Fake encounters in several Indian states are an everyday phenomena. However, they remain out of media attention, being camouflaged by a slew of draconian laws (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Public Safety Act, National Security Act, so on). These laws confer immunity upon military and paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police force. Fake encounters are usually staged against `insurgents’ in North Eastern States and in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State.
Indian army confesses to “fake encounters”
At last, the Indian military had to admit that the three “Pakistani terrorists”, they had earlier announced to have killed, were actually innocent labourers. Indian army spokesman Rjesh Kalia admitted ‘soldiers exceeded their powers during an alleged fake gun battle in Kashmir that killed three men’. He assured, `Disciplinary proceedings would be taken against those responsible’ for the Amshipora `encounter’. Evidence collected by the inquiry prima facie indicated that the three unidentified terrorists killed in Op Amshipora were native Kashmiri. Their names are Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar, who were from Rajouri. None of them was a Pakistani terrorist.
The three laborers were lured to Machil and killed there before being labeled “militants” by the army to claim a reward. Indian forces routinely arrest Kashmiri civilians from their homes or from the road, kill them by torturing them in custody and then claim that they were ‘foreign militants’ who ambushed them and were killed in exchange of fire.
Military and paramilitary forces pick up innocent Kashmiris and other Indian nationals during day and night searches. They are later secretly buried in remote border areas
Such cases exist in large numbers. However, only a few are focused in the media. In another case, known as Chhatispura `encounter’, the police picked up five people and later killed them in custody. They initially blamed them for massacre of 36 Sikhs at Chattisinghpora massacre.
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Following outrage by the villagers, an investigation was conducted. It transpired that they were all innocent. Those killed in custody were Zahoor Ahmad Dalal s/o Abdul Gaffar Dalal of Moominabad, Bashir Ahmad s/o Abdul Aziz Bhat of Halan, Muhammad Yousuf Malik s/o Abdul Kabir Malik of Halan, Juma Khan s/o Faqir Khan of Brari Angan and Juma Khan s/o Amir Ullah Khan of Brari Angan.
In another incident, a Muslim carpenter Abdul Rahman Padder, detained in Srinagar in December 2006, was later labelled a “Pakistani militant”, and killed in custody.
Rights activists do not believe the military spokesman’s “assurance” of disciplinary action as an eye-wash. The offenders would be let off with a slap on wrist, as usual. They point out that Indian forces do not care a fig for the Kashmiri lives. Cordoning congested localities, dragging people out of their houses during night searches, or killing them openly or in custody is a recurrent phenomenon.
It is unusual to punish military and police offenders in India. Likewise, influential offenders go scot-free. Babri mosque is a case in point.
Bipen Rawat, then Indian army chief, now India’s chief of defense staff, awarded Major Leetul Gogoi a commendation certificate for tying up a Kashmiri, Farooq Dar, on bonnet of his jeep and paraded him around. Rawat remarked on the incident “a good job”.
Farooq Dar in a video is seen voting -slip as proof that he was returning home after casting his vote when Major Gogoi picked him up. Local police investigation confirmed that Dar’s plea is correct. The army did not make its investigation report public leading to popular outrage against military high-handedness.
A competent army
Major Gogol was later caught red handed with paramour in a Srinagar hotel. Gogoi had “befriended” the woman on Facebook hiding his real identity. That’s an adequate reflection on immoral makeup of the “officer’.
The statesman, inter alia, commented, (a) The Army would do well to bring its considerable expertise in psychiatric medicine to bear to determine possible linkages in the deviant behavior of the officer who gained worldwide notoriety for the “human shield” incident in Srinagar in 2017, and the same man flouting prescribed regulations by entering into a questionable relationship with a young Kashmiri woman a year ago. (b) It is a blatant violation of basic human rights and the military’s strict code of conduct that encouraged Major Leetul Gogoi to play the Casanova role. (d) The “commendation” of Gogoi willy-nilly sent out the message that dissent would be crushed with force. By commending what Major Gogoi did the Chief of the Army Staff voted for intolerance.
Al Jazeera reported, `India has regretted every request since 1989 to prosecute Indian soldiers in civil courts in Kashmir for alleged rights abuses, including murder and rape’.
Military and paramilitary forces pick up innocent Kashmiris and other Indian nationals during day and night searches. They are later secretly buried in remote border areas. A recent case of abduction of two residents of Tamil Nadu blew the lid off of police brutality. Police in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu state picked up two persons, J Jayaraj, 59, and J Bennix, 31 for breaking corona virus lockdown rules. They were brutally thrashed leading to rectal bleeding and eventual death. Following outrage by family and villagers, the local police registered a First-Information Report against five offending policemen. Death of George Floyd in the United States drew international limelight. But, the death of the Indian duo remained un-noticed in international media.
Indian government uses the Public Safety Act to declare anyone a traitor and put him or her behind the bars
Though a FIR was registered against the Indian policemen, no punishment has so far been awarded, thanks to police connivance and delayed prosecution (Indian policemen arrested over custodial deaths of father and son). It is unusual to punish military and police offenders in India. Likewise, influential offenders go scot-free. Babri mosque is a case in point. It stood demolished with several resisting Muslims lynched dead by Hindu mob. Yet, the court acquitted all offenders including BJP’s LK Advani. The Supreme Court of secular India confirmed that Ram was born at the site of Babri mosque a millennia ago!
