Civilian Killings in Kashmir: Probe After Probe, But No Justice

Despite 108 inquiries ordered into civilian killings since 2008, why haven’t the perpetrators been brought to book?

6 min read
Civilian Killings in Kashmir: Probe After Probe, But No Justice

At a time when the election fever seems to have engulfed the country, in a small hamlet of south Kashmir, a family is still trying to come to terms with the death of their loved one.

On the intervening night of 18 and 19 March, Rizwan Asad Pandit, 29, from Awantipora in south Kashmir, died in police custody. As soon as the news of his death spread in the Valley, the state administration ordered a magisterial probe to find out the cause of death. The parents of Rizwan, who was a school principal at a local private school, speaking to media, alleged that their son was killed in “cold blood”, and pinned little hope on the magisterial investigation into the incident. Rizwan’s father, Asadullah Pandit, talking to media said, “We don't believe in any probe, as probes ordered in the last 30 years yielded nothing.”

Asadullah has a strong reason to not believe in the investigations being undertaken in his son’s case. In the past three decades, the fate of investigations ordered into the killings of scores of people in Kashmir often at the hands of authorities, have indeed yielded nothing.

Let us turn the pages of history.


In Kashmir’s Massacres, Perpetrators Continue to Roam Scot-Free

The 1990s is known as the decade of massacres in Kashmir. Soon after the armed struggle started in the Valley in 1989, the Government of India, using its military might, left no stone unturned to crush the uprising. On 21 January 1990, nearly 53 civilians (unofficial figures) were killed by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on Gaw Kadal bridge; the incident is known as the ‘Gaw Kadal massacre’.

Soon after the incident, a Court of Inquiry (CoI) was ordered. 29 years later, not a single person has been booked till date.

On 25 January 1990, over 21 civilians were killed in Handwara, and in October the same year, nearly 17 civilians were killed in Handwara during “indiscriminate firing” by security forces, in retaliation to a suspected militant attack on an army convoy. The fate of the inquiries into these incidents is still unknown.

On 6 January 1993, BSF soldiers killed nearly 57 civilians and burnt dozens of shops and other structures in what has come to be known as the ‘Sopore massacre’. Again, this was reportedly in retaliation to militants attacking BSF men of 94 battalion at Baba Yousuf Gali. The fate of the inquiry into these civilian deaths is yet to be known.

Similarly, investigations were ordered in a series of other “massacres” that include Khanyar (8 March 1992): nearly 22 civilians killed; Hawal (21 May 1990): nearly 70 people killed; Bijbehara (22 October 1993) nearly 51 people killed; Mashali Mohalla (8 August 1992): nearly 9 civilians killed; and Brakpora (25 March 2000): almost nine civilians were killed.

In all the above cases, not a single person has been booked till date.

108 Inquiries Ordered Into Civilian Killings Since 2008

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a prominent scholar of human rights and international law, said that most of the probes ordered by the successive governments into human rights violation largely remain “inconclusive”.

“Probes after a fake encounter or custodial killing are routine in Kashmir. These probes mean nothing for people and victims,” Hussain said. Hussain said that even after the completion of probes, the perpetrators cannot be put on trial without the permission of the Centre.

“Under AFSPA Act, one cannot be put on trial without the prior permission of the Government of India, and that permission is seldom granted,” Hussain explained.

According to Section 6 of the AFSPA, “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the central government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act”.

Even though there was a relevant peace from 2000 to 2007 in Kashmir with minimum civilian casualties, the 2008 agitation again raised the graph of human rights violations in the Valley.

As per the data compiled by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in collaboration with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), since 2008, 108 inquiries have been ordered to probe various human rights violations, but till date, “zero prosecutions” of the accused armed forces personnel have taken place.


The Tufail Mattoo Case

Among these probes is that into the killing of 17-year-old student Tufail Mattoo.

On 11 June 2010, Tufail was returning home from tuition. When Tufail reached near Gani Memorial stadium in downtown Srinagar, he was hit on the head by a tear-gas shell (fired by the Jammu and Kashmir police), and died on the spot.

To investigate the killing (and other civilian killings in 2010), the then Omar Abdullah-led government appointed retired judge Justice ML Koul. The Koul Commission report was handed over to his successor, Mehbooba Mufti, in December 2016. This report recommended that a CBI enquiry be ordered in Tufail’s case.

Tufail’s father, Ashraf Mattoo, terming probes in Kashmir as the “butt of jokes”, said it is nothing but a trick to play with the emotions of the victim’s family.

“This is all nonsense. Hundreds of probes were conducted in the past. What happened? I am running from pillar to post for the past nine years to get justice for my child,” Ashraf said. “And I know I will never get that justice.”

“The probes,” Ashraf said, “are only ordered so the politicians ruling the state get exonerated.”

Tufail’s case is still pending in the court.

No Justice for Shabir Ahmad Mangoo & Riyaz Ahmad Shah

During the 2016 agitation following militant Burhan Wani’s killing, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had announced the setting up of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe the killing of a 30-year-old college lecturer, Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, at Khrew, part of South Kashmir's Pulwama district, and an ATM guard, Riyaz Ahmad Shah, at Karan Nagar in Srinagar.

On the night of 17 August 2016, Shabir was reportedly dragged from his home by security forces. The following day, his mortal remains were brought home. A probe conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir police has held 23 army personnel responsible for his death. But nobody has been booked till date.

Shabir’s father, Wali Mohammad Mangoo, said the family is still waiting for justice which seems to be elusive.

“In Kashmir, there is a saying that an incident lasts for nine days. And that is exactly what happened with my son,” Wali Mohammad said. “After his killing, Mehbooba Mufti promised that justice will be delivered, but it was a big lie.”

On 7 August, Riyaz was returning home from an ATM at Habba Kadal area, where he worked as a guard, on his Scooty. At 11:30 PM, his brother got a call from Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, where he found his brother dead.

A pellet cartridge fired from close range had burst inside Riyaz’s abdomen and there were “more than 350 pellets” lodged in his chest and abdomen. His vital organs – including lungs and kidneys – were ruptured by the pellets.


“Shot in Cold Blood”

Relatives alleged that Riyaz was shot in cold-blood by “CRPF personnel” who had a bunker near the area in which he was found dead. The Police registered an FIR (numbered 57/2016) at the Karan Nagar police station. The fate of the investigation is still unknown. In Riyaz’s case, the family had a similar story to narrate.

His brother, Shakeel Ahmad said they have not heard anything about the status of the probe in the past three years. “We don’t know what happened to that probe. Nobody has approached us all these years,” Shakeel said. “It was just a formality by the government, nothing else.”

Human right activists Khurram Parvez said the probes ordered by the successive governments in Kashmir are nothing but an eye wash to calm public anger and distract attention till events fade from the public memory.

“These probes have lost sanctity. Everyone knows that nobody will be booked for their crimes,” Parvez said.

(Junaid Kathju is a Kashmir-based journalist and tweets at @junaidkathju. Views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Quint Insider

or more


3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Insider Benefits
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!