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.
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.
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.
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
India: Rise in Police Encounters in UP Under Yogi Adityanath’s Leadership
Since Yogi Adityanath assumed office as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the state has witnessed a significant rise in the number of police encounters, sparking intense debate and concerns over human rights violations and extrajudicial killings. While the government argues that these encounters are a necessary tool to combat crime, critics and human rights organizations contend that they raise serious questions about due process, transparency, and the rule of law.
Under the leadership of Chief Minister Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh has experienced a surge in reported encounters between the police and alleged criminals. These encounters often involve suspects in cases ranging from organized crime to petty offenses. The encounters typically result in the death of the alleged criminals, with the police claiming self-defence or retaliatory action.
An investigation of police records by The Indian Express reveals that since March 2017, when Yogi Adityanath took charge, and till date, the state has witnessed 186 encounters. This works out to more than one alleged criminal being killed by the police every 15 days.
Supporters of Police Encounters
Supporters of these encounters argue that they have contributed to a decrease in crime rates and instilled a sense of safety among the public. The government points to statistics showing a decline in major crimes as evidence of the effectiveness of this approach. However, critics remain skeptical about the veracity of these claims and emphasize the need for a thorough and impartial investigation into each encounter.
Read here, “The Kerela Story” Controversy in India
Human Rights Organizations on Police Encounters
Human rights organizations and activists have raised serious concerns regarding the legality and propriety of these encounters. They argue that extrajudicial killings erode the foundations of a democratic society and undermine the principles of justice and fairness. These encounters bypass the judicial process and deny individuals their right to a fair trial, potentially leading to the abuse of power and the violation of human rights.
Self-defence Claims on Police Encounters
There have been allegations of encounters being staged or manipulated to fabricate self-defense claims. Concerns have also been raised about the lack of transparency surrounding the circumstances of these encounters, with limited independent oversight or mechanisms to ensure accountability. Such issues further erode public trust in law enforcement agencies and the justice system.
The Uttar Pradesh Government on Police Encounters
In response to mounting criticism, the Uttar Pradesh government has defended the encounters as necessary in the fight against crime and asserts that all encounters are conducted within the framework of the law. They emphasize that these operations are carried out to protect the safety and security of the citizens. However, the lack of independent investigations and public scrutiny has fuelled scepticism and calls for greater transparency.
The Rise in Police Encounters
The rise in police encounters in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Adityanath’s tenure has drawn attention not only within India but also internationally. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have expressed concerns about the pattern of extrajudicial killings and the potential violation of human rights. They have called for independent investigations into these encounters to ensure that the principles of justice and human rights are upheld.
Critics argue that a comprehensive approach to law enforcement should prioritize measures such as professional training, intelligence-led operations, and an efficient and impartial judicial system. Strengthening these areas would provide a more sustainable and accountable framework for crime control while preserving the fundamental rights of all individuals.
Balancing the need for effective law enforcement with the protection of human rights and the rule of law remains a significant challenge. It is essential for the Uttar Pradesh government to undertake measures that address these concerns, ensure transparent and independent investigations into encounters, and establish mechanisms for accountability.
The police encounters in Uttar Pradesh since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath assumed office have ignited a contentious debate over the methods employed in combating crime. Striking the right balance between security and the protection of individual rights is crucial for the state to foster a safe and just society. Upholding the principles of due process, transparency, and accountability will be key to restoring public trust and upholding the rule of law in Uttar Pradesh.
In recent developments, the controversial rise of police encounters in Uttar Pradesh has gained further attention and sparked renewed discussions about the need for accountability and transparency.
Civil Society and Human Rights Advocacy
Civil society organizations and human rights activists have been vocal in their condemnation of extrajudicial killings and the lack of accountability in encounters. They have continued to raise awareness about the issue through campaigns, public awareness programs, and legal advocacy. These efforts have played a significant role in keeping the issue in the public spotlight and demanding justice for the victims.
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The issue of encounters in Uttar Pradesh has drawn international attention. Human rights organizations and foreign governments have expressed their concerns over extrajudicial killings and violations of human rights. The international community has called for independent investigations and accountability, urging the Indian government to uphold its international obligations and protect the rights of all individuals.
While the recent developments indicate a growing recognition of the need for accountability and transparency in encounters, there is still much work to be done. It is crucial for the Uttar Pradesh government to take concrete steps to ensure independent and impartial investigations into encounters, establish mechanisms for accountability, and provide support to victims’ families.
Addressing the root causes of crime, improving the professionalism and training of law enforcement agencies, and strengthening the judicial system are essential components of a comprehensive approach to law enforcement that respects human rights and upholds the rule of law.
The ongoing discussions, judicial interventions, and advocacy efforts are crucial in holding authorities accountable and bringing about systemic reforms. Only through a collective commitment to justice, transparency, and the protection of human rights can Uttar Pradesh strive towards a society where the rule of law prevails and the rights and dignity of all individuals are safeguarded.
