Kashmir crisis: the other side of the story

Aakar Patel

I want to write about violence in Kashmir, and I especially want to address India’s children who may only know one side of the story. In the last few days, there has been anger over the fact that FIRs were filed against Armymen for killing three citizens in Kashmir. In response, some children of soldiers took action. A report said: “At a time when FIR against Armymen and withdrawal of cases against stone-pelters is a subject of hot debate in J&K, children of two Army officers took an unprecedented step to move the National Human Rights Commission, asking it to protect Army personnel’s human rights being violated daily by stone-pelters.”

“Preeti, Kajal and Prabhav, children of two Lt Colonels and a retired Naib Subedar, presented NHRC chief, justice H.L. Dattu with a complaint, which complimented the apex human rights body and Amnesty International for zealously protecting the human rights of locals in disturbed areas of J&K but complained that they are turning a blind eye towards the plight of Army personnel who face threat to life every day from stone-pelters. They said a sub-optimal war was being waged in J&K since Independence and the state, as well as the Centre, has decided to enforce AFSPA to require Army to assist the ‘failed state machinery’.”

We are familiar with this narrative and I need not write about it further. I would like India’s children to know something else. In January, this question was asked in Parliament: “Will the defence minister be pleased to state: a) the number of cases received by the Central government from the J&K government for sanction of prosecution of Armed Forces personnel under Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, (AFSPA), 1990; (b) the number of such cases in which sanctions were granted, denied and pending; (c) the details for each request received including its year of receiving, offences alleged, outcome of investigation, current status of the sanction for prosecution; and (d) the reasons for denying or pending status of sanction for prosecution?”

The answer was provided by minister of state in the ministry of defence as follows:
“(a) A total of 50 cases have been received by the Central government from the Government of Jammu and Kashmir for prosecution sanction against Armed Forces personnel under AFSPA, 1990. (b) & (c): A statement giving the details of the total number of cases received in each of the years, offence alleged and the current status of the sanction granted/ denied/ pending based on the investigation is annexed. (d) The reason for denial/pendency of prosecution sanction is on account of lack of sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case.”

The cases against the Armymen are listed as follows:
In 2001, one FIR filed for killing (permission to prosecute soldiers denied). In 2005, two FIRs for killings (permission denied). In 2006, 17 FIRs, one for rape, one for molestation, six for kidnap and murder, the rest mostly for killings (in all cases permission denied, except for one case of kidnapping in which the permission is still pending). In 2007, 13 FIRs, one for rape, one for torture and murder, the others mostly for killing (permission denied). In 2008, three FIRs, for rape and theft and murder (permission denied). In 2009, two FIRs for murder and kidnap (permission denied). In 2010, four FIRs, all for murder (permission denied). In 2011, two FIRs, one for murder (permission denied) and one for kidnap (pending). In 2013, three FIRs for murder (permission denied). In 2014, two FIRs for killing (permission denied in one and is pending in another). In 2016, one FIR for killing (permission denied).

The total number of soldiers who have ever faced trial in a civilian court for a crime in Kashmir is zero. The Army children may feel offended at the fact that FIRs are filed against soldiers. The FIRs don’t really matter as we have seen. There is no justice for Kashmiris in India, according to the data given by the government of India. We should all feel offended by this. The Army pretends to give justice in its own martial courts which are closed off to victims and survivors. If you are interested in how soldiers are let off through this route, read what has happened in the matters of Pathribal and Machil.

There is another thing we should feel offended by. The Indian Army is using children to demand protection from other Indians. The Indian Army is afraid of cases filed by Indian citizens in an Indian police station by an Indian policeman and of facing trial in an Indian court under an Indian judge. I do not find that offensive, I find it embarrassing. Fortunately for the Army, no matter what government is in power, it is immune from justice in India no matter what crime its soldiers commit. Jawans can rape, murder, kidnap and torture but they are guaranteed to get away because no government will ever change “denied” and “pending” to be “approved”. Indian children, and all of us, should sometimes consider why thousands of Kashmiris are pelting stones in the first place.

The article was first published in Deccan Chronicle