Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Independence primary demand in Kashmir: PUDR

Greater Kashmir, August 27, 2008

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‘Death toll stands at over 35′

New Delhi, Aug 26: Azaadi is the primary demand in Kashmir and the total loss of life during the two periods of curfew stands at over 35, says findings of a six-member team from four human rights organizations.

The report released on Tuesday here said the team arrived in Srinagar on 22 August and witnessed the massive protest meeting at the Idgah grounds.
“People gathered there publicly declared their primary demand for Azaadi (freedom) at the meeting venue and through numerous street processions in various streets of Srinagar on 22 and 23 August.

During our interviews with individual families and with groups, people voiced the same demand. A wide range of social and political organisations have also reiterated this demand,” said the report by People’s Democratic Forum (PDF), Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), Andhra Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir Coordination for Civil Society (JKCCS), Jammu and Kashmir and People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi.
The team conducted an investigation into the “economic blockade” in Kashmir and its aftermath. The team toured the districts of Srinagar, Budgam, Varmul, and Bandipora.

The main findings by the team also referred to use of curfew to create a confrontation, “The second time curfew was imposed with the express purpose of preventing the dharna at Lal Chowk. The previous gathering at Idgah, where this dharna was announced, had been peaceful. Therefore curfew became the means by which a confrontation was created, which could have been easily avoided. The clamping down on media and the brutal attacks on journalists happened while the team was still there. Arrests of leaders, raids of homes and intimidation of local residents by the army and CRPF are happeningeven now,” the report said.

In another revelation, the team found that there was deliberate blockade of supplies and its indifferent handling. The report mentions name of many who were refused ambulance service. “Imran Ahmed Wani who was injured in the Bagi Mehtab firing on 12 August was deliberately refused ambulance service for nearly two hours. In fact, when he did get into one, it was attacked at Rambagh bridge. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital”.

“What is unbelievable is the attack on SMHS Hospital on 11 and 12 August successively.”

The team was told that the funeral procession of Ishfaq Ahmed Kana, shot dead at Qamarwari Chowk, Srinagar on 11 August, to the Eidgah Martyrs Memorial was attacked by the CRPF with lathis [batons].

In most cases, the families have not registered any FIRs against the forces as they fear going to the police station or that it would invite further violence. Where families of those killed were able to go to police stations after many days, they found that FIRs were already lodged stating that the protestors attacked security forces who in turn were forced to open fire.
“When families tried to get their version recorded, the same was refused. Complaints are rejected. In the case of the Bagi Mahtab killings where the families of the deceased (Javed Ahmed Mir and Imran
Ahmed Wani) were given a totally false version of the happenings in the FIR. When challenged, the police said that the families must come ten days later with 4 eye witnesses to corroborate their story.

Thisrefusal even to receive complaints is tantamount to making the security forces judges of their own actions.”

The team reports that on 24 August, within a few hours four media persons, on their way to office had been badly beaten up at Rambagh by the CRPF. The identity cards and passes issued during the last phase of curfew presented by the journalists were rejected.

“Essential supplies to Srinagar city, such as medicines, water tankers and milk, have been blocked and this ‘blockade’ has been done at the instance of the CRPF. The entire control of land and order in Srinagar city has all been handed over to the CRPF and news reports have suggested that the local police have also been beaten by the CRPF.”

The investigation team said that the lack of any action against these forces even where the crimes are established by eye-witnesses and reported in newspapers, makes people lose whatever faith in the government that may have remained after decades of army rule.

“Despite these happenings, the people of Kashmir have shown exemplary restraint and ensured that all processions and public gatherings after the lifting of curfew remain wholly peaceful.

This situation should have been utilized to initiate political dialogue instead of the visit by the National Security Advisor,” the report said.

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