September 26, 2010

"There was blood around the mouth and blood on his hands..."

On January 20, 1995, Indian army forces of the 2nd Grenades unit conducted a crackdown in Batmaloo, Srinagar. At least two men taken into custody by the soldiers were summarily executed. Ghulam Ahmad., forty-eight, described the killing of his brother, Abdul, a forty-two-year-old businessman.

“At about 10:00 am on January 20, 1995, I was in my house in Batmaloo, Srinagar, along with my mother and father, Abdul and his wife and children, and a servant. Abdul was on the phone to Delhi when we heard gunfire outside, and we all went into a single room. Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Four uniformed army soldiers of the 2nd Grenades came inside and pulled my ninety-year-old father, Abdul, the servant and me outside. The soldiers were accusing us of being "terrorists." They accused Abdul of being Afghan.”

Leaving the father at the house, the soldiers took the men with them, along with a nephew, G. Some twenty-five soldiers were gathered around outside. They ordered the men to get shovels and shovel snow for half an hour. Then four of the soldiers took Ghulam and broke down the door of a nearby house belonging to Ghulam's uncle. Ghulam and Abdul were made to search some six other houses; the soldiers were looking for guns and militants. The search went on for half an hour. Ghulam told Human Rights Watch:

“From time to time, the soldiers would hit me and point their guns at my head and tell me they would kill me. Several times while I was with soldiers, they came under gunfire [from militant forces] and they would force me to stand in front of them as they ran and returned fire.”

At 11:30am, the soldiers completed the searches of six houses and took Ghulam to a more populated neighborhood in the same area. At that point, he saw the soldiers take Abdul away. An announcement was made through the loudspeakers at the mosque that everyone in the area should come out of their houses and assemble outside the graveyard. Ghulam continued to search apartments in the area with the soldiers and six other civilians.

At about 4:00 pm Ghulam was with the soldier when they again came under heavy gunfire. The soldiers fired back, again using him as shield. A number of soldiers were injured in the fire, and Ghulam and other civilians were ordered to carry the wounded soldiers to army vehicles at the main intersection. As they began to do so, one of the civilians, Hassan Shah, a retired policeman who was over sixty, was shot in the arm.

We asked permission to carry Shah to the SMHS hospital, half a kilometer way, on foot and by auto rickshaw. Mohinder Singh, commander of the 2nd Grenades, allowed us to do so. I ran away to my sister's house and phoned my mother. She asked me, "Where is your brother? I told her I did not know. I stayed at my sister's house that night.

The crackdown was on a Friday. On Saturday, in Nagerwal, residents reported that two bodies had been thrown out of the window of a nearby school at 4:00 pm on the day of the crackdown, and that the bodies were riddled with bullets.

On Saturday, Ghulam went to the Ram Munshi Bagh police station and found Abdul's body. He described the condition of the body:

“There was blood around the mouth and blood on his hands. There were two other bodies there as well. I asked for the body back, and the police had me sign a paper for it”

A neighbor, Saqlain., was with Abdul after the soldiers took him away. He told Human Rights Watch that the soldiers came to his house and ordered him and his nineteen-year-old son, Sheikh., to come with them.

“At 9:00am I was in my house with my wife, son and daughter. Sheikh. went outside to buy some food, but returned to say that the army was nearby. All of us went upstairs to the second floor. The soldiers knocked on the door, entered the house and yelled for all of us to come downstairs or we would be killed. The soldiers took me and my son outside and took us in the direction of the government middle school in Lachmanpara, which is commonly used as an interrogation center during crackdowns. Before we arrived at the school, the soldiers told me to go to the graveyard nearby. I went and found twenty-five or thirty other people sitting there. I could hear the soldiers questioning my son. They were accusing him of firing on soldiers. My son denied it. Then a soldier took him inside the school. As I sat in the graveyard, I could hear cries from my son inside the school. I stood up, but Abdul, who was with him in the graveyard, warned me to sit down, as the soldiers were nervous and might shoot me”

A short while later, the soldiers came up with an informer who surveyed the group of men seated at the graveyard, then pointed at Abdul and said to the soldiers, "Take him, he is a militant." The soldiers told Abdul to stand up and called him an "Afghani [sic] militant." Abdul told them he had a grinding machine and was a businessman, not a militant. The soldiers took him into the school. Then the soldiers took Saqlain. and the others in the graveyard and made them sit in snow. They were kept at the graveyard until 9:00 pm

In the afternoon some people were taken from the cemetery and were made to carry metal pipes. When they were brought back to the cemetery, they told Saqlain. that the soldiers had used the pipes to spray kerosene on the mosque in the area, which the soldiers had then burned down. Later in the afternoon, Saqlain. was also made to carry pipes, and he saw the mosque burning. Then he was brought back to the cemetery. At 9:00 pm the men were allowed to go home. Saqlain. returned with a gas lamp to search inside the school, but was unable to find anyone. Later that night a neighbor told him that two bodies had been thrown from one of the school's windows. He examined the site and found blood on the snow nearby but no bodies. Later that night, at Jammu and Kashmir, he learned from a police officer that three civilians from Batmaloo had been killed earlier that day in "crossfire" between the army and the militants. Saqlain. told Human Rights Watch/Asia:

“The following day, in the morning, I went to the police station at Ram Munshi Bagh, but I was told that the bodies were not there, but were at the Joint Interrogation Center, Sonwar. I went there, but they were not there. I went back to the police station where I saw trucks with the bodies of my son, Abdul and a third man. After that I went to the police station to file an FIR against the army for the deaths of my son and Abdul. But I was told by a friend, who is a police officer, that he had been told not to accept any FIRs against the army or security forces. Then I went to the district magistrate, who ordered the police to accept the FIR"

(Names Have Been Changed)

1 comment:

sanjeev said...

Dear Friends in Kashmir,

I am deeply sorrowed and hurt to read the story posted here.

But lets identify the main problem and get it resolved, please dont try to amputate India further. The mistakes which our elders, politicians and foreign powers have done to harm our nation shall not be done again. Lets live together as one nation and one people. When GOD is one, Earth is one, Human race is one then how can we create boundaries among us and kill each other. What ever soldiers are doing it is their duty and even in Koran it is mentioned that duty is most important even important then anything else. So many times while performing duty many mistakes happen and many innocent also get killed. Just compare the wars which prophets faught and so many lives were lost in those battles. But the main issue is how to maintain discipline among the soceity, just tell me parents slap their children or not when the children dont listen to them or do something drastically wrong. Running country and that too like India is a very difficult task. You cant be lenient or allow indiscipline to spread. you have to be stern and strict. so please allow peace to prevail so that our children grow without fear and become good citizens of teh earth.

I would like to mention that every Indian is with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters. Just try to call us we will extend all our help to you and everyone in kashmir.

We love Kashmir We love India.

Jai Hind

Sanjeev Verma