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Indian Army’s special cell to conceal its human-rights violations

2 weeks ago

8 min

 Amjed Javeed 0

Amjed Jaaved

Several national and international reports have documented violations of human rights in different Indian states, particularly the occupied Kashmir and the volatile north-eastern states.  A common ploy is to declare a state `disturbed’ to clamp the Armed Forces ‘ Special Powers Act on it. India has a slew of draconian laws including the AFSPA to oust civil institutions to take cognizance of military atrocities.

Indian army has created a human rights cell to hoodwink the world that it does care for the uproar about rights violations. Recently, the Indian army agreed to court-martial a captain who abducted two innocent Kashmiris and later shot them dead in a fake encounter (Amshipora). Shortly after, the hooligan army killed several other Kashmiris in another Fake encounter.

The army commits atrocities to suppress freedom movements. But, the lower ranks are frustrated at having to kill innocent people. They are so frustrated that they sometimes commit suicides with their own rifles or commit their own `brethren in arms’ (fratricide).

Structure of the rights cell

This cell has been created to hoodwink the world that the Indian army has a foolproof system to forestall or punish human rights violations by the Indian army. An Indian police service officer also has been posted on the `cell’. This vigilance cell is supposed to operate directly under the Indian army chief.  To make it sound broad-based representatives from the Indian navy and air force have been included in it.

The Indian army boasts “For the first time ever, a special human rights cell will be set up at the Army Headquarters, which will be the nodal body to look into any rights violations”.  It will be headed by a major general rank who will report to the vice chief.

It has been realized that rights violations occur owing to a lack of coordination between various `law enforcement’ agencies. As such, the defence ministry has approved a proposal to make 206 officers, posted at the headquarters, available additionally to formations and units in the field. These include 186 officers of lieutenant colonel rank. Under the reorganisation plan, the Army had proposed reducing around 20 percent of the officer posts at the headquarters, the merger of two weapons and systems procurement agencies and the creation of a new deputy chief post for co-ordination between the military intelligence, operations and logistics wings. The purpose is “to make  1.3 million-strong Indian Army leaner and fitter for 21st-century contingencies”. The Army had earlier commissioned four major in-house studies for greater integration.

This restructuring is a result of the studies. The new cell “will ensure the Army’s compliance with human rights conventions and values”.

Rising wave of suicides and fratricides in Indian army

Navy reported two cases, Air Force 20 cases and Army 73 cases of suicide last year. In 2018, there were 8, 16 and 83 suicide cases in the three forces’. In 2017, the number of suicide cases was 5, 21 and 77 in Navy, Air Force and Army, respectively (Economic Times, March 4, 2020). Between 2011 and 2018,  there were 891 deaths by suicide of members of the Indian armed forces (NewsClick, Feb. 19, 2019). NDTV (Jan.7, 2019) reported ` Number of suicides [was] Highest In Army Among Three Armed Forces. The Week August 6, 2018 reported `More Indian soldiers killed by themselves than by enemies …

Over the period 2001-20, suicides and fragging remained unabated among forces.  Not only India’s defence ministry but also its home ministry lamented the trend. Psychological counseling and compulsory yoga exercise could not check the trend.  Even over 40 percent of women, rarely deputed for combat duty, in paramilitary forces, committed suicide. It was baffling that the women’s suicides took place often at peace stations.

Suicides vis-à-vis `action’ casualties

According to home ministry data, the number of jawan belonging to regular as well as paramilitary forces who committed suicides is more than those killed in action.

Suicides and fragging in three services

According to data compiled by the defence ministry for the period January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2017, one person on duty from armed forces (army, navy and air force) commits suicide every three days. Data presented indicated 348 regulars committed suicide while on duty. Of these 276 were from the army, 12 from the navy and 60 from the air force. India’s defence ministry shrugged off the blame for military suicides. It says the suicides are an upshot of family problems and land disputes back at home. However media (including BBC) and retired officers blamed poor leadership, supercilious, or stark callous attitude of seniors, refusal to grant leave even in genuine need.

Suicides in para-military forces

India has a multiplicity of paramilitary forces. The Assam Rifles, and Central Armed Police Forces (CAP) with components: Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) – 313,678 personnel, Border Security Force (BSF) 257,363, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) 89,432 personnel, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) 144,418, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) 76,337.  India’s active troops are 1,395,100, reservists 2,142,800, paramilitary forces and CAP 1,403,700. The force deployed within occupied Kashmir for patrolling, cordon-and-search operations is 780,000, later increased to 900,000.

During the last six years, approximately 700 jawan of the CAP committed suicide and the rate of voluntary retirement was approximately 9,000 jawan per year. The suicides and killed-in-action ratio is highest in SSB (1:8), followed by CISF, (1:63) and ITBP (1:4).

