Srinagar: In its Annual Human Rights Report for 2017, the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat Conference on Saturday said that a total of 391 persons died in “violent incidents” this year in Kashmir.
“Out of 391 persons, 97 were civilians, 81 of armed forces and police personnel, and 212 militants, while killing of one counter-insurgent was also reported,” said the 15-page report.
The report claimed that the graph of killings in 2017 showed a slight upward trend as compared to 2016, which witnessed 389 killings. “In 2017, the killing of human beings, incidents of violence, border firings and curbs on public movement in Kashmir went on through the year. Imposition of curfew, restrictions on people’s movement, freezing of internet services, people’s protest and forces’ action, people getting killed and injured, use of lethal weapons by the government forces as crowd control measure, like in previous years remained unchanged,” the report said.
Of the 97 civilians killed, the report said that 36 persons were killed in forces’ action, one of them in a “fake encounter”. “Twenty-nine persons (including eight Amaranth Pilgrims) have been killed by unidentified gunmen,” the report said. “Seven persons were killed due to grenade blast attacks. Eight persons were killed in cross-firing incidents between forces and militants. Nine civilians were killed in firing or shelling between Indian and Pakistani troops. Four persons working as bank guards lost their lives during attacks on bank vans by unidentified gunmen. One person reportedly died due to heart attack while running for safety during clashes. One person died due to petrol bomb attack. One person allegedly died due to suffocation caused by the tear smoke shells. At the same time one person lost his life due to stone injury during a stone-pelting/throwing incident.”
The report said that among 81 police and armed forces’ personnel killed in 2017, “one police official was lynched by an unruly mob, five were killed during an attack on a bank van, whereas killing of a few forces’ personnel who were on leave was also reported.”
The report said that on February 21, 2017, Wasim Ahmad Thokur, s/o Haji Mushtaq Ahmad Thokur of Schuch village of Kulgam, who had sustained multiple pellet injuries during the 2016 uprising, allegedly died due to the injuries. “According to the family and locals, death was triggered by pellet injuries the victim had sustained in September 2016,” the report said.
“Cases of death of a couple of persons remained controversial because the authorities claimed their deaths due to other reasons whereas the family members of the victims cited different reasons,” the report added.
The report termed as “brazen violation” of all law and humanitarian conventions the incident of Farooq Ahmad, a youth from Budgam, being tied to the front of an army jeep by an army officer for use as a “human shield”.
The report noted that incidents of enforced disappearances and fake encounters had come down “but serious allegation of a fake encounter from a family in Handwara area reported in Hafrada Forest of Handwara in the month of August clearly serves as pointer that such phenomenon do still continue,” the report said.
In eight days of December, the report pointed out, three civilian deaths were reported in three separate incidents of firing by government forces, two of them of young women. “There are many instances in which excessive use of force by government forces has led to the killing of civilians,” the report stated.
The report said that unabated use of Public Safety Act (PSA), arrests, illegal detentions, and frequent crackdown on voices of dissent also remained unchanged. “The resistance leadership and political activists were repeatedly kept under house arrest or were put behind the bars,”it said.
The report said that 2017 also witnessed raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on houses of resistance leaders, activists and some businessmen. “On the basis of these raids, the investigation agency framed a number of Kashmiri leaders in a case widely considered to be frivolous. They are presently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail,” the report stated.
The Hurriyat Conference report expressed shock over the “gruesome killing of Amarnath Yatris” in the month of July and over the barbaric lynching of a police official in Srinagar. “Such fiendish acts cannot be justified at all,” the Hurriyat (M) said in its report.
The report mentioned that clashes between armies of India and Pakistan at the international border and Line of Control (LoC) consumed many precious lives on both sides.
“It is also not hard to reason that most of the wrath of mortar shelling and small-arm firing at LoC is faced by the hapless population residing on both sides of the fence,” the report said.
Another observation made in the report was of Kashmiris being arrested and sent to jails outside the Valley, making them inaccessible to their families, and the systematic abuse and ill-treatment the prisoners faced in jails.
The report mentioned also the ban on Muharram processions on 8th and 10th Muharram in the area around Lal Chowk.
“Due to imposition of curfews and restrictions, the congressional Friday prayers at Kashmir’s Historic Grand Mosque (Jamia Masjid) Srinagar could not be offered for 18 times,” the report noted.
Mentioning the house arrest of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the report stated that he was repeatedly kept under house arrest.
The report slammed government claims that it had made the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) operational. “The commission’s hands remain tied as it has not been provided with enough powers to force implementation,” the report said. “Of the 59 recommendations made by SHRC this year, 44 have been rejected by the government. It clearly indicates that SHRC has been reduced to the authority of issuing only recommendations to the government, which the government either does not consider or declines to implement.”