#India -Afzal Guru, Parliament attack convict, hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail #deathpenalty, protest today at Jantar Mantar


JOIN SILENT PROTEST AT  JANTAR MANTAR TODAY at 1.00pm AGAINST THE HANGING OF AFZAL GURU

Edited by Surabhi Malik | Updated: February 09, 2013 08:46 IST

Afzal Guru, Parliament attack convict, hanged in Delhi's Tihar Jail

New DelhiAfzal Guru, convicted for his role in the attack on Parliament in 2001, has been executed at about 8 this morning at Delhi’s Tihar Jail.The Home Ministry had recommended the death sentence for Guru on January 23, sources said, and President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition a few days ago, clearing the way for his hanging.

Nine years ago, in 2004, Afzal Guru was given the death sentence by the Supreme Court. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on October 20, 2006, but was stayed after his wife filed the mercy petition, which had been pending with the President’s office since.

The main opposition party, the BJP, has for long questioned the delay in the execution of Guru. Senior Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh too said that a decision must come soon. But activists and political groups in Kashmir have argued that Guru was not given a fair trial. There have been many requests that his death sentence be commuted.

Afzal Guru is from Sopore in Kashmir and curfew has been imposed there and in other major towns in the valley, including Srinagar, just 35 kms away.  The army is on high-alert.

Separatist groups in Kashmir have earlier warned against Guru’s execution and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has repeatedly stressed that it could have serious repercussions in his state. Mr Abdullah is in Delhi and is leaving for Srinagar immediately.

In December 2001, five heavily-armed terrorists drove into the Parliament complex and opened fire. Nine people were killed, most of them members of the security forces. All the terrorists were shot dead.

Both Houses of Parliament had just been adjourned and many MPs and ministers, including then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani were still inside.

A few days later, Afzal Guru was arrested.

In November last year, Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist from Pakistan who was caught during the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, was executed in a Pune jail.

 

No noble family will allow girls to become dancers: Hurriyat #Vaw #WTFnews


PTI | Feb 3, 2013, 08.13 PM IST

No noble family will allow girls to become dancers: Hurriyat
Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement that Kashmir is a place of sufis and saints and there is no room to nourish western type of culture and immoral values.
SRINAGAR: Hardline faction of HurriyatConference today expressed surprise overJammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah‘s support for the valley’s only all-girls rock band, saying there is no room to nourish western culture and immoral values in the state.”Kashmir is a place of sufis and saints and there is no room to nourish western type of culture and immoral values,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement.

“Though in a civilised society there is no place for coercion and force, there are some values a citizen has to adopt to safeguard the ethical and religious traditions,” he said.

“Hurriyat Conference expresses regret and surprise over the support of Omar Abdullah,” Akbar said.

“As a matter of fact no noble family will allow their girls to choose their profession as a dancer so as to be a mere thing of pleasure for strangers,” he said.

Akbar said Omar should have gone through the history of Kashmir to find out the high regard and esteem bestowed upon women in order to save them from being sold as commodity.

“It is a matter of concern for us the way Omar Abdullah backed the rock band because the dynasty he belongs to has since long disassociated itself from Islamic and ethical values,” he said.

Referring to the reported threats being given to the rock band, the spokesman termed it “not good”.

“Instead, parents should have rectified the things and provided advice to their daughters that their activities were not as per ethics of Islam, culture and our unique identity,” he said.

Omar had come out in support of the girls yesterday saying police will probe the threats.

“I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” he said.

The all-girls band, which came to limelight in late December last year after their performance at the annual ‘Battle of the Bands‘ competition here, had defied the convention by stepping into the male-dominated field of music.

The girls’ band has received abusive and hate messages on their Facebook page for defying convention by choosing the field of music.

 

Free Waqar Campaign -Crusade goes cyber


Freny Manecksha | March 31, 2012, Times Crest

Kashmiri youths have, perhaps for the first time, initiated a global online campaign calling for the release of 23-year-old Waqar Ahmad Moharkan of Srinagar, currently being held under the Public Safety Act (PSA). The campaign is significant not just because the youths are directly appealing to the world but because their efforts challenge the chimera of normalcy in the Valley. Activists in Kashmir have been hankering for a repeal of PSA and for the release of Amnesty International’s report ‘A Lawless Law, Detention Under the Public Safety Act’ for a year now, but this security legislation continues to be deployed against dissenters and protesters.

