Lawlessness in Police Custody- Custodial Killings in Kashmir
Lawlessness in Police Custody- Police custodial killings in Kashmir have become a lived nightmare for Kashmiris.
An alleged custodial killing in Kashmir yet again. It stirred unrest in the Kashmir valley after 21-year-old Muslim Muneer Lone died in police custody earlier this month. Kashmir’s Srinagar witnessed an appalling demonstration on 10th July by an aggrieved family along with the dead body of a young boy. Muslim was the sole bread earner of his family.
The Jammu and Kashmir police arrested him on 9th July for his alleged involvement in a case of theft. While being in police custody he died the very next day. Muslim’s father Muneer Ahmad Lone was an employee in the Army’s Srinagar Cantonment. His passing away a few years ago plunged his family of a wife and two sons into abject poverty. Muslim had recently purchased a load carrier vehicle, which he used to support his family and earn some money. Muslim’s death has left his mother and an unemployed brother shattered.
The family alleges that Muslim died in police custody due to unknown circumstances. The police, on the other hand, have denied any responsibility for his death. Instead, the police accuse Muslim of being a drug addict and claim that he died due to drug overdose. “During questioning his health condition got worse as he had taken heavy drugs and was not responding well. After that, he was handed over to his family members. They took him to hospital where he had died,” Senior Superintendent (SSP) Rakesh Balwal told Rising Kashmir.
Also, read Police Attach Properties in Kashmir for Harbouring Militants
Died due to Torture in Police Custody, Family Alleges
Muslim’s family has denied the allegations of the police and claim that he died of torture in police custody. “They are trying to cover up the crime. Has the police ever caught him with drugs? There is no police case against him anywhere in Kashmir. They are justifying his death by saying that he was a drug addict. We demand an impartial probe”, alleged Zeeshan, Muslim’s cousin.
Muslim’s fifty-three-year-old mother Shafiqa recalls the occurrences one after the other. Post the arrest of her son, she recalled the insensitive and inhumane behavior of the police officials. “A policeman (name withheld) told me that Muslim was being probed in a case of theft and that they will set him free soon. Had I known that he was going to get killed, I would have never let them enter the house,” said Shafiqa, weeping inconsolably.
Shafiqa reported that the same police crew returned in the afternoon. She claimed that they arrived in a private vehicle with only male police officers present in it. After which they informed her that Muslim had lost consciousness and that she needed to report to the police station. Narrating the horror she said the car came to a complete stop around 15 minutes into the trip. “The policeman instructed me to switch to another vehicle that was parked on the side of the road, where after entering I saw Muslim lying unconscious on the middle seat”, she said. While opening the knot of her scarf she shows Rs 400 which she said the police had given her. After making her sign some paperwork the police took them to their residence instead of rushing them to the hospital.
The police authorities are unclear on why they didn’t take a detainee who lost consciousness straight to the hospital. After rushing her son to the hospital, the doctors declared him brought dead.
Read here India Bans Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT) schools in Kashmir
The Cycle of Custodial Killings in Kashmiris
On March 17, 2019, Indian security personnel took a young school principal from his home in south Kashmir’s Awantipora area. People in the Valley learned of his passing three days after his arrest. The 29-year-old school teacher Rizwan “died in police custody,” according to a statement released by the state police. They took Rizwan to the dreadful ‘Cargo’. Cargo is an infamous detention center in Srinagar that bears testimony to Kashmir’s brutal past of torture and custodial killings.
Rizwan’s body came in a temporary tent for the funeral service on March 19. Mubashir, Rizwan’s brother said that it was impossible to not notice the injury marks on his brother’s dead body.
“It was as if a saw was used on him during torture. Pieces of flesh were plucked from his body as if by tongs. I have never seen such brutality in my life. His legs had turned blue due to brutal lashing,” Mubashir told The Quint.
Also, read India Gags-up Media in Kashmir
During a raid in September 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir Police ‘unjustly’ detained 23-year-old Irfan, a resident of Sopore. He also died while in police custody. Irfan’s family claimed that his body had severe injury marks and they suspected foul play by the police. “We don’t expect justice” Irfan’s family said.
