The Times of India, August
Desperately seeking the disappeared
By Mohua Chatterjee
NEW DELHI: In the last 11 years, over 2000 people, between the ages of 10 and 70, have disappeared from the Kashmir Valley after they were allegedly picked up by the security forces. They have left behind desperate families who have tried everything to trace their dear ones, but to no avail. Now, 100 relatives of those missing will gather in Srinagar on Wednesday -- the International Day of Disappeared Persons -- to tell the world their tale of misery.
The relatives have drawn up a list of those who have disappeared since 1989. Consider these:
* Zahoor Ahmed Sofi. Arrested on August 8, 1994, by 15th Battalion, BSF. Petition filed under 491-CrPC no.20/99. Still missing.
* Mohammed Rafiq Bhatt. Arrested on August 19, 1992, by BSF. Petition filed under 491-CrPC No.19/99. Still missing.
* Mushtaq Ahmed Khan. Arrested on midnight April 13/14, 1997, by 20th Grenade Army C/O 56 APO. Petition filed under 491-CrPC No. 15/99. Still missing.
These and many more cases will be discussed at the meeting, organised by the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). `The APDP, formed in 1994 by relatives of the missing people who met in various courts while trying to file and follow up habeas corpus petitions, comprises mainly poor, uneducated, women who stepped out of their kitchen for the first time in their lives, in search of their missing family members. They went to security officials, police stations, politicians, courts and prisons in different parts of the country, with a photograph of their sons, fathers and husbands,'' said Parvez Imroz, human rights activist and APDP spokesperson.
And what did they end up with? Official apathy, according to Imroz who points out that the state government does not acknowledge the phenomenon of disappearances. ``The elected government blamed the previous governments for them and initiated a process in 1996, of inviting applications with details about the missing people from their relatives. People reacted immediately and submitted the details. But nothing has happened ever since,'' he said.
The APDP wants Amnesty International, which has already opened an action file on it, to be allowed to investigate the cases of disappearances in the Valley.
"There is a method in these disappearances,'' says Imroz. According to him: * The law enforcing agencies arrest people during raids, routine patrolling, search operations.
* Then the relatives of the detainees, approach the security officials who usually assure them their relatives will be released shortly. That never happens.
* After a few visits the relatives are told that the people they are looking for were not arrested.
* In desperation, they approach other security officials and move applications to civil authorities like the district magistrate, divisional commissioners and even political leaders, who seem equally helpless.
* The local police authorities almost never file an FIR against the security forces.
``Meanwhile, lakhs are spent in running from pillar to post - travelling from one interrogation centre to the other - in search of the detenues,'' adds Imroz. But the wait still continues.
The fall-out of these disappearances is mostly economic since it is the earning member who goes missing, leaving behind `half-widows' and children who are sooner than later, deserted by their in-laws.
But more corrosive is the psychological impact - constant agony and trans-generational trauma. ``After this continues for some time, they develop into physiological and psychological disorders. And these people cease to live normal lives'', according to Amit Basu, psychiatrist who will be helping the organisation to set up trauma centres in the state.
Yahoo! Asia - News Asia
Tuesday, June 27, 2000 12:01 AM SGT
284 refugees arrive in Pakistan side of Kashmir
KOTLI, Pakistan-controlled Kasmir, June 26 (AFP) - Some 300 Muslim refugees from Indian-controlled Kashmir have crossed into the Pakistani side of the disputed territory after being beaten and threatened by Indian troops.
The refugees said they had been abused for several days and eventually threatened with death unless they left their village about three kilometres (two miles) from the unofficial border between the Indian and Pakistani sides.
"We were scared that we were going to be killed so it was better to get across to a Muslim area," said 24-year-old mother of one Kulsoom Begum, from the village of Tarkundi.
"It was a collective decision to leave by the whole family."
Another refugee told how he brought his wife and one-year-old son across the Line of Control after being beaten repeatedly for several days by an Indian officer.
"They said that they would set everything on fire and we would have nothing to eat but dust unless we left the village," said 25-year-old Zakir.
"We had to leave everything behind except the clothes we were wearing."
Local Pakistani military commander Colonel Rizwan Ali Khan said 284 people from 51 families had crossed so far and would be taken to a refugee camp near Kotli, 120 kilometres (72 miles) south of Muzaffarabad.
He said it was the biggest single influx of refugees from Indian-controlled Kashmir in at least two years.
"These innocent refugees are the victims of the heavy handedness and atrocities of the Indian army," he said.
"They are in pretty bad shape. They have been tortured and there are torture marks on their bodies."
The refugees told how every male over the age of 12 years had been forced on to their hands and knees and repeatedly beaten across the back with a stick by an Indian officer.
