139 die in Indian-administered Kashmir since January: Report

Jun 30, 2021 | Brutality by Occupying Forces

Some 139 people, including 18 civilians, have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir since January this year, according to a human rights report. According to a bi-annual human rights report released on Wednesday by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the top grouping of pro-freedom parties in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian forces conducted 202 cordon and search operations and 30 gunfights during which 58 houses were destroyed and 350 people were arrested.

Of those killed, 57 were suspected pro-freedom fighters, and 64 Indian troops.

At least 58 houses, according to the report, were “vandalized” and destroyed by the Indian “occupational” forces during suspected clashes with militants.

While 18 civilians were killed in different violence-related incidents, including the “extra-judicial” killing of top pro-freedom leader Mohammad Ashraf Sehraie by Indian “occupational” forces and a mother-daughter duo by a mysterious blast in Handwara district.

There were 40 instances of internet blockades recorded from Jan. 1 to June 30 2021.

During this period, 350 persons were detained and arrested by Indian forces and lodged in different jails across India, the report added.

There has been a surge in clashes and detentions in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir since the scrapping of the valley’s long-standing semi-autonomous status in August 2019.

Last week, a widely publicized meeting of pro-India Kashmiri politicians convened by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to produce any results, as Kashmiri leaders demanded that the August 2019 move be reversed before further talks.

Kashmir under ‘constant fear and state-enforced silence’

Islamabad-based Legal Forum for Kashmir said in its independent report that Indian-administered Kashmir is “under unprecedented censorship and this undemocratic forms of muzzling the voices of people have intensified manifold after the revocation of Article 370 and 35(A).”

“The subsequent raids on human rights groups, activists, and journalists have made it more difficult for organizations to work under constant fear and state-enforced silence on the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Under such dire circumstances, reports on human rights violations become an inevitable imperative for all organizations working in and outside of Jammu and Kashmir,” the forum, an international legal advocacy group on Kashmir, said.

“Jammu and Kashmir experienced a massive surge in coronavirus cases due to the Indian government’s criminal mismanagement of the COVID-19 response otherwise highly militarized region, which had already suffered a debilitating lockdown before the pandemic started,” the report noted.

It added: “The arbitrary use of the anti-terror laws and the National Investigation Agency against the civilian population, human rights defenders and journalists continued in Kashmir despite a sustained third wave of COVID-19 lockdown enforced by the government.”

Disputed region

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed and tortured in the conflict since 1989.

In its report submitted to the court and arguing against bail to Sofi, police said, “If the accused is released on bail at this time, he can harass the witnesses and can hinder the investigation in the case. Since the accused is impudent, he can coax the witnesses.”

Giving an account of what happened on 10 June, police in its report said, “During the meeting, a civil society group put forward its demands before the Advisor (Khan) sahib. The group… was led by Sajad Ahmad Sofi… While putting forward his demands before the Advisor sahib, he used the following words: ‘Mein aapse umeed rakhta hoon. Chunki aap ik Kashmiri hain aur samajh sakte hain, aur mein aap ka gareban pakad sakta hoon aur aapse jawab-talab kar sakta hoon. Magar gair-riyasati afsaron se kya umeed rakh sakta hoon (I can have expectations from you because you are a Kashmiri and you can understand us. I can grab you by the collar and seek answers. But what expectations can I have from officers who are outsiders)?’.”

The police report added that Jyotsna “stood up from her seat and strongly objected”. “The circumstances of the incident and from the statements, a crime under 153A of the IPC is made… The accused has been arrested and his family has been informed. He is on police remand at the police station Safapora,” the report said.

Section 153A of the IPC deals with ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc’ and ‘doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’.

Authors: Aamir Latif| Publication: Anadolu Agency