Outrage against Army behaviour in Kashmir

Srinagar: The international human rights watchdog Amnesty International India on April 15 said that the two recent videos (on social networking sites) from Jammu and Kashmir appearing to show the use of torture and excessive force by security forces must lead to the prosecution in civilian courts of those suspected to be responsible.

Cousin of the 17-year-old Akeel Ahmad Wani, who was shot by ITBP soldier, shows the picture of the victim in his last moments; Courtesy: Amnesty International, photograph by Sirish Nimmagadda

The Amnesty in an emailed press statement said that in one video uploaded on April 14, a man later identified as the 24-year-old Farooq Ahmad Dar from Khansahib in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, is seen strapped to the front of a moving Indian Army jeep. A soldier can be heard saying, “This will be the fate of people who throw stones.”

The statement further said that Amnesty International India met Dar on April 14. He had several bruises and a dislocated wrist. He told Amnesty International India that he had been detained by Army personnel while he was travelling to Gampora village on his motorcycle on April 9, the day of the polling for Srinagar parliamentary by-election. He said, “Army personnel took my voter identity card and started beating me. Then they tied me to the front bumper of one of their jeeps… For five hours and 15 minutes (from 11 am to 4.15 pm), I was tied to the army jeep and was driven through different villages, for about 27 kilometres.” He was released only late that evening. The Army said that it is verifying the contents of the video. The state police have registered a First Information Report (FIR).

 Farooq Ahmad Dar sustained serious injuries after he was strapped to the front of a moving Indian Army jeep as a “human shield”

Farooq Ahmad Dar sustained serious injuries after he was strapped to the front of a moving Indian Army jeep as a “human shield”; Courtesy: Amnesty International, photograph by Sirish Nimmagadda

“What Farooq Ahmad Dar was subjected to is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture,” said Zahoor Wani, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India. “Whether Army personnel in this case wanted to deter stone-throwers, or intimidate people by making an example of Farooq Dar, such conduct is unlawful and unacceptable. Authorities should bring to justice those responsible, including those with command responsibility, in a civilian court. Army officials must think carefully about the signals that such demeaning acts send to ordinary people in Kashmir. They should not block prosecution using the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.”

A second video appears to show the killing of 17-year-old Akeel Ahmad Wani by personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), near a polling station in Beerwah in the same district on the same day (April 9). Akeel Wani was part of a group throwing stones at security force personnel near the polling station. In the video, security force personnel are seen shooting from behind a wall at the protestors a short distance away.

Nazir Ahmed Wani, Akeel’s uncle, told Amnesty International India, “Akeel was shot on the left side of his face…We got a phone call informing us about the incident. Before we reached the spot, a local Sikh youth, who lives near the school, had taken Akeel to a public health centre, from where he was taken to a hospital. However, he was declared brought dead.” The state police have registered a criminal case. “Security forces are entitled to use force against violent protestors, but it must be both necessary and proportional. The video appears to show personnel firing live ammunition from close range at stone throwers, which exceeds what is an acceptable use of force,” said Zahoor Wani.

The two videos were uploaded on social networking sites following the resumption of internet services, which had been shut down for five days in certain districts in Kashmir. There has been widespread outrage over another recently-uploaded video which shows a member of security force personnel being heckled and kicked by protestors as he makes his way out of a polling station on April 9. Three people have been arrested over the incident.

Farooq’s family is distraught over the incident. His grandmother cries over the treatment meted out to her grandson.

Farooq’s family is distraught over the incident. His grandmother cries over the treatment meted out to her grandson. Courtesy: Amnesty International, photograph by Sirish Nimmagadda

Meanwhile, High Court Bar Association in a statement here on April 15 condemned the “barbaric act of tying of a Kashmiri youth, Farooq Ahmad Dar, to the bonnet of a moving jeep by the Army personnel and besides thrashing and damaging his motorbike, used him as a shield and while moving him from village to village from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., pasted a poster on his abdomen reading that he was stone pelter.” The Bar Association demanded that all those army personnel involved  as well as those CRPF and ITBP personnel who killed eight innocents on April 9, including a teenager who was straightway fired on his head and died on spot, should have been arrested by police and put behind bars and dealt with under law, but while as the police has arrested five boys, who had only heckled a CRPF man on the election day, no action has been taken against the army, CRPF and ITBF personnel for their inhuman and barbaric acts, which shows as to how double standards are applied by the police in such matters. The Bar Association further appealed to the international community, including Amnesty International, Asia Watch and other human rights organizations across the globe, to intervene so as to bring an end to such human rights violations in Kashmir.

Independent legislator and MLA Langate Er. Rasheed on April 15 marched towards BB Cantonment to protest against the use of a civilian as “human shield” during the by-poll on April 9. The protesters were carrying posters that read “Do you still claim to be the most disciplined army in the world?”, “Army goes Israeli way, ties youth to vehicle, Shame on you” and “Is this why you need AFSPA”.

Even the CPI-M here on April 15 in a statement said it was outraged over the tying of a Kashmiri youth to a moving Army jeep as a shield against stone-pelters in Kashmir and demanded action against those responsible.

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