They said the Indians falsely accused them of helping Muslim guerrillas who have been fighting for a separate homeland in the Indian zone of Kashmir since 1947.
There are more than 15,000 registered refugees from 2,800 families in the Pakistani zone of Kashmir, staying in some 15 camps including three near Kotli, officials said.
Government spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi said he suspected the Indian army was forcibly relocating Muslim families to the Pakistani side.
"Initially we thought it was just a few families but then it increased to 160 people yesterday and now there's about 300 and it's continuing to build," he told AFP.
"We have had refugees trickling across off and on before but not of this size," he said.
Khan said Kotli was about five kilometres from the Line of Control but had not seen much military action in recent weeks. Two civilians died from Indian shelling in the area on Saturday night.
India and Pakistan have been exchanging artillery fire across the Line of Control, the unofficial border, for several days in the Neelum valley northeast of Muzaffarabad.
The world's newest nuclear states have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over Kashmir and last year more than a thousand died in a bitter border conflict there.
India blames Pakistan for fomenting militancy in its territory. Islamabad denies the charge but extends moral and diplomatic support to the insurgents.
The insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir has claimed more than 25,000 lives.
The Indian Express, 9th May, 2000, front page
When security men raped a housewife
MARWAL (PULWAMA), MAY 8: A shroud of fear has enveloped the village. The houses are all bolted from inside, even the windows are shut. Women do not venture out alone even during the day. It wasn't so until a few days ago, when two men from the nearby Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp barged into the house of Abdul Rehman Dar and raped his 40-year-old housewife.
The Dar household is still to recover from the shock. His wife, a Bengali, had come to Kashmir eight years ago as the bride of Abdul Rehman, who works as a labourer. "I had never imagined this will be my fate here," she says. The villagers who have assembled in front of her house are restless. She asks them to keep quiet. "Let me talk. I want to tell my pathetic story. Somebody will definitely listen to me," her voice is choked with pain and anger.
"We had just finished our dinner when there was a knock at the door. As soon as my husband opened the door, two men in uniform came in. They told us there were 50 men around the house and that they have come to search for arms. One of them had a big gun (rifle) while another had a smaller one (pistol). They pointed their guns at my husband and daughter and asked them to be silent. Then they asked me to take them to other rooms. As I came out of the room they locked it. I was shivering with fear. There was some rice and a few boxes with clothes and other household things in the store room. I was opening a box when one of them pounced on me. The other caught hold of my hands. I tried to cry for help but he put his hand on my mouth," she says. The women sitting around her too are in tears.
The two men, according to Abdul Rehman's wife, were from the nearby ITBP camp. Villagers say that the ITBP men had gone into the house at around 8.45 pm and came out only after 10.30 pm. "I heard everything but could not muster courage to come out. I feared they will open fire," says Abdul Ahad Dar, whose home is few metres away from Rehman's house. He claimed that he even saw two ITBP men running away. Abdul Rehman is in complete shock. "I have lost everything. I feel like killing myself because I could not save the honour of my wife," he says.
The villagers who went to the camp to complain say that they were roughed up by the ITBP men. "Around 30 villagers accompanied by the numberdar Ghulam Mohammad and a local policeman Nizam-ud-din Shah took the victim along and rushed to the camp but they beat us with rifle butts injuring ten of us. There was nobody ready to listen to us. Even the officer abused us," says Riyaz Ahmad, a villager who lost a tooth after being hit by a rifle. The police has registered a case (FIR 104/2000). But villagers say the is pressure on them to withdraw the complaint. They say a local Congress leader, Mohammad Anwar Bhat, had come to them with money. "He even threatened that the force will make our lives miserable if we don't agree to them," says Dar.
Inspector M S Bhandari who is in charge of the ITBP camp claims that he was suffering from fever on the fateful day and has no idea as to what happened. "It is shameful and inhuman and the culprits should be punished," he says. He said he was willing to organise a parade of the 40 men posted at the camp so that the culprits could be identified.
Indian Express, New Delhi 2, July 1998
"Aag lagao. Mere ko dead body chahiye". This is how J. K. Sharma Additional Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Commandant of Border Security Force's 75th battalion, is to have told his men before they shot nine innocent civilians in cold blood in Mashali Mohalla, Srinagar district, on August 6, 1990. Now the BSF court of inquiry is drawing to a close. This will be the first court martial of its kind and E N Rammohan, Director General of the BSF, says the final orders against the DIG and others, will be issued later this month.
"The BSF is ashamed of this incident," Rammohan told The Indian Express. "Innocent civilians were killed and there is no question of the perptrators of the crime being spared." Under BSF rules, allegations of misconduct are first dealt by an in-house Recording of Evidence (ROE) in which the accused are given an opportunity to present their case. Once the offence is established, a court of inquiry is ordered which may culminate in a court-martial. Besides DIG Sharma, the other BSF personnel accused are Deputy Commandant R P Bhukal; Head Constable Gajjan Singh and Constable Uttam Singh. All four were initially suspended from service and subsequently given "routine" postings.