Targetted Custodial Killings of Kashmiris
There have been several incidents of custodial killings of Kashmiris that have taken place outside the valley. Police have targeted Kashmiri students, small shopkeepers, and businessmen and taken them into police custody in different states of India. One such Kashmiri student was Mudasir Kamran, who died in 2013 under mysterious circumstances immediately after being in police custody.
Read here Gendered Violence in Indian Administered Kashmir
Torture as the Defacto Cause of Custodial Killings
According to the Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), there were 14,236 deaths in detention between 2001 and 2010 (1,504 in police custody and 12,732 in judicial custody), or 4.3 deaths on average each day. The majority of fatalities are a direct result of torture during detention. The National Human Rights Commission lacks authority over the armed forces (section 19 of the Human Rights Protection Act (NHRC, 2011)). Therefore, there are not many registered cases of deaths in custody by law enforcement and correctional facilities. These deaths either result from government incompetence about food hygiene standards and denial of medical care, or from illegal, protracted incarceration and torture.
Since the turmoil began with the insurgency in the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s, the Indian government has consistently employed armed force and police to try to get the local populace to submit. It has become a common practice of the police and army officials to detain common Kashmiris in order to identify suspected militants. Since police use suspicion as the reason for an arrest rather than solid proof, they have been abusing their authority and custodial killings have become a lived nightmare for the Kashmiris.
Also, read The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
26 Million People Affected By Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
Powerful earthquakes and aftershocks struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on the 6th and 20th of February, 2023.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 26 million people need humanitarian assistance. The death toll is climbing above 50,000 and is expected to rise as many victims remain missing.
Furthermore, the WHO calls the Turkey-Syria earthquakes the “worst natural disaster” in the region in 100 years.
Turkey-Syria Earthquake: What Happened?
On February 6th 2023, the first earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and the northern Syrian border, measuring a magnitude of 7.7. Within minutes entire cities turned into rubble. Following this, a second earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.6 hit the same region a little later.
Two weeks later, on February 20th, another earthquake of 6.4 magnitudes struck the same border area previously hit. Moreover, there have been more than 9,000 aftershocks recorded since.
The Aftermath of the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
These earthquakes caused immeasurable devastation for an estimated 26 million people damaging and destroying homes and infrastructure, including approximately 214,000 buildings across both countries.
An estimated 240,000 rescue workers continued working in quake-hit provinces in Turkey. They persevered for weeks to find survivors trapped under rubble despite no survivors found for long periods of time. An estimated 1.9 million people are in temporary shelters, hotels, and public facilities.
As of February 25th 2023, in Turkey alone, 44,218 people died due to the earthquakes, while the announced death toll in Syria was 5,914 people.
Selective Humanitarianism During Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The international response to the Turkey-Syria earthquake has disproportionately overlooked the Syrian people’s suffering. Syria has faced 12 years of civil war, and with international borders blocked, many Syrians received no help in the first few days after the earthquakes.
Read more: The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria 2023: A Forgotten War.
It took over a week after the earthquakes for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to issue a three-month authorization for United Nations (UN) aid deliveries to pass through two more border crossings. These significant aid delays resulted from the regime’s influence over affected regions.
These unacceptable delays entirely defy the principles of humanitarian law. As a result, Syrians have limited access to search-and-rescue reinforcements and lifesaving aid, unnecessarily costing many precious lives. The UN has failed the people of northwest Syria, highlighting inadequacies within the current system.
The slow humanitarian response to the earthquakes severely affecting northwest Syria illustrates the inadequacy of the UN Security Council-mandated cross-border aid mechanism in Syria. Thus, this crisis highlights the urgent need for alternatives to be put in place.
Read more: The Repatriation of ISIS Children Detained in Camps in Northeast Syria 2022.
The UN Pledges a $1 Billion Appeal For Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The UN launched a $1 billion fundraising appeal to support the humanitarian needs of those affected. This appeal fund will support Turkey’s “once in a generation disaster” for three months and a $397 million appeal to help 4.9 million people in Syria.