Lack of Accountability
Critics argue that the government has failed to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their actions in encounters. The absence of independent and impartial investigations into these incidents has created an environment where impunity prevails. Without proper scrutiny and consequences for wrongdoing, there is little deterrent to prevent potential abuses of power.
While the government has established commissions or committees to examine select encounters, critics contend that these efforts are piecemeal and lack comprehensive reforms. There is a need for systemic changes that address the root causes and structural issues surrounding encounters, such as inadequate training, biased policing, and the absence of transparent protocols.
Lack of Transparency
Transparency is a crucial aspect of any democratic society. However, critics argue that the government has been reluctant to provide clear and detailed information about encounters, making it difficult to assess their legitimacy. The absence of publicly available data, including information about the number of encounters, the identities of the victims, and the circumstances leading to their deaths, hampers efforts to ensure accountability and justice.
Scepticism of Official Narratives
There is widespread scepticism among critics regarding the official narratives presented by law enforcement agencies in encounters. The claims of self-defence or retaliatory action are often met with doubts, given the lack of independent verification and the pattern of encounters being used as a means to eliminate alleged criminals without due process.
Failure to Address Root Causes
Critics argue that encounters, as a response to crime, are a superficial approach that fails to address the underlying causes of criminality. They believe that the government should focus on comprehensive measures such as strengthening community policing, improving socio-economic conditions, and reforming the judicial system to ensure a more effective and sustainable approach to crime prevention.
The absence of robust action on the part of the current government has led to a growing sense of frustration and disillusionment among human rights activists, civil society organizations, and concerned citizens. They argue that addressing the issue of encounters requires proactive measures, including impartial investigations, reforms in law enforcement practices, and transparency to ensure justice for victims and uphold the rights of all individuals.
Modi Visits US Amidst Human Rights Criticism
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently embarked on a state visit to the United States, where he addressed a joint session of Congress. However, Modi’s visit was met with huge criticism from both India and the US. Many questioned America’s stance on Modi’s illiberal and anti-democratic policies. They raised concerns about Modi’s past human rights record in Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister of the state, as well as the growing discrimination against Muslims since he assumed office as Prime Minister. As a result, there were calls for US President Joe Biden to discuss these issues with Modi during the visit.
However, the White House declined to raise the concerns regarding human rights violations and discrimination against Muslims during their meeting with Modi. They stated that President Biden would not lecture Modi on India’s democratic record during the visit. In a joint press conference at the White House, Modi faced a single scripted question, raising eyebrows as he appeared to answer from a teleprompter. Although the question was related to minority rights, Modi chose to emphasize India’s democratic achievements rather than directly addressing the concerns about minority rights in the country.
Modi’s US Visit: Obama’s Views on Minority Rights in India
Former US President Barack Obama weighed in on Modi’s visit. Expressing his belief, he said that that discussing the rights of ethnic minorities, particularly Muslim minorities, with Modi was essential. Obama emphasized that if India fails to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, it risks “pulling apart.” However, his comments drew criticism from leaders of India’s ruling government. BJP leader and Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sharma, who was sarcastically questioned if action would be taken against Obama by the Assam police for criticizing the Prime Minister replied that he would go after “Hussain Obamas” within the country first. It is worth noting that the Assam police is known for taking action against critics of Modi.
Backlash from Indian Leaders towards Obama
India’s Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, also strongly rebuked Obama for his statement. She suggesting that Obama was the real enemy of Muslims, while Modi was a friend to the Muslim community. Sitharaman supported her claim with data, pointing out that during Obama’s tenure, he had conducted military operations in six Muslim-majority countries. At the same time, out of the total 13 state honours that Modi has received, six were from Muslim-majority countries.
Notably, Egypt recently conferred its highest state honour on Modi, further highlighting his international recognition by Muslim dictators. In 2018, the Palestinian Authority also awarded him the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine, the highest Palestinian honor for foreign dignitaries.
Modi’s Ban from Entering the US
It is significant to mention that prior to becoming Prime Minister in 2014, Modi had faced a decade-long ban from entering the US due to “severe violations of religious freedom”. He was the only person in the world denied a US visa for this reason. However, after assuming office, the US revoked the ban, allowing him to travel to the country on several occasions.
Strategic Interests: US-India Partnership
The question that arises is why the US chose to host Modi despite his democratic transgressions. In recent years, there has been a growing strategic interest between the US and India, driven by the rise of China. While India had previously adopted a non-aligned foreign policy, it is now leaning towards closer ties with the US. The US sees India’s geographic location as an advantage in countering China’s influence and seeks to involve India in its strategy to contain China, especially considering India’s existing disputes with its neighboring country. As a member of the QUAD, a group aiming to counter China, India’s support is crucial for the US.
