ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Investigation in Kashmir

A six-member team from four human rights organisations conducted an investigation into the “economic blockade” in Kashmir and its aftermath and toured the districts of Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla and Bandipora between August 22 and 25. The team spoke to victims of the violence and their families, people who were part of protests, doctors, journalists, business persons and office-bearers of many social and political organisations. However, the fact finding was disrupted as the state announced an indefinite curfew from the morning of August 24.

Some of the main findings of the team are: (i) ‘Azaadi’ is the primary demand: The team arrived in Srinagar on August 22 and witnessed the massive protest meeting at the Idgah grounds. People gathered there publicly declared their primary demand for ‘azaadi’ and through numerous street processions in various streets of Srinagar on August 22 and 23. (ii) Use of curfew to create a confrontation: Curfew was imposed from the evening of August 11 and again from the morning of August 24. The first time it was imposed hours after the security forces opened fire at many places on an unarmed procession heading to the Muzaffarabad border killing at least eight people. It was expected that people would come out on the following day to protest against the killings. Curfew thus became an instrument to prevent people from assembling and gave security forces the power to use force against unarmed protestors. (iii) Deliberate blockade of supplies from August 24: While our team has not investigated the happenings in the Jammu region, their impact on Kashmir has been confirmed through our interviews. Shortages have been created by the fall in truck movement. As a result, shortages have emerged of oils and cooking gas in the rural areas, of cereals and medicines in the urban areas. It has led to substantial losses for fruit growers as well as handicrafts and carpet manufacturers and transporters. Fruit could be found rotting at many places and handicraft manufacturers report cancellation of export orders for the Ramzan season and fears for the Christmas season. The team was told that till August 23, 80 per cent of the trucks were not leaving the valley for fear of attacks and only some 15-20 trucks were able to carry the apples out of the valley after an assurance of safe passage from the government.(iv) Firing incidents: The team investigated 15 cases of deaths that occurred on account of firing by CRPF and JK police between August 11 and 14. The actual death toll is estimated to be above 30. The findings show a clear pattern:  (a) The shootings were aimed to kill. This was evident from eyewitness accounts which showed that the firings were indiscriminate and aimed directly at the crowd. At Paribal, near Bandipura town on August 12 the police fired on the crowd from above the hill where the 15 RR camp is located.  (b) A large number of deaths resulted from injuries in the abdomen, chest, head or upper or lower back. This was confirmed by hospital records. (v) Attacks on those injured: The total number of people injured in the period between August 11 and 14 is not clearly established. However, at SMHS hospital in Srinagar alone, over 500 patients were admitted in the same period. The team met families and those injured and killed in the attacks. We were repeatedly told that the security forces never tried to take the injured to hospital. Worse, vehicles carrying the injured to hospital were routinely attacked. What is unbelievable is the attack on SMHS hospital on August 11 and 12. The SMHS hospital received the largest number of casualties. When doctors were trying to conduct emergency operations at breakneck speed in order to save lives, the casualty ward was attacked with tear gas shells followed by firing of live bullets. The firing was again repeated on August 12.

Harish Dhawan

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