Stray bullets hit the intended target

But that day, a bullet had to hit him in the head. He left us for good.
Stray bullets hit the intended target
Representational pic

The state human rights commission (SHRC) was constituted in 1996 to bail out the government but this `toothless tiger' has at times caused embarrassment to the establishment. Its judgement on unmarked graves almost rendered it defunct for a year or so. The government took serious note of the judgement and the commission was told in clear terms not to hear the case anymore. The government also showed reluctance to appoint its chairman and members for quite some time.

In 2018, taking cognisance of a few petitions about civilian killings, the SHRC sought detailed reports from the police and the civil administration. The response of the police and the civil authorities to SHRC queries reflects the insensitivity, indifference of the authorities and he superficiality of their investigation (if at all they conduct it).

In September (2018), a youth from Pulwama died while grazing his cow in a field. According to the police, the deceased was not involved in any political or `subversive' activity. The report submitted by the district authorities reads: "Forces fired tear gas shells and a few shots in the air in self defence. Fayaz Ahmed Wani had taken his cow to a nearby field for grazing and a stray bullet hit him after which he was shifted to SMHS hospital Srinagar where doctors declared him brought dead."

In another case, the DC and SSP Kupwara told the SHRC that on September 27, 2018 army warnings were issued but a suspicious person didn't stop. "The army fired several shots in the air but the said person took shelter behind the boulders. A stray bullet hit him after first hitting the boulder after which he was taken to nearby army facility where he succumbed," the report reads, adding that efforts to ascertain the identity of the slain couldn't fructify.

Similar replies have been submitted in other cases. A lawyer pleading the cases before SHRC while ridiculing the official replies said: "Why does the `stray bullet' hit the civilians only? A `stray bullet' can go anywhere. "It can even hit the men in uniform but, it ensures that the target is a civilian every time."

My slain friend, Sheikh Muhammad Husain, who fell to BSF bullets on February 6, 1996 at Maisuma would exercise extreme care and caution to stay away from dangerous situations. He would say that a bullet that is destined to kill a person has his name written on it.  He proved himself correct on that fateful day. He had gone to the JKLF headquarters to see his friend Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi, who was then in the JKLF. While he was in the office, the BSF stormed the area for a search operation. While all remained in the office, Husain came out to hide himself in a `safe' place. But that day, a bullet had to hit him in the head. He left us for good. 

Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi who is now in Kotbalwal Jail told a team of visiting journalists that the civilian killings were always clod blooded effected after a few minutes of a confrontation with militants. "At times it was a result of panic reaction from the forces," he told the scribes.

Coincidentally, Bakshi had the photo of a seven-year-old girl from Kupwara with him when the team walked in his Batmaloo office. "Now the state police chief has coined a new term to justify cold blooded killings. Now they use `stray bullets' instead of crossfire," he said.

Having done some ground work, the scribes had photo copies of affidavits solicited by relatives of deceased persons wherein they had stated that their wards got killed in cease-fire.

However, Bakshi had a handy answer. "Why do the authorities seek such affidavits from the aggrieved people? It reflects that the affidavits have been obtained for some ulterior motive," he offered a clarification.

It is in place to mention here that delegations from various corners of Kashmir have staged protests in Press Enclave stating that the authorities were seeking such affidavits from them if they were interested in ex-gratia and compassionate employment.

A Srinagar based human rights defender said times had changed and the authorities, most probably find it difficult to justify the killings by `cross-fire' theory. According to him, a new term `stray bullet' has been coined for the purpose.

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