Saturday, February 25, 2017

Impunity in India?

The Wire has this story about offenses by Indian Army personnel. Excerpt:
In India, the army has its own military courts, whose trial and conviction rates are yet to be assessed. For civilians, in cases of rape, the National Crime Records Bureau data (from 2015) places the conviction rate at around 28%. With AFSPA still unaltered, we can imagine the corresponding statistics for the armed forces. 
One common fallacy regarding the army’s impunity must be clarified. Army officials are not immune under AFSPA [Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act] if they sexually assault women or commit rape. Section 7 of the Act provides protection from prosecution for “anything done…in exercise of the powers conferred”. These “powers” include causing death, search and arrest without warrant; and they cannot be taken as a token of liberty to sexually assault residents. But, under AFSPA-related offences, military personnel cannot be prosecuted unless there is a prior sanction by the central government. Responding to an RTI application filed by an NGO, the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department stated that “no sanction for prosecution has been intimated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defense to the State Government from 1990-2011 under the J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act” (emphasis added). 
The Justice Verma Committee clearly suggested that no sanction from the Centre should be required if the person has been accused of committing sexual offence in the disturbed areas where the AFSPA operates. But this suggestion is yet to be adopted. In addition to all this, court martial case proceedings remain opaque. Amnesty International India has raised serious doubts over the manner in which investigations and trials are conducted in our military justice system.

1 comment:

  1. The Truth of Kunan-Poshora

    The allegation of mass rape at Kunan-Poshora in the Kashmir Valley on the night intervening 23 and 24 February 1991 received wide publicity both locally and internationally and refuses to die down almost 26 years later. A few days after the army conducted a search operation; a few villagers visited the nearby Brigade Headquarters and informed the Commander that ‘people in Handwara’ were complaining that women had been molested at Kunan-Poshora during the search operation. Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had conducted an inquiry into the matter on 18 March. He concluded that the charges levelled against the army were grossly exaggerated, though he did find that some of the women in the village were genuinely angry.

    Several news papers, including the New York Times (Barbara Crossette, ‘India Moves Against Kashmir Rebels’, 7 April 1991) carried a chilling report about a women called Zarifa or Hanifa, aged about 25 years and nine months’ pregnant who was raped by seven army men. The report also said that she was kicked in the womb by a soldier and delivered a baby boy with a fractured arm in the Kupwara district hospital three days later. An independent committee of journalists which investigated the incident, however, reported that Zarifa and her mother had separately stated that Zarifa had delivered a baby 6 days before the fateful night.

    Kunan-Poshora lies in a militant-infested area. It is difficult to imagine that on a cold winter night, an entire column of military men, spent hours in ruthless abandon, gang-raping twenty-three, or thirty-two, or sixty-five or even one hundred women, when they would have been in fear of being attacked at any moment by militants. It Let’s take another allegation of rape and murder against the security forces in J&K—Shopian case of May 2009. The lawyer’s body, activists and separatists deliberately attempted to malign the security forces for committing rape and murder of two women, who had died due to drowning. In this case, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a charge-sheet against 13 local people, including six doctors, two witnesses and some advocates for destroying evidence and creating disturbances in the state by claiming that the women were raped and murdered by security personnel.

    An independent committee which investigated the Kunan-Poshora case (Verghese Committee) was right in concluding that the mass rape story was stage-managed by the militants and their sympathizers. The local media fuelled it and the international media and NGOs were fooled. They published what was fed to them without any investigation. And once trapped, it has become difficult for the activists and media to accept their failing gracefully. So, demands for fresh investigations are still being made.

    Wg Cdr U C Jha (Retd)


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