So far, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund has donated $11.7 million. The UN held that so far, Denmark is the only country recorded to donate aid worth $1.5 million.
Human Rights Concerns Following Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
Health infrastructure was destroyed in many places, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid. In Gaziantep, a major city in south-central Turkey, hundreds of people are sleeping in tents in different parts of town, and trash has begun to pile up in public parks where some of these tents are located.
Therefore, hygiene problems, as well as inadequate housing, are some of the biggest problems in the region. In addition, the inadequacy of public toilets and the lack of infrastructure to use these toilets increases the risk of epidemics in the region.
Children’s Rights in the Aftermath of the Earthquakes
According to UNICEF, the recent earthquakes have affected an estimated 5 million children. Natural disasters such as earthquakes have severe consequences for vulnerable groups in society, such as children.
As the recovery efforts in Syria and Turkey continue, children’s rights must be a priority. All children must have access to fundamental rights such as food, clean water, and housing. Furthermore, children’s access to education and protection from exploitation and abuse is imperative. Many children in the region are unidentifiable as they are too young to know their full names, while hundreds of children’s parents remain missing.
Implementing the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is of fundamental importance, especially in times of crisis.
Syrian refugees in Turkey Face Forced Return to Earthquake-Strikken Regions
An estimated 1.7 million Syrian refugees lived in the ten southern Turkish provinces devastated by the earthquakes. Unfortunately, these refugees rely on temporary or international protection status. Without prior authorization, these refugees cannot travel to other provinces.
However, following the earthquakes, Turkish authorities issued a directive allowing refugees in these ten provinces to travel to other regions, except Istanbul, for up to 90 days if they could secure their accommodation.
However, in the first few days following the disaster, many fled to Istanbul, resulting in the Directorate General of Migration Management revising its decision to a case-by-case basis due to Turkey’s economic difficulties. There has been a growing anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey which has become the host of the world’s largest refugee population.
Following this, a second directive provided refugees with a 60-day exemption to travel to other provinces without prior authorization. The question remains as to where these Syrian refugees will return to following the expiration of the directive.
A Committed and Sustained Global Humanitarian Response is Needed
The aftermath of these devastating earthquakes requires a committed and sustained international humanitarian response. Thousands are missing, and 1.5 million are homeless without shelter, food, clean water, and access to healthcare.
The true impact of this disaster will not be fully understood for decades. The international community must step up and provide aid and relief to the earthquake victims. Most importantly, human rights protections must be at the heart of the response.
Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe 2023: Explained
Yemen has been experiencing an armed conflict and humanitarian crisis since 2015, with seven brutal years of pain, fear, bloodshed and death. This article provides an update on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as of February 2023.
Background to Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents—Shiite rebels with links to Iran and a history of rising against the Sunni government—took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government.
Two-thirds of the Yemini Population is in Need of Humanitarian Assistance
As of February 2023, two-thirds of the Yemeni population requires humanitarian assistance. The “Houthis” forces backed by Iran, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, the internationally recognized Yemeni government, and UAE-backed forces, including the Southern Transitional Council (STC), have failed to spare Yemeni civilians grave human rights violations.
There has been a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law protections. Thus, the war has resulted in continuous incidents of abuse that have killed and injured thousands of civilians.
Nearly six million Yemenis are displaced from their homes since the beginning of the war, including 4.3 million internally displaced inside Yemen.
So far, there are no signs of the war stopping soon.
Parties to the War Responsible For Grave Human Rights Violations
Parties to the conflict in Yemen continue to commit grave human rights violations. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, the clashes between forces have led to continuous unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes against civilians.
Houthi forces have used banned antipersonnel landmines and fired artillery indiscriminately into populated areas. Moreover, Houthi forces have launched indiscriminate ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.
Read more: Children’s Rights in Yemen Are Teetering on the Edge of A Catastrophe.
Failed Truce in April 2022
An UN-mediated truce entered force on April 2nd 2022. The truce lasted six months, ending on October 2nd 2022. However, human rights violations continued, and the truce failed as parties broke the agreement with continued fighting and hostilities.
