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Blood on their hands: Expose of Indian Army’s shocking staged encounters

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New Delhi: Through shocking and revelatory confessions of an Indian Army officer on extrajudicial killings and state-sanctioned murders by the armed forces, journalist Kishalay Bhattacharjee’s latest book depicts how Indian state is built on violence and questions how a democracy can sustain acts which violate human rights for decades together.

In his book, “Blood on my hands” (Harper Collins; Pages: 200; Price: Rs. 250), Bhattacharjee’s conversations with an anonymous army officer serve as an expose for the highly regarded service in the country, the Indian Army.

The revelations explain significant shortcomings in the way the armed forces in the country are designed to function.

“The officers need a definite number of points to get a citation and earn their ranks and awards. Under this pressure, the army units bid to purchase a guy to be killed from the mafia,” Bhattacharjee told IANS, recalling from the confessions. The confessions is largely about killings in the North-East.

In order to earn the points, there are staged encounters of absolutely innocent people, Bhattacharjee said, adding that to earn money to stage the encounter (planting a gun etc.) the officers take to making extra bucks through narcotics, timber smuggling, and allowing human trafficking.

“I guess it was 300 points. Each kill brought five points. So these guys were short of ten points; and they contacted the mafia…They killed these two (from Bangladesh) just a day before they left, and the CRPF was roped in to aid the army,” read the confessions from the book.

One of the chapters, with confessions from the ‘inner circle’ of the army also indicates that the “succession and the big fights involving the army chiefs also has the staged encounters as a part.”

This could be one of the reasons, that it “embarrasses the Indian army”, that the book has been trending in Pakistan, Bhattacharjee said.

Born in Guwahati, Assam, Bhattacharjee, who has covered the conflict in north east region and the Maoist corridor for many years now, said belonging to the region gave him a bias that he had “absolutely no sympathy with militants or police.”

During his time, as a reporter in the region, he said, “whenever an encounter happened,we were forced to give the official version, and missed out on real information. That’s why in conflict reportage in India, most of the information is incorrect.”

Indian state has been built on violence, and violence has been institutionalised in the country through various laws, the journalist said. Many cases are just open and shut, and are not prosecuted, he said.

“When Indian union was created, we sent tanks to annexe regions — violence has been monopolised and institutionalised in the country. Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) was an Emergency act,” he said.

“How can an Emergency act, in a democracy, be in place for nearly 58 years!” he exclaimed.

There are over a dozen “draconian” acts in the country like the AFSPA — which have been causing “gross human right violations”,

Bhattacharjee added.

“There was a situation when a beggar was picked up from a railway station and killed. This mafia of supplying human beings to the army to be killed is something I did not know of and was deeply disturbed to know,” he explained.

His meeting with the army officer, who confession forms a major part of the book, “was rather accidental”, he said.

“I had met him during my stay in the north east. Apparently through one of my reports, I had helped him. Over a drink we started talking and later with his permission documented it,” Bhattacharjee said, talking about the process of writing the book.

With confessions from chief secretaries, army generals, home secretaries and police officials, he was not sure whether he should write the book, as he was told it would “defame the Indian army” he said.

But the voice of a very senior army personnel, who said the book must be written since the “mess must be cleared” made him pen down the facts, Bhattacharjee said.

The anecdote of Julius Robert Oppenheimer, who after testing the A-bomb in 1946, met the US President Harry Truman, to say “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands” has been stuck in his head while writing the book he said.

“The term as a title talks of pure murder, and doesn’t dilute the situation,” Bhattacharjee said, adding that his next book would reveal the dynamics of the adivasis and maoists in the country.