The website, www. savewaqar. org, started by a group that calls itself ‘Friends of Waqar’ recounts how the final-year B. Com student of Islamia College, Srinagar, was arrested by the police on October 1, 2011 for participating in protests in Lalbazar. Even though he was granted bail on October 23 he was not released. He was immediately rebooked instead and shifted to Central Jail on November 5 under a 10-day judicial remand. A case under PSA, which allows preventive detention without trial for two years, was slapped against him. This effectively means Waqar is being denied a trial.

Waqar’s father filed a writ petition in the court last week for enforcement of legal, fundamental and constitutional rights. It states that the detention was ordered by a district magistrate on the basis of a letter by the senior superintendent of police and material on record. But when a copy of the letter and the material were demanded by the detainee, they were denied and he was not able to make an effective representation against it. Therefore, argue Friends of Waqar, the “impugned order of detention is legally invalid”.

The website says that Waqar was illegally detained for two days at the interrogation centre at Air Cargo Building near the police station Shergari.

Curiously, on November 6, a news item published in the leading Urdu daily Aftab, cited Waqar’s name as among the 30 youths who had been released and handed over to their parents on the direction of an amnesty declared by chief minister Omar Abdullah.

However, last week, the home secretariat refused to give a copy of the list to a group of youths who seeking answers. In a written reply under the Right to Information Act, the J&K home department said none of the protesters had been granted amnesty.
On December 11, Waqar’s father received a call from the concerned police station informing him that his son was being shifted to Kotbhawal Jail, 300 km away from Srinagar, making it very difficult for the family to visit him.

Waqar’s case, which has been taken up by Mian Abdul Qayoom, president of the J&K High Court Bar Association (also detained under PSA in 2010), is a copybook example of what has been well documented in Amnesty International’s report. The pattern of his arrest – failure to pursue criminal charges, subsequent application of PSA, violations of even the PSA stipulations, and illegal confinement at the infamous “cargo” – mirrors that of hundreds of others. It is precisely this pattern, which impelled Amnesty International to declare in its report that “administrative detention under the PSA continues to be used in J&K to detain individuals for years at a time without trial, depriving them of human rights protection otherwise applicable in Indian law”.

Another feature in common with other PSA detainees is that Waqar’s detention order is couched in vague language, without alluding to any specific crimes. According to the website the “baffling and ridiculous grounds of detention” cited in the order are: “You have frequently come in the adverse notice of the police for your involvement in anti-social activities aimed at disturbing the public tranquility and peace in the city. You are instrumental in mobilising the anti-social elements for creating havoc in so far as causing serious law and order problem is concerned which inevitably besides endangering human life also causes impediments in the smooth economic development of the state. Your said acts are aimed at keeping the state on boil and thereby bringing about secession of J&K from Union of India. It has also emerged that your such nefarious designs are being carried out in a well thought out manner to bring the whole Downtown area to a standstill. ”

Mir Shafkat Hussain, a lawyer who has successfully challenged scores of PSA detentions in the High Court, says that the lack of specific details and charges prevents detainees from challenging the order. This happens because even the basic norms under PSA are hardly ever followed. The detention is ordered either by the divisional commissioner or the district magistrate. In practise, these authorities merely ‘rubber stamp’ the police version. Shafkat Hussain says in his career he has come across only two district magistrates who took their role seriously and scrutinised the police version, sending it back if necessary.

Human rights activists say such arbitrary interpretation of PSA is becoming more common in the state’s attempts to quell dissent, which in recent years has changed from armed militancy to unarmed street protests. A number of young protesters and stone-pelters have been booked under PSA after the police failed to pursue criminal charges against them.

The death of another young PSA detainee, 22-yearold Sajad Ahmad of Sopore, on March 22 further highlights the alleged misuse of PSA. Sajjad Ahmad‘s family says that though he was in a bad shape after interrogation by the Special Operations Group, he was denied medical attention, flouting even the court’s instructions.

In such cases the state has often claimed that the protesters are goons who have been paid to throw stones or that they are being used by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Even peaceful protests by Kashmir Students Union against the Amarnath land row and the controversy surrounding Shopian rape-murders were dealt with an iron hand. The union office on the campus was razed and a ban imposed on student activities.

The young men ask why youth elsewhere in India are treated differently. One angry student wondered how angry young men in Rajasthan or Haryana are permitted to block roads and rails in thousands. “Why are we denied any such space?” he asks.