All parties to the conflict failed to protect innocent civilians’ lives. The truce in Yemen ended as both sides rejected a proposal presented by UN Special Envoy for Yemen to extend and expand the agreement.
However, on a brighter note, the truce brought noticeable tangible benefits to the Yemeni population. For example, access to humanitarian aid improved, and widespread economic opportunities became more readily available. Furthermore, there was a considerable decrease in violence and casualties across Yemen. A report by ACLED revealed the lowest number of reported political violence-related deaths in Yemen since January 2015.
These noticeable and valuable improvements should not ignore that political violence continued in Yemen despite the truce. Worringly, 200 people died every month during the truce due to political violence.
20 Million Yeminis’ Face Food Insecurity
The humanitarian crisis hit a dangerously dire point in 2022 due to constant obstruction of aid from reaching civilians. Houthi forces and the Yemeni government continue unnecessarily imposing restrictions and regulations on humanitarian organizations and aid projects.
Moreover, enforced disappearances are a massive problem in Yemen, with little accountability or investigations. In addition, the economy’s collapse, the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to Yemen being one of the world’s most unsettling humanitarian disasters.
More than 20 million Yemenis are facing food insecurity and have little to no access to health care services. The war has resulted in deliberate unlawful attacks against civilian homes, hospitals, schools, and bridges. For years, these war crimes have continued with impunity.
Read more: Yemen: War crimes hidden behind rampant violations.
FSO Safer Threatened a Humanitarian and Environmental Catastrophe
The FSO Safer is a “ticking time bomb”, holding an estimated 1.14 million barrels of light crude oil. Since 2015, the Safer has been stranded off the coast of Yemen.
Yemen’s national oil company owns the FSO. Due to the Yemen war, all production and export operations related to FSO are suspended. However, millions of barrels of crude oil remain onboard.
The ongoing crisis in Yemen has made the Safer too dangerous to move. According to the UN, the Safer could explode or rupture anytime, threatening an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. This dire situation could quickly become one of the worst oil spills in history, devastating Yemen and the environment. Luckily, a two-stage UN-coordinated plan to prevent the Safer from exploding or breaking apart was initiated in March 2022.
In September 2022, the UN stated it had raised sufficient funds to initiate a four-month-long operation to transfer oil from the Safer to a secure vessel. Following this first step, a second stage will involve installing a replacement vessel within 18 months. The rescue mission is estimated to cost up to $115 million for both stages.
However, despite these initiated plans, recent efforts to rescue the Safer have been unsuccessful due to the region’s ongoing conflict.
Yemini Women’s and Girl’s Rights Under Threat
The Houthi rebels continue discriminating against girls and women and restricting their freedom and rights. There have been significant systematic violations of women’s and girls’ rights. The de facto law in Houthi-controlled areas requires women to travel with a mahram (a close male relative or their husband). In addition, evidence of written permission from their male guardian will also suffice.
Women’s access to healthcare services, particularly reproductive healthcare, have severely limited since the war began. Furthermore, women’s dress code, access to education and freedom of expression is severely controlled and limited by men.
The eight-year war in Yemen has caused immense suffering, and a recent UNDP report estimated that the number of those killed due to Yemen’s war could reach 1.3 million by 2030. Furthermore, the death toll from Yemen’s war is estimated to reach 377,000 by the end of 2021. To put matters into perspective, an estimated 70% of those killed will be children under the age of five years.
The evidence discussed in this article reveals alarming discoveries which must be addressed immediately. Mainly associated with girls’ and women’s rights, environmental threats, food insecurities and an increased number of civilians needing humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, an increasingly worsening economy, decimated public infrastructure, and a year-on-year decline in humanitarian funding have put Yemenis’ lives under direct threat.
The situation in Yemen is a complex protection crisis at its very core. Many Yemenis struggle to live in safety and dignity and enjoy basic fundamental rights or access to essential services.
This worrying reality must be addressed and changed in 2023 with more focused attention on protecting and upholding human rights for everyone.
