By Abhishek Jha:
In a staggeringly huge report, two civil society organisations- International Peoples’ Tribunal On Human Rights And Justice In Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK) and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) – have detailed the structural manner in which violence is perpetrated by the state and state-controlled gunmen in Kashmir.
Distributed over four chapters and 800 pages, the report details the structure of the armed forces, their strength, tries to identify the flaws in the trials, and presents 333 case studies of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, and torture using previous documentation. “While the demand of IPTK and APDP is for independent and impartial investigations on each of these crimes, and there is no pronouncement on the guilt of the ‘alleged perpetrators’, prima facie evidence [from official record and testimonies] is provided that warrants further investigations,” the report says before listing 972 names of alleged perpetrators, including personnel of the army, military and para-military forces, J&K police, and government gunmen and associates.
The strength of armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir is always contested. The report details the structure of the armed forces to estimate the actual strength at 7,50,981. Using the 2011 census of the state, one can calculate that there are about 17 armed personnel for each person in the state. Detailing the material and ideological effect of heavy militarization, the report says, “A curious feature of this occupation of land, noticed in the two case studies in Islamabad and Pattan, was the occupation of properties which once belonged to Kashmiri Pandits. The Palhallan army camp, studied closely in this report, was created by occupying a cluster of predominantly Kashmiri Pandit houses. Therefore for a period of 5-6 years the army [and other forces] controlled Palhallan and neighboring villages from civilian homes. The effect was not only material—the complete destruction of the buildings and the trees on the property—but also ideological: the villagers of Palhallan could not but associate these Pandit houses with the army and its violent presence. In the case of Islamabad town too, the CRPF and BSF camps, as well as the camps out of which government gunmen [Ikhwan mainly] operated, were/are all located in what were once Pandit homes and temples.”
Presenting case studies from two brigade level formations- Khanabal and Tapper camp- the report examines the culpability of the Brigade level officers and their superiors in the alleged crimes. In a summary introduction to the chapters, the report says, “Finally, and this requires further investigation, there is evidence to suggest that beyond command responsibility, individual criminal responsibility for the actual commission of crimes would also rest at the Brigade level. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the knowledge, responsibility and control on the ground went beyond the Brigade level, for example in the Islamabad study, even up to the Victor Force Headquarters in Awantipora [Division level formation], which is controlled by a Major General ranking officer.” Detailed testimonies present chilling accounts of torture ranging from water-boarding (called “Paani Parade”) to electric shocks to the penis and other parts of the body.
This information about the structure is then used to explain “mass violence as a strategic tool of political control” using five case studies. These include the mass rape and torture at Kunan and Poshpora (1991), the massacre at Sopore (1993), the massacre at Sanderkoot-Bala (1996), the massacres at Sailan and Mohra Bachai (1998,1999), and the massacres at Chattsinghpora, Pathribal and Brakpora (2000). The report tried to establish through the case studies that these incidents are not “an ‘indiscriminate’ act of ‘madness’ perpetrated by ‘violent beasts'” but a result of the structure. “The sheer intensity and scale of violence in each case mandates some element of prior planning inherent to militarism, what also emerges is a perverse yet almost scientific logic where ‘militant’ is constructed as a body that can be subjected to punishment with impunity, and without accountability, legal or political. Such a conception is able to suck into it not only the militants themselves but also accommodate a variety of other persons and political opinions,” the report says. Therefore, the name of the chapter: ‘Theatres of Violence’.
Impunity Due To Structure
Chapter three describes the flaws in the judicial process leading to impunity. It is interesting to note that life sentence for 6 army personnel in the 2010 Machil fake encounter case, which was awarded through court martial, was recently confirmed. However, the report identifies court-martial as “a mechanism that specifically supports the military structure of violence” and “as a tool for the armed forces to protect their own“. Quoting the JKCCS (of which IPTK and APDP are members) press release at the time of Machil court-martial conviction, the report says: “the Macchil conviction is a political decision. The conviction was reportedly done two months ago but has only now been made public, on the eve of the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Further, the conviction is now to be confirmed by the Northern Army Commander. Besides, the fact that to begin with a court-martial was held, and not a trial in a civilian court, it is clear that the court-martial system is conscious of and guided by larger political interests. Therefore, while the Pathribal case is covered up, the Macchil case is not. In the case of Pathribal, there was institutional support and approval, manifested by the visit of L.K. Advani, then Deputy PM, of the BJP led government, to congratulate the Pathribal perpetrators.”
It is then that the report presents 333 case studies to explain the sheer enormity of the scale of violence. The case studies identify 972 individual perpetrators that include 464 army personnel, 161 paramilitary personnel, 158 J&K police personnel, and 189 government gunmen. The alleged perpetrators include personnel from across ranks, from Major General to Lt. Colonels to Captains and more.
In a press release, IPTK and APDP have made three key recommendations on the basis of the report. It has appealed to UNHRC to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate the crimes, asked the UN Security Council to refer the situation in J&K to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and urged foreign governments, their embassies/mission in India, as well as the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to record information regarding the alleged perpetrators, deny them entry into their territory or into the UN peacekeeping operations. It has also appealed to the foreign governments to prosecute them under universal jurisdiction, where applicable.