‘Free Waqar’ online campaign- An example of Kracktivism


‘Free Waqar’ online campaign gains momentum

Amnesty International gives its stamp by recognising it as an instance of rampant police and state repression in Kashmir

 March 29 , Baba Umar 
New Delhi


Organisers of the global ‘Free Waqar’ online campaign launched from Kashmir to push for the release of a 22-year-old commerce student —Waqar Ahmad Moharkan—has won its first battle after Amnesty International (AI) termed the youth’s detention as “yet another depressing reminder of the lack of rule of law in Kashmir.” Waqar was reportedly captured by the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police on 4 October, 2011, after they raided his Lal Bazaar house in downtown Srinagar and slapped him with the notorious Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) on charges that include participating in protests against government forces “for three years”.

In an email sent to TEHELKA, AI’s Govind Acharya (India Country Specialist) said the “widespread and abusive use” of administrative detention like the PSA and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) “reinforces the deeply held perception in young people like Waqar that police and security forces are above the law”. “Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the J&K government to release all PSA detainees or to charge them with a criminal offence,” Acharya tells TEHELKA.

The campaigners of the first-of-its kind online movement have literary taken the internet by storm having covered all social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter. Besides, a website freewaqar.org, created to draw more supporters, is fast becoming a rage among the youth in Kashmir and outside. On entering the site, a message reads, “Waqar Ahmad is in Indian jail since 176 days, 12 hours, 33 minutes and 20 seconds”—the duration of his imprisonment advances with every tick of the clock that’s live. And then details of Waqar’s passing from various jails after his arrest, petitions, bail order, and PSA document forms the body of the web page. The campaign reminds Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of his promises of granting ‘amnesty’ to 1200 youth arrested during and after the 2010 civil unrest.

A newspaper article published by the campaigners on the web page too shows Waqar’s name among 29 other youths who were to be released by the police on CM’s orders. Operated solely online, the campaign already on Facebook and Twitter (#FreeWaqar) is being pushed forward through petition sites such as ipetitions.com and change.org. ipetitions.com, however, decided to take the petition down citing “legal issues” as key reason.

“Within 24 hours of posting our petition we had nearly 500 signatures. The site, however, wanted to take down the petition giving us 48 hours of time to download the data,” one campaigner wishing anonymity tells TEHELKA.

petition meant for Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch (HRW) posted on change.org, however, has already crossed the 1000 signature mark. Posted by a Mumbai-based activist, the petition (reproduced from freewaqar.org) seeks AI and HRW’s intervention to “take up the case of Waqar’s wrongful, illegal and oppressive treatment at the hands of the Indian state.”

AI’s Acharya asserted such laws are “not in line with international human rights standards” and says that “We’ve repeatedly called on the J&K government to repeal the PSA and other similar administrative detention laws.”

Campaign organisers, who wish anonymity, tell TEHELKA that the campaign aims to educate people about “how Kashmir government can lie about releasing someone without actually doing it.”

Despite the courage, the campaigners fear police reprisals.

“Our efforts are not directed against anyone. We want the state to keep its word. Omar Abdullah had agreed to release him (Waqar), but instead they re-arrested him. The state chief minister had promised release of 1200 youth which he had called ‘mass amnesty’ in one of his statements. But students like Waqar are rotting in jails. Waqar was seized in Srinagar but has been detained 300 km away in Jammu’s Kotbalwal Jail. By this they are punishing the parents as well.”

It’s for the first time that an online campaign has come up seeking release of an individual. In Kashmir, online protests became a norm during the 2008 civil unrest. Angry protesters, mostly young, who would march across the streets of Kashmir demanding Azadi from New Delhi, had taken the battle to the online world too. Thousands of amateur and raw videos flashing long marches, troops’ action and killings went viral forcing the government to pull down some of the videos from YouTube that it considered were “highly critical” in nature. The challenge was thrown once again during 2009 protests over the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian province. And then in 2010, the civil unrest leading to the killing of over 125 people, mostly youth, at the hands of government forces, re-ignited the virtual campaign in Kashmir.

In Waqar’s case, the online battle is being fought using all forms of art. For example, on goanimiate.com, an animation ‘Faking Democracy-Free Waqar Now’ posted by ‘Kracktivist’ has already drawn more than 270 views. The two-minute-long animationposted on 16 March simulates an interview of an NBA player who is a supporter of Free Waqar Campaign and explains to the interviewer the rationale behind supporting the online movement.

With such anger brewing, how are the police looking at the campaign?

