New Delhi: All India Students Association (AISA) Thursday expressed deep shock over the spate of killings following the 12th April incident in Handwara.
So far, armed forces personnel and Jammu and Kashmir police have killed four persons two young boys who died on the spot, an old woman who succumbed in the hospital, and a teenage boy, who was brutally hit by a tear gas shell in nearby Drugmulla and who succumbed to death in hospital and injured 24 civilians. Initial reports have suggested that the armed forces fired at civilians protesting against sexual violence directed at a minor girl in Handwara town by army personnel. This was followed by a shameful character assassination of the minor girl, where a video of doubtful authenticity was circulated all over the Internet by the J&K Police, in order to prove that the accusations of molestation are false. Now we are learning that the minor girl and her father have been detained. All of this is deeply troubling, AISA said in a statement issued late last night.
As per a statement issued to Srinagar based news agency CNS, All India Progressive Womens Association (AIPWA) National Secretary, Kavita Krishnan said, first, the police have no right to make public the identity or the statement of the victim in a molestation case, that too of a minor girl. Uploading and circulating her video is another level of brazen illegality. Second, we dont know if the young girl has given the statement under any duress or not. Third, even if her statement is true, the army still had no right to fire at and murder unarmed civilians expressing outrage. Further, we have learnt that the minor girl and her father have been detained and no access to them is being allowed for support groups. We demand that human rights and civil society groups be allowed to meet the child and her father, so that they can have access to justice and support.
Days have passed since these horrific killings, but the army spokesperson and the Chief Minister of the state have only made token statements. The army spokesperson even shamelessly stated that it would need to be ascertained if the standard operating procedures have been followed! The BJP is prejudging the matter by saying that armed forces are being defamed. Lets remember that defamation happens, not by seeking justice, but by denying justice. As protests continue in Handwara and other places, the mobile internet service is suspended in several areas and curfew-like restrictions are also imposed in different parts of the state. Everything else, apart from a fair enquiry into the incidents of molestation and killings is being done, said Sucheta De, the National President of AISA and former JNU Students Union President.
JNUSU Vice-President Shehla Rashid added, How is it justified on part of the police to upload a video of a sexual abuse survivor, that too of a child? The video tries to give the impression that the child had willingly accompanied the army men. It is completely ridiculous that we fail to see the power relation at work. How can a child give consent? That too, to armed soldiers, protected by AFSPA? All of a sudden, we have started to trust a video of a Kashmiri minor girl. There are countless narratives by women about sexual abuse by the army. If J&K Police has courage, let them upload and circulate those videos.
JNU Students Union General Secretary, Rama Naga, a Dalit student who was charged with sedition, along with others, in the recent JNU controversy, said, we cant trust any videos. We saw recently, in the case of a rape and murder of a minor Dalit girl in Rajasthan, how a forced consent letter was obtained from the girl, after she complained about rape by a teacher. Delta, a student paying full fees, was sent to clean the room of the teacher, because she is a Dalit. And there, she was raped. Even after obtaining a consent letter, she was murdered. This was followed by a virulent character assassination campaign against Delta. We have to see the unequal power relations at work, when talking about sexual abuse. In any case, how is the killing of people justified? We condemn this and demand action against those who have perpetrated these killings.
Repeated past crimes committed by the armed forces have been buried in a manner similar to what we are witnessing today in the case of the Handwara killings. Following initial statements by the army and the ruling parties, no action is taken. It is worth recalling that the Machil fake encounter followed a similar pattern, in which the killing of three Kashmiri civilians triggered protests in 2010. During the protests, a minor named Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, was ruthlessly beaten up by the police and killed on the street while he was returning from tuition. His murder sparked months of protests in Kashmir, in which 120 young people were killed and thousands injured. Much was made of the justice done in the case of the three civilians killed in the Machil fake encounter. And yet, now, the same pattern of killing continues unabated, the statement said.
Since army deployment in civilian areas in the Valley, shielded by the draconian AFSPA, thousands of such killings, as well as forced disappearance and rapes have taken place. The killing of two youth in Chattergam; the Pathribal fake encounter followed by the firing on unarmed protesters at Brakpora; the firing by BSP killing 37 unarmed protesters in Bijbehara, are just some of the examples of brutal massacre and murder by the police, paramilitary and army in the valley. In all these cases, impunity is the norm. In spite of the CBI finding the Pathribal case to be a cold blooded, deliberate murder, permission to prosecute the accused Army officers was refused, and the Army eventually gave itself a clean chit, the statement added.
This is the reality about the role of security forces and state machinery in Kashmir. Will the government answer why this double standards towards Kashmiri people, where democratic civilian protests, be it against break down of power supply or against molestation or against any other atrocity, are routinely dealt with guns and live bullets by the security forces? Why are human rights and civil liberties of Kashmiri people and their fundamental right to life routinely violated and justice denied?
AISA strongly demands that the army and police personnel involved in the Handwara killings must be immediately arrested and brought to justice. Let us say a strong no to the unconscionable killings and sexual violence perpetrated by army on civilians in Kashmir in our name. We demand that the minor girl and her father be immediately released from detention and be allowed to meet support groups. We reject BJPs shameful branding of the incident as defamation of armed forces. AISA stands in solidarity with the families of the victims, the statement further added. (CNS)
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