US’ Compromised Stance on Human Rights
It is worth noting that while the US often speaks out against authoritarian regimes with which it lacks mutual interests, it paradoxically encourages and supports worse authoritarians and dictators around the world if they align with its interests. The US operates based on the principle of pursuing its permanent interests rather than maintaining permanent friendships.
Balancing Interests and Ethics
In conclusion, Modi’s recent visits to the US was marred by criticism regarding his human rights record and concerns about the treatment of minority communities in India. Despite these criticisms, the US government chose to host Modi, prioritizing strategic interests and the containment of China over addressing human rights issues. The strategic partnership between the US and India has gained importance due to the geopolitical dynamics in the region. India’s potential as a counterbalance to China has led the US to turn a blind eye to Modi’s policies against the Muslim minority. India’s participation in the QUAD, a coalition aimed at countering China’s influence, further solidifies its significance in the US strategy.
While the US is known for condemning authoritarian regimes, it often compromises its principles when there are mutual interests at stake. This inconsistency raises questions about the ethical foundations of US foreign policy and its willingness to support leaders with questionable democratic records.
The Appalling State of Muslims in post-colonial India
South Asia is home to one-third of the world’s Muslim population. Contrary to the popular belief there are more Muslims in South Asia than there are in middle-east which is popularly known to be the heart-land of Islam. After Indonesia, India is the second country in the world with the largest Muslim population. India is anciently known to be the hub of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. So, when and how did a country largely consisting of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains become so densely populated by Muslims? How did Islam emerge in pre-colonial India? As much as there is a controversy around this inquisition, there is also a lack of historical, geographical and political awareness related to it. The most important aspect to this bone of contention is the appalling state of the Muslims in post-colonial India, and how is it different from that of the Muslim diasporas in the rest of the world, in specie the West. Albeit there have been events of religious violence in pre-colonial and British India, the post-colonial period has seen an enormous increase in riots and hate crimes against Muslims in India.
The Image of Muslims in the West
The image of Muslims in the west has been in question lately more than ever in the world in general. The rise of hate crimes against Muslims usually chalk up to the 9/11 attack against the United States which was allegedly carried out by a religious extremist organization Al-Qa’ida. Having said that there have been some crucial conspiracy theories that called for a new investigation into the attacks, because they asserted that there was evidence of individuals from within the US government being either responsible for or knowingly having conspired in the attacks as a means for America of justifying the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, majority of the general public held the opinion that Al-Qai’da had orchestrated the attack. Because the members of the Al-Qai’da were people who proclaimed to be the adherents of the religion of Islam, this gave rise to a sense of bigotry and intolerance in the west towards the entire Muslim community.
The widely accepted notion among the broad commonality incriminated the Muslims of effectuating the attack. Non-Muslims started generalizing Muslims and started viewing them as people who endorsed terrorism, which led to a common prejudice against them in the western society. From their customs and religious practices, including their eating habits, to their appearance and clothing, Muslim men and Women were looked down upon and stereotyped as radical and fundamentalists. This generalization and stereotyping of Muslims gradually turned violent in nature and this turn of events gave rise to a series of hate crimes resulting in abuse and even unfortunate deaths of many Muslims. Howbeit, even before the 9/11 attack, many bookmen and laypeople alike had accepted a prior perception that religious terrorism had become the most common form of terrorism, particularly with regard to Islam. This suggests that Islamophobia was a common practice even before 2001.
Read here, “The Kerela Story” Controversy in India
Islamophobia before 9/11
People have associated Islamophobia with various manifestations. While some people reckon the phenomena with the increasing population of Muslims in the United States and Europe, others deem it to be retaliation for an ostensible anticipation of the emergence of a global Muslim identity. Yet many others identify Islamophobia with xenophobia and racism. Another less talked about reason for Islamophobia is the media’s double standards while reporting terrorism. A recent study has found out that terror attacks by “muslims” receive 357% more press attention. This was University of Alabama researcher’s newly study which was published in Justice Quarterly (academic journal covering criminology and criminal justice) authored by Dr. Erin Kearns, UA assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice. Still and all the causes of Islamophobia have always been and till date are debatable.
In the spate of attacks on Muslims in the western countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland and New Zealand, it should be noted that the occurrence of such deplorable crimes in the West have one regularity. They are all driven by Islamophobia, the impetus of which is the bigotry for Muslims, a sequence to the specious notion that Muslims endorse Terrorism.
Appalling State of Muslims in post-colonial India- Partition
Talking about Islam and Muslims, then like in West the appalling state of Muslims is much the same in parts of South Asia explicitly in India, but for wholly different reasons. Though there have been incidents of religious violence in pre-colonial and British India, the history of modern India has seen a compelling surge in the estimate of both subjective and objective violence. But what accounts for this rise of violence against Muslims in independent India? Is it Islamophobia that drives this hatred, just like it does in the West.
