From CNN: “India Detaining People without Charge in Kashmir”
India detains hundreds of people each year without charge or trial to “keep them out of circulation” in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to a new report released Monday by Amnesty International.
The human rights monitoring group documented how India’s Public Safety Act (PSA) is used to justify long-term detentions of people, even when there is insufficient evidence for trial.
The draconian act has come under repeated criticism from human rights groups who have expressed alarm over Kashmiris caught in the fight between Indian security forces and militant groups in the Himalayan state.
The Amnesty report estimated that between 8,000 and 20,000 people were detained in the past two decades; 322 of them were held between January and September of last year when a wave of unrest swept the region and people took to the streets in deadly anti-government protests.
“The Jammu and Kashmir authorities are using PSA detentions as a revolving door to keep people they can’t or won’t convict through proper legal channels locked up and out of the way,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
“Hundreds of people are being held each year on spurious grounds, with many exposed to higher risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.”
Among the detainees are political leaders and activists, suspected members or supporters of armed opposition groups, lawyers, journalists, and protesters, including children, Amnesty said. The report said that often, people are initially picked up for “unofficial” interrogation and have no access to a lawyer or their families.
Amnesty said the Indian government has relied on the safety act in dealing with a resurgence of street protests.
“Despite this apparent shift in the nature of the unrest, Jammu and Kashmir authorities continue to rely on the PSA rather than attempting to charge and try those suspected of committing criminal acts,” Zarifi said. “The PSA undermines the rule of law and reinforces deeply held perceptions that police and security forces are above the law.”
The state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah denied that so many people had been detained under the act. He said 4,046 people were arrested in the protests. But, he said, 3,900 of them were released and only 28 had been detained. A senior police officer told CNN that about 250 people were detained under the PSA in the past year but some had been released.
The Indian state is divided into mostly Hindu Jammu and Muslim Kashmir, where many residents argue that the territory should have been a part of Pakistan when the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947. Polls have found a majority of Muslims in the state favor secession.
The Indian government blames Pakistan for furling an insurgency in Kashmir. Tens of thousands of Kashmiris have died in the bloodshed over the years.
Khurram Parvez, coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir coalition of civil societies, said the Public Safety Act gives the Indian government powers to arbitrarily detain detain a person for two years without trial, against India’s principles of justice.
India Today Conclave 2011
“In the summer and fall 2010, hundreds of Kashmiri youth took to the streets armed with only stones to resist the 63-year-long Indian military occupation of Kashmir in what became know as the “Kashmiri Intifada”–a nod to the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation and apartheid. A panel of Kashmiri and Palestinian speakers will examine the links between the Kashmir and Palestine conflicts, which are central to the geopolitics of South Asia and the Middle East. The panelists will also explore common challenges (including the formidable Zionist and Hinduvta forces and anti-terrorism industrial complex), effective movement-building strategies, and opportunities for trans-regional solidarity.”
From Outlook: “Count Dracula”
It has all the potential to disturb the fragile peace in the Kashmir Valley. The so-called ‘census’ by the security forces in Sopore, north Kashmir, has been the cause of much resentment among the local population. Over the past four weeks, soldiers of the 22 Rashtriya Rifles have been spreading themselves across Sopore town’s City Colony, Noorbagh, Chinkipora, Batpora, Baghat and Shalimar Colony areas, summoning the mohalla elders, handing them ‘census forms’ and giving orders to return them filled. The two-page, multi-column computerised forms have about 40 questions that include names of family members, their age, qualification, occupation, marital status and phone numbers. There are special questions for former militants, who are asked to provide their photographs as well. Traders too are under the scanner in this apple town—the army has visited various markets and photographed shopkeepers.
The exercise has evoked anger and fear among the residents for obvious reasons. They fear that details like phone numbers could be misused. “We can’t dare to refuse to cooperate with the soldiers,” says a local journalist, Mushtaq Ahmad. Some residents who chose to speak toOutlook described the “army census” as an intrusion into their privacy. Says Sopore Bar Association president Mohammad Maqbool Mir, “I am at a loss to understand who authorised the soldiers to conduct this census. Is it their job? This is sheer harassment. Our youth are scared.”
Sopore has been one of the epicentres of the Kashmiri separatist struggle. It’s where hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani hails from. The town has enjoyed the burdensome distinction of being the important psychological symbol of the Kashmiri insurgents during the heyday of militancy; it was their Jaffna. Sopore opened and shut at the orders of Afghan militant Akbar Bhai, a former bodyguard of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In 1991-92, the army had to bring in armoured tanks to flush out hundreds of militants who had seized control of the town.
Many locals regard the army’s move to hold a parallel census operation with scepticism, especially because Kashmiris had wholeheartedly cooperated with the civil administration in the official census. The two-phased government census has just ended on a successful note. It was, in fact, completed after the separatists, realising the importance of the exercise, made passionate calls to the people to participate in it.
