countermilitants are invariably released after the intervention of the army or BSF. The countermilitants operate in close proximity to army and BSF camps, and some have been housed in the camps.

On October 14, 1998, the army commander, Gen. Krishna Pal, attended a meeting at which he lauded one of the principal countermilitant groups, Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood), and then laid a wreath at the grave of Wafa Dar Khan, the Ikhwan's supreme commander who was killed by a landmine earlier in the year. In a statement released by the government's Press Information Bureau, the army

acknowledge[d] the supreme sacrifices made and the services rendered by members of the JK Ikhwan in helping restore peace and normalcy in the Kashmir Valley... The Corps Commander reiterated that the army will continue to extend full support to the JK Ikhwan ... Gen. Krishan Pal saidthat the Ikhwan are the eyes and the ears of the security forces and that they have a very important role to play in defeating the proxy war being waged on Kashmir soil.68

Human Rights Watch interviewd Papa Kishtwari, the local leader of Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon in Pampore, whose real name is Ghulam Hassan Lone. His house lies on the main road from Srinagar to the military airport and is guarded by CRPF men as well as Ikhwan members toting automatic weapons. Before the insurgency broke out in Kashmir, he was a junior officer in the CRPF. He then became a commander in the Al-Jihad militant group before being imprisoned. He told Human Rights Watch that he was detained for twenty-one months in 1993-95, during which time he was tortured with electric shocks to his penis. His interrogators also forced gasoline into his rectum. After his release he joined Ikhwan. He told Human Rights Watch:

We [the countermilitants] were brought out to crush the militants. We paved the way for the 1996 elections... Now I am a politician. Sometimes we work with the army as informers in operations, an activity for which we get some money. I have 366 men working for me in Kashmir.69 We go along with army personnel when they have received information that a certain militant is hiding in such and such a place. We will assist in the arrest, and if there is an encounter, we will fight. But I never go myself, and I don't touch a weapon...My boys ... are special police officers and will remain so. They get Rs. 1,500 [$37.50] per month from the government.70

Kishtwari provided Human Rights Watch with a picture of himself and Indian army officers in front of weapons supposedly captured from militants. Upon request, he signed the back and stamped it with the symbol of his political party, Tahreek Wattan.

Sources who spoke to HRW on the basis of confidentiality stated that they believed Kishtwari's group to be responsible for the March 1996 extrajudicial execution of Ghulam Rasool, a young journalist who had attempted to expose other killings he believed had been committed by Papa Kishtwari in Pampore.71 Rasool had been the head of the local waqf committee, which oversees local schools and mosques. In an October 1998 interview with Human Rights Watch, Kishtwari denied allegations that he and his group have been responsible for extrajudicial killings:

That's all propaganda. What I have done is create an atmosphere of fear in which people believe that I will in fact kill the militants. But my duty is to arrest militants, rehabilitate them, and provide them with jobs once they are released. Because of this policy of mine of instilling fear, there no longer is any militancy in Pampore. About these allegations, if there is any evidence against me, then show me any FIR and I will accept guilt. I told the people this in both elections, which I lost.72

The following cases are illustrative of the countermilitants' practice of targeting Jamaat-i Islami members and others who have stood up to them and, in these cases, driving them from their homes. In all three cases, the operations were carried out jointly by Ikhwan and army forces.

Threats against T.
T, thirty-nine, is a teacher and former resident of Aloosa, Banipura, a town about seventy-five kilometers from Srinagar with about 10-15,000 residents. He told Human Rights Watch that on May 23, 1995, a girl from the village named Farida was abducted by a countermilitant named Mohamed Sarwar Bhat who wanted to marry her against the will of the girl and her family. The girl was already engaged. Bhat had taken her to another village, Sopura, Barimula. T. managed to negotiate the girl's release on May 25. T. then returned to his place of work, which was in another village, in Kupwara district. After a month, on June 24, T. returned to his home village, Aloosa. Later that same day, a party of Ikhwan and the 15th Rashtriya Rifles came to his house, but T. was not there at the time. After he learned that they had been looking for him, he left the village the next day and has not returned since, although his wife, daughters, mother, and sister are all still living there. When his father died on October 28, 1997, T. was told that the security forces had put out word that he could not go back for the funeral. After the incident, T. found a teaching job elsewhere. He has only seen his family once after his wife and children made the three-and-a-half hour trip to Srinagar. He has approached the army to try to get permission to go back, but they would not give it. He believes that Ikhwan told the army that he was working with the militants.

