by Ravi Nitesh
This article was published on Countercurrents
As recently, a court martial awarded life term to 7 persons of Indian army after a court of inquiry in Machil encounter case. The infamous draconian act Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the impunity that it grants to security forces under which no prosecution can be held in any civil court without a prior sanction from Government of India has made the security forces a big hub for human rights violations. Besides Machil, there are many more cases, named and unnamed that need attention of government and judiciary because these cases are infamous for the atrocities performed by security forces.
Here are few infamous cases, listed about which we all should know, in view of our sensitization towards human rights and how there are difficulties in ascertaining the punishment to security personals who are surviving with impunity. It is also evident that these atrocities are still continued. Though here are the selected cases only, there are hundreds and thousands of cases like these where human rights violations reported in areas where AFSPA is imposed (North East region and J&K).
Operation Blue Bird (Oinam, Bishunpur District, Manipur) : Operation Blue Bird was launched in 11 th July 1987 at Oinam of Manipur, where more than 30 naga villages covered and human rights violations including torture and even extrajudicial killings were done in addition to sexual harassment, theft and loot by security personals. In a petition filed by NPMHR, it was reported that many houses were burnt and dismantled, many women were tortured and people got killed in fake encounters. This operation was done for many days, whole area was kept isolated and in jailed condition where even civil administrative authorities were not permitted to move in. Cases were filed in courts, even registrar of a high court was denied to move in to record the statements, but so far nothing happened.
Kunan Poshpora (Kupwara District, J&K) : On 23 rd February 1991, a search operation was conducted by Indian army in Kunan Poshpora village of Kupwara district. During this search operation, around 100 women including pregnant women were allegedly raped by army persons in front of villagers. No clear inquiry was made by government. Later in the year 2014, the police officer who first visited the village to record testimony told that he was threatened many times to not to make report public. Government tried its best to make this case as ‘baseless' and on the other hand, Chief Justice of J&K high court in his findings told that he never saw such a case where even normal investigative procedures were ignored. A case is still running in Supreme Court of India on this issue.
Bijbehra firing (Anantnag district, J&K): On 22 October 1993, approximate 35 civilians got killed when BSF fired upon crowd during a protest. It was alleged that firing was unprovoked and done while the protest was peaceful. Magistrate inquiry and NHRC findings marked that the firing was unprovoked. J&K High Court also accepted the reports and findings and ordered for compensation to victims and their families. It is not clear if the case against BSF personals was sent to grant sanction for prosecution, but till now no such prosecution was done.
Malom (Imphal District, Manipur) : It was 2 nd November 2000, when at Malom, a place near Imphal, Assam Rifles fired upon 10 persons at a bus stand and they got killed. In these persons, even a 60 year old lady and 18 year old bravery award winner also got killed. This case sparked the anger in Manipur. Protest was organized. Irom Sharmila started her fast with demand to repeal the act AFSPA. However, still nothing happened.
Pathribal (Anantnag district, J&K) : On 25 th March 2000, at Pathribal in J&K, 5 civilians were picked up by Rashtriya Rifles and allegedly made as ‘foreign militants' and as the main accused persons who were responsible for Chhatisinghpura case. Local people protest against this and calimed that these were civilians and were not involved in any such activity. Initially, no case was lodged as defined with the impunity granted under AFSPA but later when protest erupts, CBI was asked to investigate the case. CBI in its investigation submitted report and found guilty a Brigadier, a Lt Col, two majors and a subedar of 7 Rashtriya Rifles for a staged encounter where civilians were picked up from Anantnag district . These encounters were told as ‘cold blooded murders'. Supreme Court of India, with findings of CBI told Indian army in the year 2011 for court martial, (as sanction for prosecution under civilian law could not be provided under AFSPA) , however after two years army closed the case with no actions on accused personals.
Manorama Killing (Imphal Distrcit, Manipur) : It was the night of 10 th July 2004, when Assam Rifles went to house of Manorama at Imphal, Manipur at night, tortured her at her house before her brother and mother, then picked her up. In the morning, dead body was found at Ngariyan Yairipok road with bullets injuries in her private parts. Massive protest was organized by people, even the infamous naked protest also happened but case under criminal charges could not be lodged. A local judicial inquiry was done but report was not made public. A PIL in Supreme Court of India is still going on but no verdict has been awarded yet.
Shopian Case (Shopian district, J&K):: on 29 th May 2009 in Shopian (J&K), two women named Aasia (age approx 17) and Neelofar (age approx 22) went missing from their orchard on their way back to home. Their dead bodies found on next day morning. People alleged it as murder and rape by security forces who were camped nearby. Initially, no FIR was lodged and police told that postmortem report cleared injuries over private parts. However people believed that police report about postmortem is fake, protests were continued by people and later J&K govt formed a judicial panel. Under judicial inquiry, Forensic lab report established the gang rape of both the women. Besides few suspension and transfers from police department, nothing has happened in this case.
Mass Graves in J&K: In the year 2008-09, mass graves of approximate 3000 unmarked persons were found in Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara and other districts. It was believed that most of these graves may belong to people who has been killed and buried by security personals without any accountability under AFSPA. It was also believed that there may be persons who are reported as ‘disappeared', as thousands of cases of disappearances are recorded. State Human Rights Commission confirmed that thousands of bullet ridden bodies buried in unmarked graves. Some 500 bodies are identified as ‘locals' and not the ‘foreign militants' as it was told by security agencies. In spite of all cry and hue by human rights organizations and local people, no concrete action has been taken yet from the side of government.
Machil Encounter (Kupwara district, J&K) : On 30 th April 2010, three civilians of Baramulla (J&K) were shot by Indian army at Machil sector in Kupwara district of J&K and were framed as ‘foreign militants'. However, later with the protest and inquiry, it was established that these persons were civilians and were called by army to provide them jobs of porters and later were killed in a staged encounter. With the protest that erupted all over J&K as an anger of people and force used to suppress the protests, as many as 110 lives of civilians lost in the whole summer unrest of the year 2010. Indian army in its inquiry found them guilty and in November 2014 sentenced life imprisonment to two officers and five soldiers in the court martial for being guilty. It was told that these army personals murdered these civilians, painted their face black, had put the guns and told them ‘foreign militants' to get rewards and remunerations under ‘anti-militancy operations.'
1528 cases of extra judicial killings: In a write petition filed in Supreme Court of India (SCI), it was told that during May 1979 to May 2012 , approximate 1528 cases belongs to extra judicial killings. Supreme Court picked 6 random cases from the list and formed a high power commission under Justice (retd) Santosh Hegde and two others members to inquire about these 6 cases. Commission submitted its report to SCI stated that all 6 cases are found cases of fake encounters where no criminal records found for these persons who got killed. Case is still in SCI.
Ravi Nitesh is founder of Mission Bhartiyam and member of National Core Committee of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org