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s view of fake encounters
Her party People’s Democratic Alliance was an ally of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Yet, her government was dismissed for daring to expose fake encounters. She called Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay. Mehbooba said, `Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred save one, to India, which is also not without peril. Kashmiris are distrusted and treated poorly in many parts of India, whether as students or as traders’
Indian government uses the Public Safety Act to declare anyone a traitor and put him or her behind the bars. This act was clamped on Mehbooba and several other Kashmiri politicians to keep them under detention (February 2020). Mehbooba revealed that she had asked military authorities why dead bodies of those killed in `encounters are not returned to their relatives. And, why DNA tests not allowed.’ She had called upon the Indian government to register FIRs against military or police officers accused of atrocities against the Kashmiri.
After being dismissed she made many other startling disclosures. She indicated that she had called for lifting ban on Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Jama’at-e-Islami, withdrawal of `sedition’ or `terrorism’ cases against Kashmiri leaders or ordinary folk.
Application of PSA in India
Public Safety Act originated about 160 years ago in pre-partition India. But, it was applied in modern India to arrest over 450 persons in 2019 alone to stifle dissent. The act holds any person guilty until he can prove their innocence. A common legal maxim is that the accused is innocent until proved guilty. It is a handy tool to slap sedition charge with impunity on anyone.
A boy who bought battery cells was slapped with sedition charges. The security forces surmised that the battery cells could be used in improvised-explosive devices (IEDs). Residents are`picked up’ without a warrant and killed incognito in military custody. During searches, houses are burnt to ashes. Kashmiri leaders have to travel to and from New Delhi to prove their `patriotism’ before NIA officials.
A mother was dragged to jail in front of her daughter. Subrata Roy spent almost two years in jail without being guilty of any crime before being released by the Supreme Court. Justice Karnan spent six months in jail because of being disrespectful to a judge. Advocate Prashant Bhushan hauled up for contempt just for making some remarks against the judge. Payal Rohatgi was jailed for a sedition case.
Kashmiri leader Farooq Abdullah was told to go to China and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to Pakistan. Or face sedition trial. This is India’s democracy.
Hoax anti-terrorism operations
Indian armed forces has conducted several operations, mostly paperwork, to wipe out `terrorists’. They include operation Sarp vanash (snake destroyer), Rakshak (protection), and All-out. For instance, investigative media reports indicated that Operation Sarp Vanash was in fact Operation Sach Vanash (truth buster). The claims about recovery of arms and ammo and `terrorists killed’ remained unfounded.
Indian military dare not chase tough freedom fighters deep into jungle. So, they do the next easiest thing: pick up an innocent man from the street, get him secretly killed, and name him a leader of a `militant’ outfit
Even prestigious dailies kept dishing out false information fed by un-named sources. The Times of India first reported on a major offensive in the Surankote area. On May 17, its defense correspondent, Rajat Pandit, wrote that the Army had killed “60 hard-core militants in the Surankote area proximate to the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir,” and had “also seized a huge quantity of assault rifles, mortars, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and under-barrel grenade launchers, among other ‘war-like stores.'” The very next day, The Asian Age said that the operation had involved the use of Russian-built MI-17 helicopters, mainly to evacuate casualties. On May 19, The Tribune went one step further, asserting that the Army had killed “180 Pakistani terrorists and foreign mercenaries in the past 45 days when for the first time it launched an operation to free the high mountainous positions in Jammu and Kashmir which had so far been a haven for ultras.”
Interestingly, all concocted reports had two common features: they cited no on-record sources, and the term Sarp Vanash was nowhere used. It first appeared in the Jammu-based Excelsior on May 21. The operation, the newspaper reported citing anonymous defense sources, had been carried out “from April 21 to May 18 to clear a bulge at Hill Kaka where hardcore Pakistani groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar, Al Badr and Hizbul Mujahideen had set up fortifications in a large area of strategic importance to interdict Indian Army supply lines.”
Meanwhile, reports of helicopter strikes and terrorist-held fortifications provoked hysteria among New Delhi-based journalists. On May 20, Army Chief, General N.C. Vij tried to calm things down. The next morning’s Tribune quoted him as denying “that helicopter gunships had been used to flush out the terrorists” but accepting that “helicopters had been used for logistical purposes”, a routine event!
About Operation All-Out, it suffices to say that IHK’s governor Satya Pal Malik himself said on January 14, 2019, that there was no such thing as Operation All Out and that the phrase was a misnomer.
Indian military dare not chase tough freedom fighters deep into the jungle. So, they do the next easiest thing: pick up an innocent man from the street, get him secretly killed, and name him a leader of a `militant’ outfit. They do so to `earn’ medals, monetary benefits, promotions and a host of other perks. The military and security personnel are demoralized as is evident from suicides and fratricides in Indian forces.
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been writing free-lance for over five decades. He has served federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. He knows many languages including French and Arabic. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.