T. told Human Rights Watch that two other men have been forced out of the village by the renegades: Abderrahman Bhat, forty-five, and Abdelghani Wani, a man in his seventies. T. told HRW:

If the army weren't there, I could go back. The renegades by themselves are not a problem. They are a problem only when the army backs them.73

Threats against the Family of X.
X., a resident of Midoora, Tral, Pulwana, told Human Rights Watch that one evening in early February 1996, at about 6:30 p.m., he was with his father in the mosque, which is about one hundred meters from his house, when some ten to fifteen Ikhwan members and two vehicles full of army soldiers came to the house. The soldiers belonged to the 3rd Gurkha Regiment based in a camp some two kilometers from the village.

When they first arrived in the village, they started firing into the air and shouting at the people who were outside. They broke down the doors of our house and windows and removed everything from inside, including utensils, bedding, clothing and jewelry. After forty-five minutes, they left.74

The next day, the family filed an FIR. About two weeks later, an army patrol returned to the house at about 3:00 p.m. and removed anything that was left including the doors and door frames. The family was living elsewhere at the time. X. believed that the reason for the destruction was that the elder man in the house supports the Jamaat-i Islami. He stated that four other houses belonging to Jamaat-i Islami supporters in the village were similarly ransacked.75

Threats against Mehraj-u-Din Bhat
Mehraj-u-Din Bhat, twenty-two, a photographer who lives in Ajas, Sonawari, Baramula, told Human Rights Watch that he was arrested by the army (the 10th Bihar Regiment) on April 6, 1992 because of his affiliations with the Jamaat-i Islami. He was released after sixteen months. After that, the army would detain him monthly for two or three days.

They would come to my studio and take me with them. Always they were asking me to work for them, and I refused every time. This continued until September 1998. In this period, the army units changed, but not the pattern of my detentions: whoever was there picked me up, once a month.

    On June 4, 1998, about fifteen army personnel and ten Ikhwan militia members in four vehicles came to Bhat's studio at about 9:30 a.m. At the time, he was taking photographs of children at the school next door, so he stayed inside the school and watched. The troops went into the shop and took a video camera worth Rs. 45,000 [U.S.$1,000], three still cameras worth Rs. 30,000 [$660], albums, and picture frames. The total value of stock and equipment taken came to Rs. 150,000 [$3,300]. The troops then set fire to the studio, and the entire shop burned to the ground. Bhat managed to repair the damage, but he learned that on September 14, 1998, some troops from Ikhwan and the army came back to the studio looking for him. He was not there at the time. They locked the shop. The next evening, September 15, at about 8:30 p.m., they came to Bhat's house. Again, he was not there. He stated that the troops left a note which said: "Leave the house immediately or you will be killed." After that, the family left the village. Bhat claimed that three other residents of the village were driven from their homes: a teacher named Mohamed Sakhi, Mumtaz Ahmad Rathor, a government employee, and another man named Abdelkhaliq Rathor. All were reportedly sympathetic to Jamaat-i Islami.76

68 Press Information Bureau (Defence Wing), Government of India, "Mera Kashmir Diwas celebrated at Hajan," Srinagar, October 14, 1998. 69 Human Rights Watch sources claim that this in an inflated figure that Kishtwari provides to the government in order to pocket more money. Interview with journalist in Srinagar, October 21, 1998. 70 Interview in Pampore, October 21, 1998. 71 Interviews in Pampore, October 1996. 72 Interview with Kishtwari in Pampore, October 21, 1998.

73 Interview in Srinagar, October 19, 1998.

74 Interview in Srinagar, October 19, 1998.

75 Ibid.

76 Interview in Srinagar, October 19, 1998.



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