“We always monitor such activities,” a top police official tells TEHELKA over phone. He claimed that Waqar, apart from pelting stones, might also have participated in updating the prominent Facebook Kashmiri Community page Aalaw (The Call)—known for its fiery pro-Kashmir and anti-government posts, which went through many unsuccessful attempts at being blocked before.

“The investigation is on. We’ve found Aalaw was run by a group of four youngsters of which Waqar might be a part. We’re not 100 per cent sure but we are waiting for further details,” he claims adding, “The new campaign could be a part of the same tirade against the state.”

Caught in the crossfire, with the online campaign on the one hand and police warnings on the other, Waqar’s parents feel any sort of “malice” will hurt their son directly or indirectly. “Our family isn’t a part of this campaign. We don’t even know who is doing it. Their intentions may be good but yes, any malice will affect my son. I only want my son free. But look at the irony… I dropped my son to the police station on the promise that he’ll be released after brief questioning. Six months have passed, he still remains in detention,” says Waqar’s father Khursheed Ahmad Moharkan.

The elder Moharkan says if Waqar was leading stone pelting for three years, then what about lakhs of youths who pelt stone on Kashmir streets even now? He also mocks the charges slapped against Waqar. “Now that he (Waqar) is jail, stone pelting still takes place in Kashmir. Who are these people? Does my son incite them from jail? The police theory falls flat here. I am begging before them (police). They (police) better stop projecting my son as Osama bin Laden.”

Waqar’s father is, in the meanwhile, looking forward to 9 April when the state government will file objections in the Srinagar high court against the petition he has filed seeking quashing of the PSA against Waqar. “Let’s see what they have to show against my son. Myane Tarfe Chu Khudah (I’ve God on my side),” he says before hanging up the phone.

Baba Umar is a Correspondent with Tehelka. 
babaumar@tehelka.com

Grave concerns over security laws in Kashmir


Two days into 2012, a student was killed and two more were injured in a village in North Kashmir when the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guarding a hydroelectric plant opened fire on protesters, shattering a tenuous peace. In the recent past, (and most noticeably in 2010), students who have come out on to the streets chanting pro-freedom slogans – as part of a struggle for self determination whose roots go back further than Indian independence – have been fired upon and killed. This time, the protesters were merely demanding more electricity on an icy winter day during an acute power shortage. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was quick to declare that the CISF did not come under the ambit of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – an extraordinary and draconian piece of security legislation – and sought to raise the pitch for partial revocation of the law.

AFSPA was enacted in 1990, ostensibly to fight the insurgency and armed militancy that surfaced in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and in some parts of northeast India. Although the government admits that militancy has significantly reduced in Kashmir, the law has not been revoked. In October last year Abdullah began issuing statements to the effect that AFSPA must be partially revoked.

Trampling human rights

Activists say there are two disturbing aspects of the law that can grossly trample upon fundamental human rights. One is the de jure abrogation of constitutional guarantees – such as the right to life – because of the extraordinary and unbridled powers it bestows on security troops to arrest, detain, destroy property and even kill on the basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’.

The other is the shield of immunity whereby it is not possible to prosecute armed forces, even for the most heinous crimes, without the sanction of the Central Defence Ministry and the Home Ministry. The state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian government claim there are provisions within the law for punitive action. In practice, impunity is deeply rooted.

Under the guise of defending the nation’s sovereignty at any cost, the police and armed forces have perpetrated huge crimes  .
Khurram Parvez, a rights activist working with Jammu Kashmir Civil Society (JKCS), says that the complete lack of culpability has been so pervasive that it has permeated down even to the police, who do not come under AFSPA. He says that under the guise of defending the nation’s sovereignty at any cost, the police and armed forces have perpetrated huge crimes such as custodial killings, mass rapes and enforced disappearances. ‘But who in the past 22 years has been punished, even when indicted?’ he asks.

Which way now for Kashmir? 

On the contrary, he charges, the state’s policy of handing out incentives in the form of payments for encounter killings has exacerbated the scale of rights violations. A recent example is the Macchil case, when three youths from poor families were recruited by an army unit to work as high-altitude porters. They were cold-bloodedly killed on 30 April 2010 after being falsely labelled as militants. A member of the state’s human rights commission charged the offending army personnel of murdering them to gain ‘undue promotions, awards and rewards’.

