Srinagar:In last two years, South Kashmir has witnessed an increased number of extrajudicial executions at the hands of armed forces. The district Shopian, where 44 Rashtriya Rifles of Indian Army is camped, has been accused of various killings of civilians. On 23 February 2017, 44 RR was involved in the killing of a civilian lady Jana Begum during an encounter in Chittargam in Shopian. On 24 January 2018, 44 RR killed one minor boy Shakir Ahmad Mir and one lady Saima Wani near an encounter site at Chaigund village of Shopian. Again on 27 January 2018, army personnel from 44 RR shot dead 3 civilians in Ganowpora area of Shopian. The police filed an FIR against Major Aditya of 44 RR (Garhwal Rifles). Yesterday, it was the same unit of 44 RR who have been accused of killing of 4 civilians and 2 militants allegedly in an encounter in Pahnoo area of Shopian. The locals have refuted the Army version and have said that the Army has killed the four civilians in a cold-blooded manner. In a span of one year, 44 RR stationed in Shopian is involved in the killing of at least 9 civilians in the district.

It is pertinent to note that following the killing of three civilians in Gonowpora on 27 January 2018, government next day said they have filed an FIR against the accused Major Aditya of 44 RR. However, the government in their status report filed before the Supreme Court said that they have not named Major Aditya in the FIR, following which the Supreme Court today stayed the investigation till 24 April.

The killing of four civilians by Indian Army’s 44 RR in Pahnoo area of Shopian district on 4 March is yet another instance of brutal and unbridled force used on civilians. These killings should be understood in the context of impunity enjoyed by the army generally and the specific emboldening which this particular army unity received in the form of moral and juridical impunity, when the Supreme Court stayed the FIR and there was a widespread support by Indian political parties and media for the accused.

While the Chief Minister has contradicted the Army by claiming that the four killed were civilians, as opposed to the Army version that they were Over Ground Workers (OGW’s), therefore it is expected that the government on their own will file an FIR and begin the investigations. But given the recent past context and the weak response of the Jammu and Kashmir government vis-a-vis crimes perpetrated by armed forces, it is difficult to imagine that anything leading to justice will be undertaken by the present dispensation.

The repetition of these unabated human rights abuses is directly a consequence of legal, political and moral impunity enjoyed by the armed forces in India and also the lack of will of the Jammu and Kashmir government to protect the life and liberties of people of Jammu and Kashmir. Unless the J&K government and government of India give up on the various forms of impunity provided to armed forces, these killings are expected to not stop.Spokesperson ,Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).



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