The court of inquiry charged Sharma with " omission of effective command and control over his troops which led to uncontrolled firing which led to the death of civilians." The other charges are culpable homicide (not amounting to murder) and causing grievous injuries. Sharma has also been charged with committing an outrage on the modesty of a woman. The three BSF personnel also face similar charges. The maximum prison term they face under the Indian Penal Code is seven years. Evidence recorded by the BSF shows that the party led by Sharma let loose a nightmare on the residents of Mashali Mohalla at 8.50 PM on the fateful night. Houses were set on fire, ammunition and arms were "planted" in the homes of the victims and one women, who had minutes ago seen her husband being shot down by the BSF Jawans, molested. Two other women, living in houses nearby, were also molested. In his final noting on the Mashali Mohalla incident, Rammohan has stated: "It is clear that the BSF entered the houses of innocent people and shot at totally innocent civilians, killing eight men and injuring three others. Shooting a defense-less lady was a particular cowardly act."
Rammohan adds, "The weapons and empties claimed to be recovered from the houses of the civilians were planted by Sharma and the others. A ballistic examination of the weapons seized from the BSF showed that these weapons to have been issued to these people. What more documentary evidence is required?" The documentary evidence in the case reveals that the shoot-out occurred when the BSF party decided to "retaliate" due to an ambush laid by militants in Mashali Mohalla the same night. According to BSF records, there are eyewitness accounts of BSF personnel confessing that it was the DIG himself who gave the chilling "Aag lagao. Mere ko dead body chahiye", ordered to his men. Further eyewitness accounts claim that after issuing this order, DIG Sharma left the spot.
Five minutes later, Mashali Mohalla was resounding with the wails of hysterical women and children. Mehbooba, one of the widows of Mashali Mohalla, told the court of inquiry that she first heard the sound of vehicles screeching at her door and some men shouting, "Pakistani Kutto, Bahar ajayo" (Pakistani dogs, come out). After this she heard sounds of rapid-fire and the shattering of windowpanes. Her husband, Bashir Ahmed Baig, 60,was sleeping by her side. Within minutes, the door was broken down and the BSF Jawans stormed in.
They pulled off her clothes. In the meantime, she heard shots in the other room.
Her youngest son, Izaz, had hidden himself under a table and was dragged out. One of the BSF men shot him too. Mehbooba ran to other room to find her husband, older son Muzzafar and a guest Abdul Rehman, all bleeding from bullet-injuries. Ten minutes later, a turbaned BSF officer returned. Seeing a new face in uniform, Mehbooba ran wailing to him, only to be shot at on the left side of her chest. She wrapped a quilt around herself and lay near the body of her husband. Her youngest son died on the way to the hospital.
Abdul lived to tell the tale though he lost his left eye. The house was then set on fire. Tasleema, the other Mashali Mohalla widow, has also given a graphic account of the massacre at the hands of the BSF. She has stated that the BSF personnel came to the first floor of her house and opened fire. She hid under the bed when she was pulled out by a BSF jawan, who ripped her cloths and tried to force himself on her. It was the whistle from DIG Sharma a signal to end the "operation" which Tasleema says she her self heard, that saved her from further humiliation. She stepped out only after the firing stopped to see the bodies of her father, Ghulam Qadir Magloo, and her two brothers, Mushtaq and Ahmed Magloo, lying on the ground, riddled with bullets. By their side was their neighbour, Farooq Baig. All of them were dead. The youngest witness for the BSF's court of inquiry is Baby Jaan, Farooq Baig's 15 year old daughter. She told the court of inquiry how the Jawans attempted to molest her when she was cowering under the bed. A BSF officer pulled her out but disgusted with her hysterical screaming, cut open her right cheek with a knife, spat on her and left.
"Are you sure I said this?" Contacted by the Indian Express, accused additional DIG J K Sharma to comment. During the court proceeding, however, he claimed he never said, "Set the place on fire, I want dead bodies." When he cross-examining the prosecution witness, he asked: "Are you sure I said those words? In this regard, it may be mentioned that it was a dark moonless night". The witness replied, "It was indeed a dark and moonless night and there were a number of personnel present but I definitely heard the command". Sharma also claimed that the "reinforcement parties that went to the Mohalla did not fire at all due to his proper command and control. Ironically, one eyewitness, whose father and two brothers were killed that night, said a BSF jawan ripped her clothes and tried to force himself on her. It was Sharma's whistle- a signal to end the "operation" which saved her, she said Sharma has also been charged with molestation.