Sunday, April 29, 2007

Crackdown In Jammu And Kashmir: Humiliation At Its Worst

Crackdown In Jammu And Kashmir: Humiliation At Its Worst

By Syed Junaid Hashmi

24 April, 2007
Countercurrents.org

Although people in Jammu and Kashmir have learnt a number of obnoxious terms in the last seventeen years yet the term which has dominated the discourse is "Crackdown". Legal experts describe the term as "illegitimate, high-handed and atrocious" and opine that such operations in the present atmosphere are uncalled for.

Oxford dictionary defines the term "Crackdown" as "An act or example of forceful regulation, repression, or restraint" while Cambridge explains it as "crushing, quelling, stifling, suppression, forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority. The dictionary adds that it is the oppression of heresy; the quelling of the rebellion and the stifling of all dissent".

In Jammu and Kashmir, especially in those areas where violence continues in some form, crackdown is a cordon-and-search operation in which security forces surround neighbourhoods or villages and compel all male adults and teenaged boys to assemble for identification.

Those who have faced this say that informer, whose face generally remain covered, working alongside security forces point out to "alleged militants" or militant sympathizers or relatives of the militants, adding that those pointed out are detained without any warrant of arrest memo.

Legal experts say that although the security forces enjoy special powers under various laws but nowhere has anything like crackdown been mentioned in these laws. They add that legal provisions do grant powers to security forces to arrest, search and detain without warrant but carrying out a search operation where threat to the lives of the common man increases cannot be justified.

They add that directions have been passed by various courts including the highest court of law i.e. Supreme Court of India have stressed that security forces should not be allowed to arrest or carry out any procedure on suspicion alone. These directions maintain that all their actions should have an objective basis so that they are judicially reviewable which would also assist those who file suit against the security forces.

Those who have faced the crackdowns say that those detained are often tortured and in some cases, those detained died in the custody of security forces. Human rights organizations Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and even the state human rights commission (SHRC) have documented cases where people have been detained during the "crackdowns" only to be killed later on in custody.

Further, some analysts say that search operations like "crackdown" have alienated masses in Kashmir and those who may not have been in favour of secession in the past, have become so. "By allowing the security forces to carry out search operations like "crackdown", alienation has increased because people perceive it as government's persistent sanctioning of grave human rights violations by the security forces in the state," said a human rights activist.

He added that it is a common practice for security forces to conduct round ups. "Even today, houses are combed without reserve and inhabitants savagely beaten and threatened; old people were outraged. In general, a common man in any part of Jammu and Kashmir undergoes an experience of deep humiliation when he is caught in a search operation like crackdown, thus adding to the alienation and making the task of winning hearts stiffer," said a senior leader of a prominent political party requesting anonymity.

Researchers from Kashmir University maintain that a lot of women are crying for the fate of their husbands and sons who either went missing or were killed in custody after being arrested during a "crackdown" where they were identified by informers working alongside army and paramilitary forces.

Experts say that in-view of the emerging consensus on addressing the alienation of masses in Jammu and Kashmir; the term should have lost significance during the last ten years but they add that what "democratically" elected governments after 1996 should have taken care of was abandoned. They add that "Crackdown" is the worst form of abuse of special powers which security forces have been enjoying and an important factor in increasing alienation among the masses towards the democratic values.

When contacted, a senior police officer who was previously part of the Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir recently said that "crackdown" is worst form of human rights violation which should be stopped immediately. "People work alongside if you win their hearts, I have practically experienced this and it is amply important in the present circumstances that search operations like "Crackdown" are stopped once and for all," said the senior police officer.

He added that crackdown increases the hatred among the people towards the security forces and takes them further away from the road of peace and prosperity. Senior People's Democratic Party Leader Nizamuddin Bhat said that Crackdown is an obnoxious term.

"These types of operations go against the spirit of human values. Keeping people out in the chill of winter or blistering heat of summer do amounts to committing human rights violations, hence these type of operations should be stopped once and for all," added Bhat.

He stressed that PDP has always desired to create an atmosphere where peace is restored in the state with dignity. "For restoring peace with dignity, every such operation which can alienate people should be stopped, there are various other ways of conducting search operations," added the PDP Leader.

President Kashmir Bar Association Mian Abdul Qayoom said that this is the worst form of human rights violation. He stressed that "crackdown" is a punishment given to those people who rise against oppression and tyranny. "There are number of terms which have no legal justification but due to the prevailing uncertainty in the state, security forces hardly take care of legality and illegality while carrying out such operations," added Qayoom.

Writer is a journalist, presently associated with jammu and kashmir's oldest and widely circulated newspaper "The Kashmir Times". He can be reached at syedjunaidhashmi@gmail.com

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