Monday, July 5, 2010

Serial Killings Of Students In Kashmir: Students feel insecure, parents worried, Govt unmoved

Despite claims of zero tolerance against human rights violations, students in Kashmir continue becoming the soft targets of Indian security forces. Over past few months, seven students have fallen prey to excesses committed by the forces. Valley people demand withdrawal of AFSPA to put a check on growing rights violations.

Serial killings of teenaged students, allegedly by security forces, have rendered immense security concerns to the lives of students and added to the worries of parents. Strikes and protests are taking place against these killings in Kashmir Valley.

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh during his two-day visit to Kashmir on June 7 and 8 reiterated that zero tolerance against rights violations in Kashmir was the priority of his government and in no case guilty would be spared. Rights violations, however, continue unabated and over past few months students have been the target of security forces’ excesses.

For a long time people of Kashmir valley have been demanding that Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) be withdrawn. Rights’ violations are believed to be the result of special powers given to security forces under the act. Its withdrawal, Kashmiris expect, will be helpful in checking those violations.

The AFSPA gives the army the powers to detain and, if the situation warrants, eliminate suspected terrorists when they are fighting insurgents without the fear of prosecution. The act is in force in some “disturbed areas” of Kashmir and North-Eastern states.

Protests against rights’ violations and the subsequent clashes between security forces and civilians have become order of the day in Kashmir valley, especially during past few weeks. People do not wait for a call from separatist groups but observe strike and hold protests on their own to show their anguish against these violations.

In the latest incident of violence by security forces, Javid Ahmad Malla (14), a 9th class student was killed. They opened fire on a funeral procession of Rafiq Ahmad Bangroo near Saida Kadal on June 20 to only kill Javid on the spot. Curfew was imposed in downtown areas of Srinagar following strong protests and clashes in the wake of the killing of student in ‘cold blood’.

Police burst numerous smoke shells and resorted to lathi-charge to disperse protestors. In response to separatists’ call, Kashmir valley observed a general strike on June 21 against the murder of the student and growing violations of human rights.

Rafiq Ahmad Bangroo (22) was critically injured due to the ruthless beating of security forces after a protest demonstration at Saida Kadal. He had succumbed to injuries on June 19 late evening after remaining at a Srinagar hospital for eight days and it was his funeral where the police opened fire.

Before Rafiq and Javid, other students including Inayat Khan, Wamiq Farooq, Zahid Farooq, Tufail Ahmad Matoo and Zubair Ahmad Bhat lost their lives allegedly to the security forces’ excesses during past few months. People allege that security forces’ empowered with AFSPA are misusing powers to commit genocide on students in the name of maintaining law and order situation.

Inayat Khan (17), a student of 12th class was killed in police firing when a gun fight broke out between security forces and militants at Lal Chowk. Police that chased civilians near the encounter site fired at Khan, who later succumbed on January 9. Inayat was returning back home after taking tuition class.

Similarly, Wamiq’s family never knew that their son would be kept in mortuary as an unidentified dead body. It was an unbearable shock for grief struck family. According to his mother, he had left his identity card at home and went to play cricket at a nearby playground, Gani Memmorial Stadium in Rajouri Kadal.

Wamiq (14), 11th class student, was killed when a smoke shell fired by police hit his head killing him on spot. Chasing a group of protesters near Gani Memorial Stadium at Rajouri Kadal, the police had fired numerous tear-smoke shells.

A BSF officer shot at Zahid Farooq (10th class student) near Nishat in Srinagar killing him on the spot.

Zubair Ahmad (11th class student) was, as alleged, forcibly drowned to death in a river at Sopore. Protests were going on in the area against the excesses of security forces when security forces committed the act.

Zubair’s brother, Ehsan-ul-Haq, a student of 6th class, was allegedly killed by security forces in 2006.

Irfan Ahmad, a B A 2nd year student of Baramulla was one of the emerging students. He was killed by the security forces during protests and clashes. Irfan who was the bread earner for his family was running a DTP centre in the town.

The killing of students has generated anguish and fear psychosis among parents regarding the safety and security of their children. On June 11 a 12th class student Tufail Ahmad Matoo was killed amid protests and clashes at Rajouri Kadal. Later it turned out that security forces had used their special powers.

The targeted killings have rendered student community anxious and worrisome and psychiatrists view that the prevailing situation could have a long lasting impact on the mindset and future of students in Kashmir. Tufail died due to a serious head injury caused by smoke shell. Earlier, police claimed that Tufail died to head injuries after tripping on a stone while security forces were chasing the stone pelters’.

Undeniably security forces act of targeting students seems to be the most nasty and malicious act, which has evoked wide condemnation from separatists, opposition leaders and others and even the state government.

It is largely viewed that despite the tall claims of zero tolerance by the government against rights violations, student community is becoming the victims of security forces excesses. Tirade against students does not end here. Students and youth are arrested on the charges of stone pelting and in some cases authorities have even slapped public safety act (PSA) on youth.

Student killings by the security forces during past few months is a reminiscent of early 1990’s turbulent situation in Kashmir valley when youth were picked up from the roads, streets, homes, schools’ and subjected to enforced disappearance or killed in cold blood. In 1990’s youth were the main targets in fake encounters and large scale arrests were a common phenomenon. People were afraid to send their teenaged sons outside homes fearing that they may be arrested and killed by the security forces.

