Letter: Catalogue of human rights abuses in Kashmir

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The Independent Online
Sir: Everyone condemns the butchery in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, but Randhir Singh Bains (letter, 13 April) makes a mistake in equating the human rights abuses of the Indian security forces and the nationalist guerrilla groups.

The lamented Abdul Guru would certainly not have endorsed this equation. He was a member of the central council of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front which, as well as being by far the most widely supported political movement, has its own guerrilla army, with a claimed 16,000 men under arms. In all, the groups probably have fewer than 30,000 fighters. They concentrate their attacks on military targets and have killed about 1,000 troops.

The security forces, in contrast, have more than 300,000 troops in the field and have killed at least 12,000 people; this is, according to Dr Guru's most conservative estimate, scrupulously recorded with names, times, places etc. The overwhelming majority have been innocent civilians. Dr Guru also catalogued cases of the most hideous tortures inflicted on detainees.

In contrast to Dr Guru's meticulous catalogue of casualties, the government's figures are highly dubious. Its daily toll of people 'killed in crossfire', calculated to give an impression of civilians killed by militants, is universally received as a euphemism for people shot dead by troops.

The violation of human rights extends beyond shootings. In Kashmir there is no democracy and no freedom under the Draconian emergency laws; at least 20,000 people have been detained for up to two years without trial, many of them beaten and tortured (Dr Guru had been one). Gatherings of more than five people are banned and the valley is under regular curfew.

Even if Dr Guru was murdered by Islamic militants - and I have yet to hear one Kashmiri who believes that - the responsibility for human rights in the state lies with the government, and it is on it that we should call for a halt to the killings.

Yours faithfully,

TIM GOPSILL

London, SW2

14 April

The writer conducted a mission to Kashmir on behalf of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group in September 1992.

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