Parvez says any talk of revocation of the law from parts of Kashmir is meaningless if the political will to end this culture of immunity is lacking. ‘The crux of the issue is not whether such security laws are good or bad, but that they have engendered complete lawlessness. Armed personnel have violated every standard operating procedure, even within this draconian law. For example, any person who has been picked up for interrogation must be presented before the magistrate within a day or two. This is never done. That is why you have at least 8,000 cases of enforced disappearances, a figure that has been arrived at by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP),’ he adds.

The state has long denied these figures. It maintains that the missing youths crossed the border to Pakistan to train as militants. The state has also declared that many of the anonymous and unidentified graves that lie scattered all over Kashmir contain bodies of militants, mainly foreign fighters from Pakistan or Afghanistan who had infiltrated the state.
Cover up exposed

Significantly, in September 2011 this cover up was blown away. What had been an open secret well documented by rights groups was eventually acknowledged by the state’s human rights commission (SHRC). A team comprising 11 members and led by senior police officer Bashir Itoo admitted, to the state’s acute discomfiture, that graves in North Kashmir contained the remains of locals. There was every possibility they contained bodies of those who had suffered ‘enforced disappearances’.

The state team began in 2008 its investigation of anonymous graves in 38 sites in North Kashmir. Their report states that out of 2,730 unidentified bodies that were buried, 574 were later identified as locals. The report also notes that some of the bodies, besides bearing bullet injuries, were also defaced. At least 20 were charred and five comprised only of skulls. At least 18 graves contained more than one unidentified body.

A local Kashmiri daily recently reported that one of the mass graves in Bimiyar, Baramulla district, contained the bullet-riddled body of a six-month-old infant. Atta Mohammed Wali Khan, a local gravedigger who testified before the state’s inquiry team, confirms burying the baby. All the bodies had been brought in by the police.

It is not possible to prosecute armed forces, even for the most heinous crimes, without the sanction of the Central Defence Ministry and the Home Ministry

It is the norm for security troops to hand over to the police for burial the bodies of those killed in encounters with militants, or civilians caught in crossfire. It is mandatory for the police, in turn, to maintain proper identification profiles, taking photos of those killed and placing them in the public domain. Suspicious deaths, such as those with slit throats, strangulation marks or signs of visible torture, must be investigated. But, as the state report indicates, none of this had been adhered to.

Itoo, who led the investigations despite the challenges of ‘insufficient logistical support’, confirms that the local police did not keep any such identification profiles, and in ‘some cases police claims were falsified’.

Demands have now grown for the investigation into anonymous graves to be extended to the whole of Kashmir. There is scarcely a district that does not contain such graves. Many of them spring up in open spaces adjoining police stations or security forces’ camps. Human rights groups such as the JKCS and the state human rights commission have sought accountability by demanding that all the graves be examined and a comprehensive DNA data base established for crosschecking with DNA samples of the next of kin of people who have disappeared.

What reconciliation?

At least 14,123 families have agreed to such DNA testing in a bid to bring about closure and end the agonizing search for loved ones. ‘But how serious [about it] is the state?’ wonders Parvez. The APDP has expressed concern that although three months have passed since the SHRC’s findings and recommendations, the government has done nothing. The Chief Minister’s only response has been to call for a truth and reconciliation committee.

‘There is no talk about finding the perpetrators of the crimes: the army, paramilitary troops, officers and civil administrators who aided and abetted them. There is no talk of trying them and giving them appropriate, even exemplary punishment’

This leads Kashmiri writer, researcher and legal activist Arif Ayaz Parray to declare that what the state is doing in a ‘legalistic’ sense is replacing ‘justice’ with ‘acknowledgment’. He explains: ‘There is no talk about finding the perpetrators of the crimes: the army, paramilitary troops, officers and civil administrators who aided and abetted them. There is no talk of trying them and giving them appropriate, even exemplary punishment, not only for “disappearing” people, killing them in fake gun battles and dumping them in mass graves, but also for failing to maintain DNA profiles and pictures of those killed and sharing the records with the administration of Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi and Islamabad.

‘The state is absolving itself by pleading the impossibility of such justice – conveniently choosing to gloss over the fact that it is the state itself which has made it impossible in the first place, as a matter of policy – and therefore offering “reconciliation” in its place. What reconciliation?’

He likens this latest example of acknowledgment to a case of ‘double disappearance’. ‘Figuratively, the state took children from their mothers’ laps, killed them and buried them anonymously, creating a void which has hardened over many years. Now it wants to return the skeletons back to the mothers’ laps, force the void shut and claim that restorative justice has been delivered.’

Freny Manecksha is a freelance journalist.

Source- New Internationalist

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