Human rights violation is one of the most grievous problems of today’s modern and so-called civilized society. Every year so many innocent people have to be a victim of human rights violations throughout the world. The system of the law enforcing agencies tries to shelter and safeguard these rights to the maximum extent but sometimes the situation becomes very painful when these agencies themselves prove a fatal weapon against these rights. Recently the Asian Human Rights Commission has released a report with the title, ‘Law Enforcement Agencies of India involved in Human Rights violations.” According to the details discussed in the report, from April 2001 to March 2009, the National Human Rights Commission of India NHRC has recorded 1184 deaths in police custody. These deaths must be called as the murders committed by the police because they all were without any sanction or approval of a court of law.
According to the details most of these murders have taken place in relatively calm and problem-free states of India including the most peaceful Maharashtra state with 192 murders. The other afflicted states are Uttar Pradesh with 128 killings, Gujarat with 113, Andhra Pradesh 85 and West Bengal 83. The most interesting fact is that all these states are considered very peaceful and prosperous parts of the country with no insurgent activities. This report compels us to think of the parts where insurgencies and separatist movements are simply a routine matter .The situation must be worse in the seven states forming the Northeastern territory and in the valleys of Jammu-Kashmir.
A few weeks back, the International People’s Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir claimed in a heart rendering report that there are 2,700 “unknown, unmarked and mass graves” in three districts of the region. In this 108-page report, it has been claimed that the graves are spread across 55 burial grounds across north Kashmir. Regarding the authenticity of the report, the compilers say; “We used conversations, observations, research and formal interview methods in individual, private and collective settings, we also took photographs and on certain occasions video documentation, so that there might not be a single grain of exaggeration in it.” The report has been submitted to the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. According to ‘Kashmir live.com’, the Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, Mohammad Akbar Lone has said,” If the report is submitted to me or a complaint is registered with me, I will ask the government to investigate the report,” The tribunal of legislators from North Kashmir comprising of Prof Angana Chatterji, professor of anthropology in California Institute of Integral Studies; Mihir Desai, Supreme Court lawyer; Parvez Imroz, head, Coalition of Civil Society; and rights activist Khurram Parvez, said criticizing the report, “The credibility of the government is at stake. It should seriously investigate the case.”
Extra-judicial killings have become a cultural and traditional trait of the Indian society. The Indian media is often found condemning the terrorist activities of non-state actors but the ‘wonderful doings’ of the law enforcement agencies are never given due coverage A few days back a western web-page referred to the amazingly truthful statement of the Director General of Police in the Manipur state , Mr.Y. Jay Kumar Singh, “In the last eleven months my officers have ‘murdered ‘more than 260 persons”. The statement shows that these 260 persons were killed at individual level without bringing anything to the notice of the courts.
Another hidden reality is that the facts and figures sorted out by the Human Rights Commission may not match with the actual statistics because only a very few cases of human rights violations succeed in reaching the Commission or judiciary. The basic reason for this reality is that very often the victims belong to the most deprived and unprivileged social strata. They neither have the means nor the courage to approach the courts. Another hurdle is the absence of any eye-witness. People are so much frightened of the security forces that they find no courage to stand upright against them in the courts as eye-witnesses. Furthermore, if they succeed in building up any moral courage, they are reminded of the Armed Forces Special Power Act of 1958.This draconian law allows even a junior non-commissioned officer to ‘shoot to kill’ on mere suspicion in order to maintain ‘Public Order’. This license to murder, known as AFSPA, is widely misused by the security forces in India. Some of the moderate politicians of India call this license ‘a trigger-happy culture of governance’. The states like Manipur are the worst victim of this cruel license to kill.
The people of the Manipur state could never forget the ruthless killings of two innocent citizens on the 23rd of July 2009; one of them was Mayanglambam Thokchom Rabina, a seven-month pregnant woman. She was shot dead in front of her young son. The police officers claimed that the pregnant Rabina was killed when another man was trying to run away while being frisked by police. During the chase, police opened fire and accidentally shot Rabina. The other man murdered on the same day was Chongthan Sanjeet Meitei. According to the details he was taken inside a shop to be searched, and was killed inside it. These ‘manly’ actions were taken by a team of Manipur Police Commandos (MPC). Five other civilians were seriously injured by the gunfire. Although the police official claimed that these two incidents were mere accidents but eyewitnesses and photos released by media contradicted this claim.
The role of the security forces must be that of the custodians of human rights but the situation in India is altogether different. Under the shield of AFSPA, the security forces are butchering and slaughtering the innocent people. It is the dire need of time that the Indian government should safeguard the lives of its helpless citizens from the cruel clutches of the security forces; but for this purpose the Indian government will have to disengage itself from the interference in the neighbouring countries.
The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on international defense and strategic affairs.