In Kashmir, the common perception about the probes is that these are government’s ploy to calm public anger and distract attention till events fade from the public memory. The Legitimate reports in detail.
Srinagar: On the floor of the House J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti announced setting up of Special Investigating Teams (SITs) to probe the killings during the summer unrest of Kashmir besides announcing ex gratia relief and several other rehabilitation measures for those killed or injured.In the five month long uprising that began after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani in July more than 90 civilians were killed and over ten thousand were injured. The J&K government was criticised by cross section of people for watching all this like a mute spectator and for not taking initiatives to punish those people involved in human rights violations. With improvement in the ground situation and pressure from various quarters including the main opposition parties now it seems that government has initiated a process to probe the incidents where security forces are blamed to have killed innocent civilians without any provocation.
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti announced the setting up of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe the killing of a lecturer at Khrew, an ATM guard, Riyaz Ahmad at Karan Nagar and other such killings. She also announced setting up of an SIT in each district to investigate the killings and injuries there and to ascertain if excessive force was used to deal with the situations. The SIT’s will be headed by district Senior Superintendents of Police-SSP’s. “These SITs would be asked to submit their reports in a time bound manner,’’ Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti informed the house. “Once the reports are received if anything more requires to be done would be done to deliver justice to the affected.’’
As the discussions over the killings of civilians was going on in the assembly, the one man Commission headed by Justice (retd) M L Koul submitted its report to the government. The Commission was constituted by the then chief minister, Omar Abdullah in 2014 to investigate the killing of over 120 civilians in different parts of the Valley during the 2010 agitation. The Commission has made strong recommendations including action and registration of cases against the police officers involved in the killing of innocent civilians. The Commission has also recommended the CBI probe into 17-year-old Tufail Matoo’s killing that escalated the protests. The Commission in its 364 page report had blamed officials for being irresponsible and also blamed the security forces for not taking orders from the magistrates. “Had local administration been responsive to the law and order situations, the casualties would have been too lesser or not at all.’’ The commission has also recommended a custodial death case against policemen for killing a youth. “It has been found that Omar Qayoom, son of Abdul Qayoom Bhat, resident of Soura, had died because of police torture during the custody after he was picked by Soura police officials nearby a shop on 20-8-2010.’’
The Commission has even asked the government to review laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) after seeking consultation from the Criminal Investigative Department of J&K Police. The Commission even said that the firing incidents in districts Anantnag, Shopian, Baramulla and Srinagar have been without the orders of the magistrates. The J&K has witnessed big unrest in 2008, 2010 and now in 2016 in which hundreds of civilians were killed and to calm the tempers the probes were ordered in dozens. Even in the cases were probes have been completed, there is little hope of victim families getting justice and in many cases it didn’t reach to its logical conclusion – because the history of probes in Kashmir paints a grim picture.
In Kashmir, the common perception about the probes is that these are government’s ploy to calm public anger and distract attention till events fade from the public memory. And in majority of cases it really has worked. Now it is a time for the PDP-BJP coalition government to set the things right. Firstly, they should try to implement recommendations that had been made by the one man commission in 2010 killings. As the J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti has been claiming that she will seriously look into cases where innocent civilians were killed. And if these inquire and the reports of the SIT’s will be thrown to dust then the government will lose its credibility of providing justice to the people who have suffered. It is also responsibility of the government to provide justice to the victims of the unrest as majority of them belong to poor families and most of these deaths could have been stopped by showing extra maturity,
Killing of civilians in Handwara:
Jammu and Kashmir government ordered probe by Additional District Magistrate into the firing incident of April 12 in Handwara in which three civilians were killed. The District Magistrate, Kupwara had appointed Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Handwara, Peer Muzaffar Ahmad, as inquiry officer to probe the firing incident in Handwara. What was the outcome of the probe is yet to be known.
Palhalan killing inquiry:
In February 2015 into the killing of 20 year old Farooq Ahmad Bhat at Palhalan in Baramulla district, then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Talat Parvaiz, ordered investigation and appointed Sub-Divisional Magistrate Pattan as an inquiry officer. The enquiry committee was directed to submit their report at an earliest. The investigation is yet to see light of day.
Sofi’s killing and family waiting for justice:
In May 2015, Suhail Ahmad Sofi was shot dead by security forces, the killing sparked massive protests in the area. Deputy Commissioner Budgam ordered probe and asked additional deputy commissioner to submit his report within 15 days. But outcome of probe is still not known.
In August, the government order probe into the killing of a youth, Bilal Ahmad by Border Security Forces at Malangpora. The time bound inquiry is yet to reach to its conclusion.
Killing at Narbal, 2015 :
When engineering student, Gowhar Nazir Shah was killed at Narbal by CRPF, the government ordered a probe to ascertain the facts, but report has never been made public.
Custodial death of Nazim Rashid:
On July 31, Nazim Rashid, son of a retired police officer Abdul Rashid Shalla of Sopore died in police custody. The death sparked series of protests and stone pelting in North Kashmir’s twin towns of Sopore and Baramulla. Without wasting any time state government appointed a Commission headed by Deputy Commissioner Baramulla to investigate the death, but, family is still waiting for the justice.