“Authorities have given a free hand to the security forces empowered with special powers to target students and remain untouched. It appears that security forces have launched a tirade against students. The only pretext to target a student is a protest demonstration and at times minor clashes between protestors and security forces. I remain on pinpricks till my three sons return from school. When there are protests anywhere in the city, we get frustrated about their safety and security,” said Bashir Ahmad, a father. Bashir added that like him every parent is worried about the safety and security of their children viewing the current circumstances in the valley.

Targeted killings have created a feeling of insecurity among the students and they hesitate to move out freely and even to attend their schools. Given the present situation every student may be asking himself a question: “Shall I go to school today or not?”

“With protests and clashes becoming a routine in the Valley, I remain concerned about the safety of my son when he goes to school or for some other work,” said Haleema, a mother.

There is a general feeling that if the government had implemented HR policies in letter and spirit the killing of students would have not happened and further worsening of the situation could have been averted. The present situation may take ugly turn any time if the government did not squeeze the erring security forces.
Students are killed and the government not taking any action against the erring cops tries to console the families of the victims by offering monetary compensations. Compensation, however, in form of cash and jobs by no means can console the aggrieved families. The only thing the families demand is stern punishment to the erring cops; something that has not been awarded in any case and this has added salt to the wounds of the families.

Most of parents ask, “Are our sons safe in prevailing circumstances? Can they really achieve what they dream for when they feel so insecure? When would they live in an environment of peace and security?”

Killing Of Students During Past Few Months

Jan 8: Inayat Khan (17), a student of 12th class was killed in police firing, when a gun fight broke out between security forces and militants at Lal Chowk. Police chased civilians near the encounter site and fired at Khan, who later succumbed on January 9.
Jan 31: A smoke shell fired by police hit Wamiq Farooq (14), a 11th class student. He was at the spot. Chasing a group of protesters near Gani Memorial Stadium at Rajouri Kadal, the police had fired numerous tear-smoke shells.
Feb 05: A BSF officer shot at youth near Nishat in Srinagar killing Zahid Farooq (10th class student) on the spot.
April 13: Zubair Ahmad (11th class student) was forcibly drowned to death in a river at Sopore. He was taking part in a protest against the excesses of security forces.
June 11: Tufail Ahmad Matoo (12th class student) was killed due to a serious head injury caused by a smoke shell, which hit his head.
June 19: Rafiq Ahmad Bangroo (22) critically injured due to the ruthless beating of security forces during a protest demonstration at Safa Kadal succumbed to injuries late evening after remaining at a Srinagar hospital for eight days.
June 20: Javid Ahmad Malla (14), 9th class student was killed on spot, when security forces opened fire on a funeral procession of Rafiq Ahmad Bangroo at Safa Kadal on June 20. Amid pro-freedom protests and clashes, Malla was laid to rest.

“Youth who are the future of a nation are eliminated amid unrest and turbulence. They are worried about their studies and future. The situation in Kashmir has compelled every youth to accept the bitter reality that he might be next prey to a bullet or deadly tear smoke shell. A students who leaves his home for school least knows whether he will return back home in the evening”, said Mohammad Shafi of old town Baramulla.

Needless to mention that magisterial and judicial probes ordered into the killings have never yielded results and that is why people have lost trust in any such probes. People at large allege that probes ordered are aimed at misleading the world community closely watching the situation in the state.

“Growing unemployment in the state is a serious issue confronting a good chunk of educated jobless youth. Now the fact of insecurity among students is even more frustrating and this has put their future at stake,” views Saqib Amin, an unemployed youth.

Other students have this to say: “Like youth elsewhere in the world, we want to secure our future and live in a peaceful environment, which is important for building future. Students killed were never involved in stone pelting or protests but were made soft targets by the security forces. Special powers given to the forces are being misused in the name of maintaining law and order.”

The sufferings of Kashmir students extend beyond the Valley. They are not safe outside the state also and seen as suspects. In case of any turbulence anywhere in the country, Kashmiris are the first to be questioned.

“I was studying in Delhi in 2001 and many a times I was picked up when untoward circumstances happened. Delhi police would first pick up Kashmiri students for questioning in case of a happening. My friends and I were arrested by the police at least three times,” said Shabir Ahmad, a research scholar.

Education in Kashmir has already received a great setback in past. Many schools, colleges, and other institutions have got damaged. Killing of school-going students seems to have become a common phenomenon and this has rendered every parent in a state of fear, anxiety, pressure, and stress.

Leading psychiatrist of the valley, Dr. Margoob Mushtaq viewed, “Students of Kashmir are suffering from the tremendous stress and tension due to prevailing circumstances in which students are made soft targets. Such situations are bound to play havoc to the capabilities of a student as his concentration gets diverted from studies to situations. Future is always generated from the present and when the youth are subjected to anxiety, pressure and worry then adverse affects are bound to have a bearing on the mindset of youth.” He added that in prevailing circumstances the future of students reeling under fear and anxiety and living amid uncertainty in Kashmir is at stake.

By Amin Masoodi

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