JAMMU AND KASHMIR
29 army personnel court martialed since 2001 in Valley
The reply to and RTI comes after the Centre refused sanction for prosecution in cases of human rights violation against the security forces in the state
Since 2001, the Army has court martialed 29 personnel involved in human rights violations in Kashmir and breach of military discipline. The punishments include imprisonment, dismissal from service, forfeiture of salary for a particular period and denial of other service benefits. The information has been revealed in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application.
This is first time in 22 years that the Army has come out with information on its court-martials in Jammu and Kashmir. This revelation becomes more important in the light of the Centre having refused sanction for prosecution in cases of human rights violation against the security forces in the state.
In the high profile case of the rape of a 30-year-old Haja Begum (name changed to protect identity) and her 12-year-old daughter in Kupwara in November 2004, the Army has dismissed the guilty Major Rehman Hussain from service. Incidentally, the court-martial was headed by the current General Officer Commanding 15 Corps Lieutenant General Ata Hasnain who was then a Brigadier.
Similarly, Major Dhan Singh was dismissed and Major Sanjay Ahlawat “severely reprimanded” and ordered to forfeit two years of his service “for purposes of promotion and pension”. Meanwhile, Major VK Rawat, accused of killing Riaz Ahmad, a civilian in Dessa in cross-fire, was absolved.
There are other 24 soldiers convicted of crimes such as murder and rape and violation of military discipline. Sapper Bhchittar Singh of 3 Rashtriya Rifles has been found guilty of “cowardice”. He has been given three years of rigorous imprisonment for “misbehaving in such manner as to show cowardice”, in the presence of the enemy.
However, the Army has not come out with complete details of the human rights violations in each case. For example, in case of a soldier found guilty of murder, the reply to the RTI merely states that the jawan committed “a civil offence, that is to say murder”. In rare a case, one Sowar Ram Niwas involved in a murder of a civilian has been ordered to “suffer death by being hanged by the neck until he be dead”.
Among the 29 cases, Army has court-martialed 15 soldiers accused of murder and two accused of rape.
However, the Central government hasn’t granted sanction for prosecution of even a single case of human rights excess in J-K from 1990-2011. There are 50 cases in all, with 31 of them against army and 19 others against paramilitary forces.
The cases involve rapes, custodial murders and fake encounters with J-K Police in its investigation establishing the crime in all the cases. In the 50 cases, sanction for prosecution has been declined in 26 cases while as it is awaited in 16 cases. Interestingly, in eight other cases, the J-K Home Department says it has “recommended” the grant of sanction.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.