Death of a youth in Handwara:
On February 4, 2010, 22 year old Manzoor Ahmad Magray of village Chougal Handwara was killed by an army patrol when he was moving in the village at late hours. The death triggered protests in Kupwara district. The government ordered an inquiry and asked additional Deputy Commissioner Kupwara to submit the report within 15 days. The report never became public, however a murder case stands registered against the unit which carried out the operation. No arrests were made in the case.
Death inside Police station:
On July 24, 2010 Tariq Ahmad Dar of Fidarpora died in custody at Panzala Police station in North Kashmir’s Rafiabad area, as the death triggered protests, J-K government ordered a magisterial inquiry and suspended two cops for dereliction of duties. Police later claimed that the youth had committed suicide. However, the inquiry report was never made public.
Cold-blood murder of three youth in south Kashmir: On June 29, 2010, police shot dead three youth, Shujat-ul-Islam, Ishtiyaq Ahmad Khanday and Imtiyaz Ahmad Itoo in the backyard of a house at Anchadora in South Kashmir ’s Anantnag town. The police initially said that the boys were killed during a protest. However, as the mobile video clips, showing the boys being killed inside the premises of a house, were uploaded on social networking site Facebook, J-K government ordered a probe by additional District Magistrate. Though J-K government accepted the report and some police officials were suspended or shifted later most of them were reinstated. The family members of three boys are still waiting for justice.
Killing that sparked the 2010 summer uprising: On June 11, 17 year old student Tufial Mattoo was returning home after attending his tuition. When Mattoo reached near Gani Memorial stadium in downtown Srinagar he was hit by a tear-smoke shell and died on the spot. The death triggered cycle of violence and series of protests across Kashmir. To investigate the killing, J-K government ordered magisterial inquiry, but report is yet to be submitted. Meanwhile, Koul Commission has now asked government to handover case to the CBI for investigation.
Killing of 9th class student Zahid Farooq by BSF: On February 5, 2010, the government announced inquiry commission headed by then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir into the killing of Zahid Farooq Sheikh of Nishat who was killed when BSF party led by a senior officer opened fire on a group of boys who were returning from a play field. The government accepted the report and registered cases against five BSF personnel of 68 battalion and later arrested them. On the plea of BSF the case was shifted to Border Security Force court and all the arrested persons were also handed over to BSF court. What happened at BSF court was never revealed.
Killing of class 10th student Wamiq Farooq by police: On January 31, 2010, a tear smoke shell fired by the police killed a 15-year-old boy Wamiq Farooq. And as the death of the boy sparked protests, the then Inspector General of Police, Farooq Ahmad ordered a probe into the killing. IG Farooq also suspended a policeman accused of firing the tear smoke shell. However, even as close to two years have passed, the probe report never came to light. And to seek justice, Wamiq’s father moved to Court. The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Srinagar ordered a magisterial inquiry by the Small Causes Judge. Though police suspended the cop responsible for Wamiq’s death, in court they filed a charge-sheet against him for attempt to murder. The case is pending in the court.
Killing of a villager by Indian Reserve Police: On Jan 22, 2010, a villager Manzoor Ahmad Sofi of Parishpora was killed when jawans of Indian Reserve Police Personnel opened fire on a group of protestors. Then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla soon ordered a magisterial inquiry, however, its contents were never made public. Three days later, then Inspector General of Police ordered another probe into the killing of 32 year old Mushtaq Ahmad Mir of Shadimarg Pulwama who was allegedly killed by the Army. The report was never finalized.
Killing of youth by Army: On Oct 26, 2009, 25 year old Sajad Ahmad Lone of Ganapore village in North Kashmir was killed when he was allegedly trying to enter an Army camp. The death sparked protests in North Kashmir forcing Deputy Commissioner Kupwara to order a magisterial inquiry. Although the inquiry report was accepted by the state government and General Officer Commanding (GoC) 15 Corps was requested that two eyewitnesses of the incident belonging to 32 Rashtriya Rifles be made available. What happened next is still a mystery.
Killing of a Tailor by Army: On February 3, 2009, Fayaz Ahmad a tailor by profession was killed by the Army in Kupwara, Though Army claimed Fayaz was killed in cross fire but subsequent Police investigation established there was no cross fire and termed the killing as unprovoked. The probe remained inconclusive.
Killing of a deaf and dumb villager outside CM residence by Army: A day after J-K chief minister Omar Abdullah took oath in 2009, a 45 year old deaf and dumb villager Abdul Rashid Reshi, of Pahalgam was killed by the Army outside the Chief Minister’s residence at Gupkar. Even though government ordered an inquiry and promised action against the guilty but the probe was never conducted.
Killings of civilians in Baramulla town: On June 29, 2009 police and CRPF men opened fire on a group of protesters at Cement Bridge in the town, killing four boys. To calm tempers, then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Baseer Ahmad Khan ordered a magisterial probe. During the investigation the inquiry officer found some police and CRPF men guilty and recommended action against them. The government accepted the inquiry report and asked J&K Director General of Police to obtain the names of the CRPF personnel of 53 battalion who were deployed in the town at the time of the incident. But that was never done.
From the print edition of Jan 18-24, 2017.