Suicides of jawans

India’s home ministry reported `during the last six years, approximately 700 jawans of the Central Armed Police Forces committed suicide and the rate of voluntary retirement is approximately 9,000 personnel per year’.  Elaborating on its findings, the home ministry did not give figures for an exact six-year period but cited varying years _ 2001 for the BSF, 2012 for the CRPF,  2006 for the ITBP, 2013 for the CISF and SSB and 2014 for the AR. According to the ministry, 189 CRPF personnel committed suicide in 2012, while 175 were killed in action in the same period. In the Border Security Force, there were 529 suicides since 2001 while the force lost 491 jawans in action. The ministry also said that 62 ITBP jawan committed suicide in 2006 while just 16 were killed in action during the same period. In the CISF, 63 personnel ended their lives in 2013 and just one jawan died in action. The number of suicides in the SSB, since 2013, is 32 as against four killed in action.

In the case of the AR, since 2014, 27 personnel committed suicide and 33 personnel were killed in action. The suicides and killed in action ratio is the highest in SSB (1:8), followed by CISF (1:63) and ITBP (1:4).

Suicides of para-military women

Over 40 percent of women in paramilitary forces commit suicide, despite never having to face combat duty. India’s National Crime Records Bureau data shows that women only constitute 2 percent of all central paramilitary personnel. However, they account for more than 40 percent of the suicides. The suicide rate for women in these forces is 396.9 per lakh compared to just 11.2 per lakh for men. There is clear evidence to suggest that women are more stress-prone than men. India’s army chief publicly taunted women for their unsuitability for quasi-military duty.

Yerkes-Dodson Stress Model (YDSM)

The Indian Army took short and long-term measures to maintain optimum stress levels among its troops. But, it was of no avail.  The YDSM postulates that a certain degree of stress level (optimum stress level) is necessary to make troops live an active and productive life.

Real problems

Frustration at being employed for political purposes: The army is trained to shoot at defined targets. But, it finds itself embedded as a target of ubiquitous hatred. Invisible and undefined targets

The troops are trained in conventional warfare where targets are visible to the naked eye. They fail to identify `enemy’ in disturbed areas. If someone does not halt in response to the `halt’ order, they kill the innocent civilian. On knowing that they have killed innocent persons they remain traumatized for a long time.

Discrimination:

The army feels there is a gulf of standard of living between them and their seniors. The jawans survive squalid life in the field while the officers live in cosy environment far off from the field. The segregation prevails not only during service but also after retirement. The forces provide dreary toilets, kitchens and messes to jawan as against exotic facilities for officers.

Exhaustive analysis by Major General Samay Ram

Samy says, `The concern [about suicides and fratricides ] is genuine as the [Indian] army is losing approximately 100-120 men per 100,000 in suicides’ (page 79 ibid..).He says, `They [soldiers] have no desire to kill themselves or their comrades, least of all their officers. Let us not make them do so, by a callous approach and not ameliorate their concerns.  Pious f platitudes are no substitute for substantive action’ (page 88, Stress, Suicide and Fratricide in the Army: crisis within, 2011, Vij Books India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi -India).

He believes with the additional commitments in Jammu and Kashmir, the number off such cases has gone up. This probably is the main reason for the rising incidents of fratricides (page 89, ibid.). He advises officers not to “use intemperate language” or punish juniors in public. `All soldiers are upset by criticism, humiliation or harassment’ (page 91 ibid..). Soldiers get violent because their colleagues and officers don’t solve their problems’ (page 93 ibid.).`Provocation is precipitated mainly by humiliation, criticism, family problem and non-grant of leave, use of abusive intemperate language, and unjust distribution of duties under influence of alcohol. Out of these humiliation is the biggest provocation (Refer to article Fragging: Humiliation biggest trigger, Times of India 9 June 2007) (page 95 ibid..).

Samay quotes Defence Institute of Psychological Research in support of his view. He says, `Surveys in both commands (Northern and Eastern) indicates officers believe that lack of cordial relations between the leader and the led is the cause. Jawans believe that humiliation harassment by officer higher up is a significant trigger’ (page 96, ibid.)

Counter Intelligence and counter-terrorism duty by army

´Army is deployed because of police and Central Police Organisation forces being ill-equipped and not fully trained. Who knows what happens in Naxalites and Maoist affected areas’ General Rodrigues, chief of Indian army staff in 1990 had reservations about `constant employment of the army in CI/CT (page 146, ibid..). K. Subramanyam, `voiced deep concern over increasing employment of the army in the secondary role (Prolonged anti-insurgency taking a toll on jawans by Rajat Pandit, Times of India 11 January 2007)’ (p.147, ibid.).

Conclusion

The creation of a rights-violations monitoring cell is just a ruse. The army is being used to stifle dissent. That sparks frustration in troops.

Most of the suicides occur while on duty and often in occupied Kashmir or in the North East. The army knows how much people hate them.

The army command wrongly devolves suicides are to problems back at home. The nexus between suicide and duty stress cannot be ignored. Besides. caste-based discrimination, poor leadership skills, supercilious, or even outright callous attitude of officers, also, exacerbate the problem.

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