…with an introduction by Sumati
I first came to know about Jalil Andrabi 2 years back through the book ‘Symphony of Freedom’ a collection of the papers on the Nationality question presented at an international seminar in New Delhi in February 1996 in which Andrabi had participated and spoken. Within 2 weeks of this, he has been abducted and killed. The seminar was organized by All India Peoples Resistance Forum (an umbrella forum existing at that time, of various groups across India opposing the neo-liberal economic policies and state repression against revolutionary peasants movements. It was in 1994 broadened to become a wide anti-feudal and anti-imperialist platform). This seminar was aimed at forging links of solidarity and support between the democratic and revolutionary movements of class struggle being fought in India and the various nationality movements fighting Indian occupation. The participants included representatives from nationality movements in Kashmir, Nagalim, Punjab, Assam, the Karbis from North-east; from autonomy movements in India like Telangana, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Gorkhaland; representatives from Tamil Eelam struggle, the Kurds, Philippines, Africa, Nepali Maoists. Among the other speakers were Ngugi Wa Thiongo and William Hinton, prominent anti-imperialist and Marxist writers.
Below is the text of Jalil Andrabi’s speech at the seminar (I have typed out the entire text because each sentence seemed important and also because this might’ve been presumably his last written document/speech before his murder). Andrabi spell out succinctly and simply the broad pillars of the self-determination movement in Kashmir, but crucially he also forebodes his own death, so to speak. Andrabi talks of the various attempts at his life, and also the similar attacks and murders of other lawyers and human rights activists like him as very well planned and directed by the state and its informer groups. A large part of his speech was quoted by him from Human Rights Watch report.
It is chilling to note that this seminar was held in Delhi between February 16 to 19, 1996 and within a matter of two weeks, Andrabi was abducted and brutally killed by the very forces he warned about. Just the way he pointed out in his paper about other cases, his killers are scot-free and not because of some technical lags, but because of the open collusion of Indian state, sections of judiciary, the police and intelligence with the military. Avtar Singh is not free because he ‘managed to escape’ from India, but because he did so on the orders of his masters and the confidence of getting away with murders that the immunity in the system granted him!
Before starting the text of his speech, I wanted to quote the Dedication of this collection of papers. I think it is crucial to highlight it at a time when all of us are looking for way of renewing and creating solidarity of different struggles. The book had been dedicated –
Kumari, an activist of Jana Natya Mandali, a people’s cultural organization from Andhra Pradesh, and
Jaleel Andrabi, human rights lawyer, Jammu and Kashmir
Who participated in the seminar and later laid down their lives in the cause of revolutionary and nationality struggles, respectively.
To- Parag Das (human rights activist, Assam), Jaswant Singh Kalra (human rights activist Punjab), ZV Yavpee (human rights lawyer, Nagaland), who fought in the democratic rights movement of their respective nationality struggles and were killed by state and its mercenaries;
And to the thousands of known and unknown martyrs who laid down their lives for democratic revolution and national self-determination in this subcontinent.”
—Human Rights Situation in Kashmir– by Jalil Andrabi
I would briefly try to give the humanitarian aspect of the Kashmir issue as the problem of denial of fundamental human rights. You all know that self determination is a fundamental human right. It is non derogative human right that no country under any circumstance can suspend. Self determination has been accepted the UN as a fundamental human right since 1950..by virtue of that right they can freely determine their political future.
Now in the case of Kashmir, this right to self determination was first accrued to the people of Kashmir in 1947, when it accrued to them as an entity arising out of foreign domination. The right of self determination of the people of Kashmir is fully in accordance with the conventional principles of self determination and this does not for any precedent for secession to any other part of independent and sovereign India. Kashmir has never acceded to India and thereofore there is no question of secession from India. Secondly, the right of self determination to Kashmir has accrued in another way and this is quite distinct from the right accrued to it in 1947. the second one according to juristic rules under international laws is that Kashmir has been a totally non-self governing territory right from 1947 and therefore this also gives an independent right to the people of Kashmir. As you all know, government of India has from time to time tried to foist rulers on Kashmir by holding farcical elections. But even according to the rulers of India, these elections were thoroughly rigged and manipulated. Jagmohan, the governor of Kashmir when elections were held in 1987 said that the elections were rigged. In 1989 when parliamentary elections were held in Kashmir, even according to the government estimates only 2 percent of the population participated in the polling process in Kashmir. Therefore, this is the second mode of accrual of the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir.
The third relates to the humanitarian aspect of Kashmir. The enormity and the level of atrocities being committed on the people of Kashmir for the last more than six years has been such that it amounts to the abuse of sovereignty. The magnitude of the atrocities and the crimes being perpetrated on the people of Kashmir is both macabre and heart breaking. Some of such brutalities have been documented and recorded by some European and North American press and human rights organizations like Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, and Human Rights Watch Asia also. What is reported by these organizations is only the tip of the ice berg. It is really difficult to realize the real magnitude of atrocities committed on the people of Kashmir. According to some estimates more than 40,000 people have been killed, which include all- old, men and children, woman, sick and infirm. The youth of Kashmir have been mowed down. They are tortured in torture cells and as result of this, thousands of youth have been killed in police custody.
