Nobody Killed Them

  • Wasim Ahmad
  • Publish Date: Jul 12 2017 8:52PM
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  • Updated Date: Jul 12 2017 8:52PM
Nobody Killed Them

                                                    Photo: Habib Naqash/ KI

What happened to the enquiries ordered into some of the killings of 2016?

 

Against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, Kashmir erupted in rage. Pro-Azadi demonstrations were held everywhere and stone-pelting protesters fought pitched battles with government forces.

The protests were often suppressed with brutal force, leading to the death of at least 88 people, mostly teenagers, in the first five months of the uprising. The government announced investigations into many of the deaths, but nothing came of them.

Families of some of the victims of state violence are fighting it out in courts and police stations as well. Justice, however, remains elusive.

Shabir Ahmad Monga, a 27-year-old college lecturer, was lynched by the army outside his home in Shaar Shaali village of Khrew on August 18 last year. Nobody has been booked for his murder despite the family claiming they know the killers.

After the lynching, the police had filed a case of murder at Pampore police station. That was about it. “Nobody has been held for my brother’s death,” Shabir’s sister Masrat rued. “Even the chief minister spoke about the death of my brother and promised that she would probe the case, but nothing of the sort happened. It appears that she was just politicking to save her chair. She was lying.”

Masrat said the police and other officials have visited them just once. “It was the last time we saw them,” she said. “But let me tell you, the state government cannot punish the culprits as it is the army which plays the game here.”

“We were once asked to appear in the court at Pampore. We went. Nothing moved forward. We have been fighting the case in the court, but the administration is not cooperative. They just want to prolong things so we grow tired of it,” she added.

According to the police’s report of the incident, a contingent of the army’s 50 Rashtriya Rifles rounded up people in Shaar Shali and beat them mercilessly. They then abducted Shabir and beat him to death.

Shabir, who was doing his PhD in English Literature, taught at Srinagar’s Amar Singh College. He has left behind his wife and a 15-month-old child.

“We were sleeping when the army and SOG men raided our houses,” Masrat recalled. “The army men belonged to 50 RR and were based in Shaar. They used steel rods and sharp edged weapons to beat up around sixty men of the village and vandalised property. They also stole valuables such as jewellery.”

“Later, they took away my brother and beat him to death. They threw his body on the roadside, a few miles from our home,” Masrat added. “He was dead and lying there.”

The lynching was led by the commanding officer of the 50 RR camp in the village, Shabir’s family alleged. “He should be hanged,” Masrat said. “You cannot even imagine what it means to lose a brother.”

But Masrat has no faith in India’s legal system. It’s unlikely, she said, that her brother’s killers will be brought to justice “in man-made courts”. “They will face divine justice,” she said. “I am sure of that.”

Riyaz Ahmad Shah, an ATM guard, was killed by Indian forces in Karan Nagar, Srinagar on the night of August 2, 2016. His killers are still at large. Doctors had plucked out 365 pellets from Riyaz’s body, which was found lying on a roadside near a CRPF camp.

“The police filed an FIR but nothing happened afterwards,” Riyaz’s brother Shakeel Ahmad Shah, who lives in Chattabal area of Srinagar, said. “Mehbooba Mufti had promised that she will probe the death, but she didn’t.”

Shakeel said an official from the District Collector’s office once visited his house, offering compensation for his brother’s killing. “But the government did not probe the killing. We want the killers to be traced,” he said. “We want them locked up.”

Some newspapers, quoting unnamed sources,  had reported in November 2016 that on the instructions of the chief minister, the government had started probing the killing of seven of the people by the police, army and paramilitary forces during the 2016 unrest - Junaid Ahmad, 12, of Eidgah, Srinagar; Shabir Ahmad Mir, 25, of Batamaloo, Srinagar; Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, 27, of Khrew, Pulwama; Riyaz Ahmad Shah, 21, of Chattabal, Srinagar; Showkat Ahmad Itoo, 25, Neelofer Begum and Saida Banoo, 42, both from Churat, Qazigund.

As for the rest of the killings, according to the reports, the chief minister refused to probe them because she believed the slain people were party to the “violence on streets by participating in protest demonstration and marches or by storming camps of police, army and paramilitary forces.”

Junaid, a class 5 student, was standing outside the gate of his home on October 19, watching minor clashes between the residents and government forces. The forces indiscriminately fired pellets inside the locality, hitting Junaid in the brain. He died in hospital a few hours later. 

“It seems we are fighting an elephant when seeking justice in Kashmir,” Junaid’s sister Iqra said. “Once a local patwari visited our home. Except him, nobody ever came to probe the death. Nobody has been arrested, or even questioned. It seems nothing has happened. I lost my brother, my mother her son, her last hope. She cannot sleep. She is still in trauma.”

On his mother’s insistence, Junaid was buried next to his home. “She sees his grave and weeps,” Iqra said.

Iqra said their family wants to see the accused personnel of the armed forces who killed her brother brought to justice. “But who will listen to us?” she asked, hopelessly.

On January 10, 2017, the government had ordered the police to set up Special Investigation Teams to probe the deaths of 76 civilians during the five-month-long uprising. The police was told that each SIT should be headed by a deputy superintendent rank officer. The police said they would complete the investigations by March 2017. The deadline is long past and the police is tightlipped about the progress of the enquiries.

“Nobody knows what happened to the SIT enquires,” a top police official told Kashmir Ink on the basis of anonymity. “It›s true that the DGP had passed instructions to complete them by march. But nobody knows what happened to those probes.»

Insha Mushtaq, 15, residence, is struggling to memorise her science lesson. She cannot read but listens to her brother who reads from her class 10 textbook. Insha is blind.

Insha became the face of the suffering of young people who lost their eyes to pellets fired by the Indian forces during the 2016 unrest when a picture of her pellet-riddled face was published by newspapers and circulated on social media.

Over 1,200 persons were hit by pellets in their eyes over the course of the unrest, leaving them partially or completely blind. Nearly 14% of the pellet victims are below 15 years of age. Over 15,000 people also sustained fire arm injuries in 2016.

The government has so far not revealed the official figures of pellet victims, or how they would be rehabilitated or whether the culprits would ever be booked.

Insha was watching the protests outside her home in Sedow village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district, when government forces emptied a cartridge full of pellets into her eyes. The only daughter of her parents, Insha dreamed of becoming a doctor. That dream is now lost.

Doctors at Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital tried their best to restore her eyesight before she was flown to AIIMS in Delhi, where Mehbooba Mufti and the Congress leaderRahul Ghandhi went to see her. “I had requested madam (Mehbooba) to do something for my daughter,” Insha’s father Mustaq Ahmad told Kashmir Ink. “Nothing happened.”

“I do not want my daughter to be burden on someone in future,” Mushtaq, who has since been engaged as a driver with the state-run Motor Garages Department, said. “There was no FIR registered against the culprits. Nobody was held accountable. No probe was conducted.”

The state government has constituted a committee headed by Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Khan to identify pellet victims so they can be provided jobs and compensation. The committee had identified no more than 12 such victims for compensation until May.