India Government Unleashes Bulldozer in Kashmir
Straight out of the Israeli settler colonial playbook, the Indian government has unleashed bulldozers on the houses and businesses of the Kashmiri people in Kashmir. The government claims that the land which is being cleared is state land encroached upon by the owners. In the same breath, the government claims that it is only influential people who are being targeted. It claims that Kashmir-based politicians had encroached on the state land during their rule in Kashmir. The government had assured that poor people would not be touched by the eviction drive. However, the claim is far from the truth as common masses have also been evicted.
Using these claims, earlier the government was evicting people arbitrarily. There were some instances where some shops were sealed in Srinagar even though the property belonged to the shopkeepers and not the state. Some people had requested the government to make the eviction drive transparent. The government later released a list of thousands of people who have supposedly encroached on the state land. Contrary to the Indian government’s claims, the list does not discriminate between the poor and the rich influential people.
Hopelessness and Helplessness in Kashmir
Even though the eviction drive threatens to make thousands of people in Kashmir homeless, the Kashmiri people have not yet resisted the move publicly. There have been no protests in Kashmir. However, there have been protests by Muslims in the Hindu-majority Jammu region. The eerie silence of the Kashmiri people on this matter gives a sense of hopelessness and helplessness to the Kashmiri people.
The Indian government has so intimidated Kashmiri people that there is no resistance to the government’s eviction drive. The current Modi-led regime in India is ruling in Kashmir through fear and intimidation.
Also Read: Kashmiri Journalists Caught in the Battle of Narratives
Kashmir’s Civil Society Crushed
The Indian government has crushed the civil society in Kashmir that would work as a buffer between the state and the people. Most of the civil society members are incarcerated in different jails across Kashmir. Similarly, Kashmiri human rights activists have also been jailed for one or the other pretext.
Therefore, there is really no one in Kashmir who would talk to the government on behalf of the Kashmiri people to stop this eviction drive. The leadership that would steer Kashmir through this difficult drive is in Indian jails.
Indian Civil Society Not Forthcoming
The Modi-led Indian government has also silenced civil society and human rights organizations in India. Members of Indian civil society that were sympathetic to Kashmiri people and human rights organizations in India have been silenced. Amnesty International’s Indian branch was also shut down after the government went after it for receiving alleged illegal foreign funding.
This has left Kashmiris without any allies in India. Nobody now talks about the Indian government’s wrongdoings in India.
Also Read: Police Attach Properties in Kashmir for Harbouring Militants
Also Read: India Bans Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT) schools in Kashmir
Media in India Silenced
The media in Kashmir does not really report anything beyond what the government tells them to report. Kashmiri media outlets and journalists have been reduced to stenographers who just parrot the sentences that the government’s public relations department feeds them. There have been no independent reports on the eviction drive by any media outlet in Kashmir.
It must be mentioned that the government successfully silenced the media in Kashmir after it jailed many journalists for reporting anti-national news. The jailed journalists have been upheld as an example by the government for other journalists in Kashmir.
Similarly, the media in India has been silent on the eviction drive in Kashmir. All the media outlets except a few independent outlets have defected to the government’s side. The independent media outlets are very cautious with their news reports as the government has filed many against all of them.
The state of media in India as well as Kashmir has made it impossible to get any news on Kashmir that is critical of the government.
Also Read: Lawlessness in Police Custody- Custodial Killings in Kashmir
Digitization and Privacy
Interestingly, the eviction drive came after the government digitized the land records. Nobody had thought the digitization of land records would be used to evict Kashmiri people from their homes. Now the government has said that it intends to give every family in Kashmir a unique number to identify it. The purpose of such an exercise is supposed to provide services in a hassle-free manner. However, the Kashmiri people cannot believe any such word from the government. It would interfere with the privacy of the people and would lead to dislodging of the Kashmiri people.
The eviction drive is one of the many inhuman policies that the Indian government has implemented in Kashmir. Before the eviction drive, the government brought a media policy in order to silence the media. Similarly, the properties of people who are supposedly anti-nationals were seized earlier by the government. Many people are in jail for alleged anti-national activities. The Indian government is not going to stop here and will come up with other policies in future to make sure Kashmiri people are completely disempowered.
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