These atrocities being committed on the people of Kashmir, are not mere aberrations. These are part of deliberate and systematic state policy being perpetrated on Kashmir, which is aimed at to silence the people of Kashmir into subjugation. Their laws- Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act and J&K Disturbed Areas Act- these two laws give armed forces a summary power to shoot to kill people and there is virtual immunity given to the members of the armed forces even though it may be established, that, these members of the armed forces have in fact misused their powers under this law. There is total immunity from any persecution against them from any action. Now the present situation in Kashmir has been summarized by the Human Rights Watch Asia (HRW) in its latest report released on February 14th. This statement of Asia Watch was necessitated because there was an attempt on my life also. As a human rights activist and as a practicing lawyer I have been trying to expose the violations of human rights and I have been trying to expose the judicial system which has failed to justice effectively.
HRW says, “Human Rights Watch, the New York based human rights organization today condemned the January 29 attempt on the life of Jalil Andrabi, chairman of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists who has documented and publicized cases of human rights abuses by the security personnel in Kashmir. HRW described the threats against Andrabi as “part of a pattern of violence and intimidation designed to silence the Kashmiri human rights activists”. Many of these attacks appear to be the work of the state-sponsored forces recruited from militants who have surrendered or have been captured by government forces. Although the government claims that such groups operate independently, and call them ‘renegades’, they are in fact armed and trained under the protection of the Indian army and the Border Security Force. Such groups have been responsible for kidnappings, murders and attacks on journalists and others who have criticized government policy in Kashmir. HRW calls on the Indian authorities in Delhi and Srinagar and India’s Human Rights Commission to investigate the attacks on Andrabi and other activists and prosecute those responsible, including security officers and local state sponsored forces operating under their command or protection”.
After giving the details of the attacks on my life, it goes on, “the incident follows several other attacks on human rights in Kashmir. About a week before the incident, Anrdabi had told HRW that he had received warnings that “he would be next”. Since 1984, Andrabi had filed petitions in the High Court on behalf of detainees and had publicized the fact that the security forces routinely ignored High Court orders to produce detainees in court. This campaign of intimidation has declined Kashmir’s human rights community. Many lawyers who had formerly taken up petitions on behalf of the victims of abuses no longer do so out of fear of reprisals. Others have left Kashmir. The few human rights activists who have continued to document abuses in Kashmir do so at considerable risk to themselves.
On 22 April, two unidentified gunmen opened fire on Mian Abdul Qayoom, president of the J&K Bar Association. As a result of the shooting, Qayoom is no longer able to stand or walk. Qayoom had vigorously investigated human rights violations by Indian security forces in Kashmir. When he was warned, several months before the shooting, that he and ten other lawyers doing human rights work were on a hit list, Qayoom filed charges with the Kashmir police and notified India’s official Human Rights Commission. To his knowledge, no investigation took place nor was he offered any protection. On October 17, High Court advocate A.Q.Sailani was shot dead by unidentified gunmen several yards from an army bunker in Srinagar. No investigation of the shooting has taken place.
Human rights activists have also been detained. On the night of June 15 1995, Sheikh Mohammad Asharf, president of Baramulla branch of J&K Bar Association, which regularly documented abuses by Indian security forces, was arrested by Rashtriya Rifles unit of the Indian Army. He was released on September 9. Throughout his detention, his family was denied access to him. Earlier on May 1, Mohammad Ashraf, an advocate at the High Court in Srinagar, was reportedly arrested and charged under the Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law. He was later released.
In 1992-1993, three leading human rights activists were killed in Srinagar. On December 5, 1993, H.N.Wanchoo, a retired civil servant and trade unionist who had documented hundreds of extra judicial executions, disappeared, and tortured by the security forces, was shot by unidentified gunmen. On February 18 1993, Dr.Farooq Ahmad Ashai, an orthopedic surgeon who documented cases of torture and indiscriminate assaults on civilians, was shot by CRPF troops who then reportedly delayed his being taken promptly to the hospital for emergency care. He died shortly after finally reaching the hospital. On March 3, Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, a leading member of the militant J&K Liberation Front who had documented abuses by Indian security forces, was abducted by unidentified gunmen and shot dead. The government of India has never made public any action it has taken to investigate these killings and prosecute those responsible.”
Now in conclusion, I would like to appeal to the distinguished gathering and to the panelists to issue a statement condemning these atrocities, the latest assault by the government of India to silence even human rights activists, the lawyers who speak for these oppressed people. A strong condemnation may be issued and these latest tactics adopted by the government of India may be condemned.
Late Jalil Andrabi was chairman of Kashmir Commission of Jurists. He was picked up by Rashtriya Rifles on March 9 at Srinagar and was brutally tortured. His dead body was found on 26 March 1996 on the banks of Jhelum.