Inasmuch these crimes are a result of anti-Muslim sentiments in both the West and in India, the causes of these crimes are primitively much different. Benchmarking the nature of these crimes and the disparity in the claims of the perpetrators, one finds out that there is significantly a historical aspect to the nature of violence against Muslims in India. The partition of British India into two different countries, now called India and Pakistan, was originally borne out of a religious divide amongst Hindus and Muslims. As history claims, different people were for and against partition, as each had a different vision in mind.
There are many theories that explain the reasons for the establishment of Pakistan. One of the most agreed upon consensus of the pro-partition leaders for the formation of Pakistan was the subject of safety of the Muslim minority in the otherwise Hindu majority India. The earlier incidents of religious violence in India had taken a toll on both the Hindus and Muslims. The Muslims being the minority were now more insecure about their safety while living amongst Hindus. Because the safety of Muslims had been in question, ultimately the demand for a separate country for Muslims by the pro-partition leaders was unanimously supported by most Muslims. The Muslims who were not able to migrate then to the land given to Pakistan were left in India, and thus were even less in number, making them an even smaller minority than before.
Commencement of the Appalling State of Muslims in post-colonial India
What marked the commencement of the violence against Muslims in Independent India was the demolition of Babri Masjid, a 430 year old mosque in Ayodhya by extremist Hindus and members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) and Bajrang Dal. What followed was a sequel of incidents feuled by the religious animosity stirred between Hindus and Muslims. There has been a continuing rise in the manifestation of hate crimes and incidents of religious prejudice against Muslims in India ever since. However, with the emergence of the current government in India, the last few years have seen an enormous and noticeable amount of hate driven crimes including rape, public flogging and lynching. The motives of the perpetrators for committing such heinous crimes are as bizarre as they are abominable. Concepts like cow vigilantism and theories like “Ghar Wapsi” have been doing rounds in the air and have accounted for most of these crimes if not all.
The idea of “Ghar Wapsi” in the appalling state of Muslims in post-colonial India
The idea of “Ghar Wapsi” has also been endorsed and publicized by the right-wing extremists in India, including the leaders of the current government. It is a concept that propagates religious conservation of non-hindus to Hinduism. The reason behind the ideology of these people is their belief that all the people living in pre-colonial and ancient India were originally Hindus. They believe that the emergence and presence of non-hindus in India is only because of the forced conversions by missionaries and invaders that came to India from outside, who were by and large Muslims. This ideology is linked to the pre-colonial past of India. It refers to the period when Islam first emerged in India in 711, when Mohammad Bin Qasim, who was a general in the Umayyad -empire conquered the area of the Southern Pakistan. This was the initial interaction of Islam with South Asia.
Afterwards in the 13th century, the Mongol Invasion uprooted a large number of Persian Turks from Iran and Central-Asia driving them to India where they settled in. And so gradually the tradition and practices of these people started to blend in the syncretic culture of India. Subsequently in the late 13th century with the establishment of the Empire of Timur, began the era of the rise Muslim rulers in India.
Later on in 1526, Babur, a direct descendant of Timur, founded the Mughal Empire, which then ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent for more than 200 years. During the growth of the Mughal Empire under Babar’s son Akbar (1526-1605) there was an essential blending of Hindu-Muslim cultures. Akbar married a Hindu princess of a pure Hindu Rajput blood-line. This made Akbar’s son Jehangir half Rajput and half-Hindu. After Akbar, his son also married a Hindu woman, and therefore Jehangir’s son Shahjahan was three-quarters Rajput. With the rise of the Mughal Empire, biologically each successor of the dynasty became less and less Turkic and more and more Indian. They adapted the culture of India and also the Indian culture was insinuated by the Islamic traditions, resulting in the concoction of two separate cultures and religions.
Historic Bias as a reason for the Appalling State of Muslims in Post-Colonial India
These religious and cultural adaptations are, however, still seen as unethical and blameworthy by many Hindus in India, as they see Islam as a threat to their own culture and identity, as a foreign concept brought to India from outside. They consider the presence of Muslims in India as a result of the historic invasions and forceful conversions by Muslim outlanders and conquerors, and not the gradual amalgamation of two different cultures and religions over the course of time. Crimes like lunching and theories like “ghar wapsi” are not mere co-incidents but are borne out of such historic beliefs. They are a corollary of a historic hurt that these people carry. The violence in the west or bread out of islamophobia is sporadic in nature and often spontaneous while in India violence is structured. Unlike the west, the primeval and ever-growing intolerance towards the practices and culture of Muslims in modern day India is not because of the nature of these practices. On the contrary, in India Islam as a religion is not seen as much of a threat but Muslims are.
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