Resurgence of militancy, continuum of violence, prisoners: Report presents grim picture of J&K

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 8/5/2023 12:17:34 AM

NEW DELHI, Aug 4: The Jammu Kashmir Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir (JFHRJK) in its fourth report has questioned the government claims over improved security in Jammu and Kashmir and stated that the levels of violence are still worrying.
The report states that while the number of lives lost due to armed attacks and counter-insurgency operations was lower than in the previous year, the number of police personnel who died, including Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), continues to be high.
“71 CRPF troops were killed in the four years between 2019-2022, twice as many as in the previous four years, 2014-2018, when 35 died. By comparison, in the four years between 2012-2015, which can be categorised as an uneasy interregnum between the post-peace process years and the rise of conflict in the BJP-PDP coalition, 27 CRPF troops were killed,” it said.
Resurgence of Militancy
The report has also drawn attention to the resurgence of militancy in Jammu after decades of peace.
It points out that total deaths due to militant attacks and counter- insurgency operations have more than halved from 182 between August 2021-June 2022 to 74 between August 2022-July 14, 2023. Civilian deaths have reduced from 43 to 28, security forces’ lives lost have come down from 44 to 19, and the number of militants or terrorists killed has fallen from 208 to 87.
“Looked at over the past four years, 2019-2023, the figures show a rising trend of violence between 2019-2020, when total deaths due to militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations were reported to be 52 in August-December 2019, rising to 321 in 2020, followed by a declining trend, when the number fell to 274 in 2021, 253 in 2022 and 51 in January-July 14, 2023,” the report states
“When compared to the interregnum years of 2012-2015, however, the figures for civilian deaths between August 2022-July 2023 remain significantly higher than during 2012- 2015, when they fell below 20 in four of the five years (it was 28 in 2013). Moreover, between August 2019-July 2023, 128 civilians died in militant attacks and counter- insurgency operations, compared to 85 in 2012-2015 (January-December),” it further adds.
The report pointed out to escalation of militancy related incident in Rajouri and stated, “The 2022 delimitation of fresh legislative constituencies, adding Poonch and Rajouri to Kashmir’s Anantnag, may have added to the alienation that these Muslim-majority areas face with the sharpening of communal divides in Jammu.”
The revival of village defence committees in 2022, renamed village defence guards, added further to insecurity through the proliferation of small arms. It was tried in 2002 by then home minister L.K. Advani, and found to be counter-productive, the report points out.
It also paints a worrying picture of targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits and migrant workers.
The report of the Forum, lead by Gopal Pillai and Radha Kumar, also found that Jammu and Kashmir had the largest number of licensed gun holders amongst union territories (and the highest per capita amongst states as well as union territories), at 500,105 in June 2023, or four in a hundred people (taking the 2011 census’ population figures). In December 2016, the last available data, there were 369,191 licence holders. Between 2016 and 2018, after which the issuing of gun licenses was banned, and January-June 2023, when the issuing of gun licenses was renewed, 130,914 fresh licenses were issued.
Abuse of UAPA, PSA
The report added that there has been no improvement in gross violations of the freedom of expression and movement, especially the rights of the media, and pointed to the arrests under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA).
The report states that Jammu and Kashmir had the highest number of cases registered as offences against the state amongst union territories at 284, and the fourth highest amongst states and union territories combined (after Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Assam). “ Of 668 people arrested for offences against the state, 651 were charge-sheeted, none were convicted, one was discharged and 26 were acquitted. In February 2023 it was reported that up to 22 people had been detained under the PSA since January 1,” it noted.
Arrests of Journalists and Activists
In March 2023, journalist Irfan Mehraj was arrested by the NIA under the UAPA, as part of its ongoing investigations into Kashmiri non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trusts and societies alleged to fund ‘terror-related activities’.94 The NIA alleged that Mehraj propagated ‘a secessionist agenda’; he was ‘a close associate’ of prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez, and worked at his organisation, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS). Mehraj had left the JKCCS in March 2022. He was founding-editor of the Wande Magazine and contributed to, the Deustche Welle newspaper and Al Jazeera, writing extensively about human rights violations in Kashmir, including fake encounter killings, and the situation in Kashmir after the reading down of Article 370.
Along with Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir has the highest rate of undertrials as a proportion of its prison population at 91%, against the national average of 76%, it said.
The region’s prisons can house a total of 3,629 inmates, but they lodged 5,300 as of June 2023, it added.
The report points out, “In September 2022, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported that the number of crimes against children in Jammu and Kashmir had risen from 606 in 2020 to 845 in 2021 (it was 470 in 2019). In the same period, crimes committed by juveniles had risen from 171 in 2020 to 323 in 2021 (it was 299 in 2019). In November 2022, a supreme court bench of Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Ajay Rastogi questioned the efficacy of the 2015 juvenile justice act, which laid down guidelines that accorded with international laws for dealing with juvenile criminals. ‘We have started gathering an impression that the leniency with which the juveniles are dealt with in the name of goal of reformation is making them more and more emboldened in indulging in such heinous crimes’, the judges remarked.”
The report also notes a rise in crime against women. It states, “The 2022 NCRB report also showed that crimes against women have risen steadily, from 3,069 in 2019 to 3,405 in 2020 and 3,937 in 2021. Of the 3,405 crimes reported in 2020, 2,329 were pending investigation in 2021. Of the 6,275 cases to be investigated in 2021, 1,135 were declared false. The vast majority of cases were of kidnapping and sexual harassment.



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