New wave of Indian State Terrorism in Kashmir

Jul 26th, 2013 | Category: Articles


Abdul Latif spent most of his life in penury. But he worked overtime to send his children to school for a better future. The 42-year-old had similar plans for his unborn child who was due in the fasting month of Ramzan.

But Latif did not live to see the bundle of joy. He was killed hours before his baby girl was born. Latif was among four people killed after Indian paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers fired at a group of civilians protesting alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir’s Ramban district on July 18.

The protests erupted after soldiers allegedly barged into a seminary at Dharam village and stomped over the pages of the Holy Quran after tearing them off. Some reports suggested loud recitation of verses had irritated the paramilitaries, who also thrashed the seminary’s caretaker, Afzal (22), after he had resisted them on July 17.

Afzal told reporters he was dragged by his collar, slapped and kicked. A truck driver, who had tried to rescue him, was chased away before he was let off.

People from adjoining villages assembled at Dharam the following day to protest the sacrilege outside the local BSF camp. The first shots were fired at them and three villagers were wounded while headman Altaf Husain was having a meeting with Deputy Commissioner Shyam Vinod Meena to sort out the matter.

The demonstrators continued to protest till Meena arrived at the scene. But they were further agitated and shouted anti-BSF slogans after he promised action after Eid, around a fortnight later. Soon, the BSF troopers rained bullets again after the commissioner left, killing the four.

A 32-year-old lecturer’s brains were blown out while he was trying to reason with protesters not to stone the camp. “A police officer raised his pistol and shot (Manzoor Ahmad) Shan in his head,” New York Times quoted an eyewitness as saying.

BSF inspector general Rajiv Krishan justified the firing, saying the protesters threatened the camp’s ammunition dump, without explaining why they were shot above their waistline in clear violation of crowd control procedures.

The BSF first gained notoriety in Kashmir after its troopers raped an 18-year-old bride along with her pregnant aunt in Anantnag in May 1990. The troopers had first fired at her wedding party and killed her brother-in-law.

Three years later, BSF soldiers massacred at least 60 people after going on a rampage, shooting down people and setting fire to houses, shops and vehicles at Sopore in January 1993. Nine months later, the force carried another massacre in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara. Other branches of armed forces are also accused of similar atrocities.

With such a track record, even Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was unwilling to buy Krishan’s excuse. “It is highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters just because they were reportedly protesting manhandling of an Imam of their area.”

Abdullah had broken down in March while expressing his helplessness after army soldiers killed a 25-year-old student. Repeated occurrences of such incidents have marred his term.

He has been pleading with the federal government to revoke emergency laws that give armed forces sweeping powers to kill, destroy property, conduct warrantless searches, and detain people besides immunity from prosecution. The laws have perpetuated a culture of impunity and resulted in unending rights abuses.

Abdullah’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears lending credence to the widely held belief that New Delhi pulls the strings in Srinagar.

The fatalities in Ramban were the latest in a series of such killing since protests gained traction in 2008. Armed forces have used lethal force to quell the protests, killing over 300 people, largely youth, since then. Hundreds of people, including children, have been tortured and jailed under the Public Safety Act, a colonial era legislation that Amnesty International has described as a ‘lawless law’.

The protests have largely been in reaction to the government refusal to end militarisation, discipline forces and end impunity that have allowed them to get away with some of the most heinous crimes including mass rapes.

Authorities have doggedly resisted attempts to hold forces accountable for their abuses and strip them of their powers despite the near-total end of militant violence after India and Pakistan started a peace process in 2004 and Islamabad pledged not to allow its soil to be used for training Kashmiri militants.

The killing of three youth in a staged encounter along the Line of Control in April 2010 was the immediate provocation for the agitation that year. Over 120 people, including kids as young as nine, were killed in the protests-killing cycle. The three were lured on the promise of jobs, killed, mutilated and passed off as ‘Pakistani terrorists’.

Authorities have since contained protests by arresting thousands of people, imposing round-the-clock curfews, snapping internet services, preventing publication of newspapers to prevent mobilisation.

By muzzling all forms of peaceful protests, authorities have pushed Kashmiris further to the wall and prepared a fertile ground for the degeneration of the situation like in the late 1980s.

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