Peoples Union for Democratic Rights is horrified that the Rajya Sabha which debated the situation in Jammu and Kashmir on August 10, could not muster resolve to call for an immediate halt to use of pellet guns, which is not used anywhere in either India or the world for policing. Since the killing of Burhan Muzzafar Wani on July 8, the onslaught on unarmed innocent civilian continues by the armed forces and state police in the Kashmir Valley. The Central Government has decided to add more troops in one of world’s most heavily militarised region empowered by legal immunity for any crime/atrocity committed by them against civilians. Protests are being met with tear gas shells, pellet guns and bullets.
In Qazigund in South Kashmir, three people- two women and a man were killed by members of the 9 Rashtriya Rifles contingent of the Indian army on 18th of July. In another incident, a 26 year old Riyaz Ahmed Shah, who worked as an ATM Guard was killed in Karan Nagar while he was on his way back home on his scooter. His body was lying in a pool of blood on the deserted road. This case exposes the false narrative created by the Central Government around the usage of ‘force’ against the ‘unruly’ mob as Riyaz was not part of any protest. In fact, he worked in the morning as a salesman and in the evening as a guard. The doctors at the Shri Maharja Hari Singh hospital (SMSH) found over 300 pellets in his body and exposed the official account which alleged his death was due to a road accident. Amir Bashir Lone, a resident of Shopian District met with a similar fate when he was shot with pellets on his head.
The statistics from the ground zero is alarming, with over 6000 people injured, 300 of them blinded by pellets, 40 odd maimed, and 60 people killed in past one month itself. In an unique protest, medicos who have been treating injured civilians’ under most onerous condition, sat on a protest on August 10, covering their one eye with a bandage expressing their angst against the un-abating use of pellets and demanding their immediate ban. Another disturbing feature is the systematic arrest of thousands of youth and night raids being conducted across Kashmir. The scale of this operation can be gauged from a poster issued by the Police in Narwara, Eidgah in Old City of Srinagar which carried a list of 117 youths being sought by Police with a warning that they will be booked under the dreadful Public Safety Act. Given the record of yesteryears, when youths were subjected to torture in custody, the fact that most are being sent across to Jammu, away from their family and friends, fills us with fear at their plight.
Instead of addressing the root causes behind Kashmiri people’s disenchantment with Indian State, the Government is moving towards an all out offensive by replacing or complementing existing forces with Army. Government of India has refused to allow a visit by an All Party delegation, because the Government has much to hide. The likelihood of kill count and other crimes rising is beyond doubt.
If ever India’s democratic conscience is being tested, it is now. PUDR appeals that if we remain mute today while we witness the disgraceful behaviour of the Government of India which persists with the criminal use of strong arm methods including of lethal pellet guns and bullets, as well as at the absolute lack of compassion exhibited by them, then we betray our own people who are coming under such relentless attack for demanding their right of self-determination. How many more people must die and how many more years must pass before we stand in solidarity with the Kashmiri people for their just and democratic demand.
Deepika Tandon & Moushumi Basu
16th August, 2016