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Kashmir human rights commission indicts soldiers, says it's helpless

New Delhi, June 17: Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has established prima facie, guilt of around 10 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel who sliced a civilian into several pieces and dumped him into a gunny bag at Qazigund in the district of Anantnag which the Kashmiris call 'Islamabad'. 

A judgment, passed by the SHRC chairman Justice (retd) AQ Parrey, said the case was prima facie established against them and the accused would be put to regular prosecution as and when sanction is granted by the central government. The matter has already been referred to the latter by the investigating agency.

As per a complaint filed before the SHRC, Abdul Salam Bhat was picked up by D Company of 70 Bn BSF, deployed in Qazigund who allegedly caused his death. 

The case was investigated by the police and crime branch which identified 10 BSF personnel of the said unit. As per the investigation, the body of the victim was chopped into pieces, dumped in a gunny bag and thrown into a nulla (rivulet) to evade the evidence of murder, a spokesman of SHRC said in Srinagar.



   

Kashmir's human rights commission is seen as a show-piece which was established to whitewash army and security personnel's excesses. The commission has no jurisdiction over the army and its recommendations are seldom taken seriously. Over the years since the militancy erupted in July 1988, there have been hundreds of allegations of mass rape, custodial deaths, murders in fake encounters, theft and willful torching of property, mysterious disappearance of hundreds of people and so on but little justice is done to the victims. 



The pieces of the body were recovered by Qazigund police on an information of the local security guard. The complainant came to know about the body and it was exhumed with the help of the area's district magistrate. 

SHRC, meanwhile, has recommended the sanction of an ex-gratia amount of rupees 0.5 million [US$ 10,200] for the victim's family. The commission urged the case to be treated as a special one and compensation be provided within 30 days to the family consisting of three minor children of the deceased. 

The Hurriyat Conference, on the other hand, has accused the troops and security personnel of committing excesses. Quoting allegations made by delegations from some parts of Kupwara, a spokesman of the secessionist conglomerate said soldiers force entry into houses and harass inmates. The Hurriyat also expressed serious concern over harassment of the relatives of Syed Ali Shah Geelani by the police. Geelani was arrested on June 9 and sent to a far-off jail in the state of Jharkhand where he is denied basic amenities.

Meanwhile, the SHRC has blasted Kashmir's National Conference government for its abysmal performance on the human rights front. However, it expressed its helplessness in bringing the culprits to book.

In its annual report for 2000-2001 tabled in the state legislative assembly recently, the state's human rights official watchdog highlighted the ever-increasing number of violations at the hands of various security agencies in the state.

According to a report in Greater Kashmir daily published from Srinagar, the 121-page report says the SHRC received 227 complaints in 1998-99, 309 in 1999-2000 and during 2000-01 (upto 31.3.2001) the number swelled to 497.

Providing the breakup, the rights body says it received 63 cases of enforced disappearance, 37 of custodial deaths, 104 seeking relief while 73 complaints of harassment were lodged with it in 2000-2001.

The Srinagar district tops the list accounting for 104 cases followed by Varmul with 78, 49 from Kupwara and 37 and 35 from Islamabad and Pulwama districts respectively. Thirty-four complaints each have been received from Doda district of Jammu division and Budgam in Kashmir.

“The complaints of the preceding years pending disposal before the Commission are 222 which are carried forward to the current year. Subsequently, the Commission received 497 more complaints upto 31.3.2001 aggregating the pending number to 719. Out of 719 complaints the Commission has disposed of 447, thus leaving 272 complaints,” says the report.

The SHRC laments over the government’s failure in implementing the former’s recommendations in most cases. “In some cases it has been experienced that unconventional procedure is attracted by the implementing agencies, thus defeating the very purpose of the Commission. The attitude of the government should be liberal in implementing the SHRC’s recommendations," the report says.

Established in 1997 to provide succor to the militancy-hit people of the state, the Commission has indirectly hinted at its helplessness. The SHRC claims its job is to wipe the tears of the tearful eyes but duly acknowledges “the Commission cannot dry up the tears of the weeping eyes.” 

“The Commission feels it necessary to place it on record that destitute persons whose next of kins are victimised or whose property is damaged either by the insurgent outfits or by anti-insurgency actions, approach this Commission with high expectations. Moreso, in the opinion of general public, the SHRC is believed to be philanthropist in nature and the statute for its creation does not envisage that the Commission is the protector and propounder of the human rights of the state citizen.” 

Therefore, the SHRC feels it necessary that it should do its best to uphold the expectations and inspirations of the people of Kashmir in a transparent way.

“At the same time it becomes obligatory on the part of the government to accept the recommendations of the Commission in toto in each individual case as every complaint is decided on its merits,” it asserts. In a number of cases the SHRC has clearly conveyed its “impotence,” according to the report. 

For instance, in one case it sums up the finding and its own helplessness with the following words: “The Commission considered the complaint and the report called from police concerned. The allegation is straightway against the army and the Commission observed that it has no jurisdiction to order a regular enquiry in the complaint under Section 24 of the J&K Protection of Human Rights Act, 1997.”

However, the SHRC continues, the file alongwith its enclosures was sent to the National Human Rights Commission [in New Delhi] for further action. “And a direct action was sent to the Inspector General Police, Kashmir, to see that the harassment to the complainant is not repeated unnecessarily.” 

Plight of prisoners too figures in the SHRC report as it has recommended that sufficient medicines should be provided for their treatment. Besides it seeks review of the Jail Manual to make the conditions of inmates more humane. “It was also recommended that daily allowances for food purposes should be increased from rupees 17 [US$ 0.34] per head as it's meagre and insufficient as well,” the report said.

The Kashmir rights body has also touched upon the cash crunch confronting it saying that in last year’s report the government was requested to place sufficient funds at the disposal of the Commission for promoting research etc in the field of human rights. “But the government did not provide funds for the purpose,” it rues. 

Kashmir's human rights commission is seen as a show-piece which was established to whitewash army and security personnel's excesses. The commission has no jurisdiction over the army and its recommendations are seldom taken seriously. Over the years since the militancy erupted in July 1988, there have been hundreds of allegations of mass rape, custodial deaths, murders in fake encounters, theft and willful torching of property, mysterious disappearance of hundreds of people and so on but little justice is done to the victims.
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