Gandhi Commission’s interim report on Kishtwar communal violence

Burnt structures during the violence in Kishtwar in 2013. Photograph by Shahid Tantray

On the anniversary of the violence in Kishtwar, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) releases Justice (Retd.) R.C. Gandhi Commission of Inquiry interim report which has not been made public by the government yet.

On 9 August 2013, there were communal clashes in Kishtwar which resulted in the death of two persons and numerous injured and destruction of property. The state government appointed a Commission of Inquiry chaired by Justice (Retd.) R.C Gandhi and a Special Investigation Team was appointed to investigate the various FIR’s filed. On 7 April 2014, the Supreme Court, in a petition filed in relation to the Kishtwar incident, recommended that the final report of the Commission be completed in three months and that due and proper investigations be carried out.

“To date, there is no public information on whether the perpetrators of the violence in Kishtwar have been punished. Further, an interim report by the Commission of Inquiry finalized on 19 December 2013, has never been made public. There is no information on the fate of the final Inquiry report either,” said JKCCS in a statement issued here.

The statement also says that the interim report strongly suggests that there was no interest in carrying out any meaningful inquiry and the purpose of the Commission of Inquiry appears to have been to shield perpetrators of violence, important government personalities and defend the existence of illegal and unconstitutional VDC’s and further re-establish their need.

The interim report concludes by holding then Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar, Mohammad Saleem and certain other magistrates responsible for negligence and dereliction of duty. Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo, the then and presently Minister of State for Home, Industries and Commerce, has been exonerated of any role. The interim report finds in favour of a general need for VDC’s and blames the propaganda against them on people who believe in “radicalism.”

“(vi) that there is also evidence on record that the VDCs are doing good job as assigned to them. The propaganda against the VDCs is being spread by the people who believe in radicalism. It has come in the evidence that in case VDCs are disbanded it will bring an era of militancy again in the District and will land the District to a situation of “Land of Massacres” as known and called earlier during the militancy days. The other reason for propaganda against the VDCs is that there is less number of Muslim community people in the VDCs. When VDCs were framed at that time the deserving persons did not volunteer to be members of the VDCs because of the fear of the militants and threat to their life by the militants but now the situation on ground has much improved. The Government should consider the ex-army personnel and ex-police personnel to engage them as members of the VDC without disturbing the existing VDCs so that the false propaganda against the VDCs is taken care of and equal participation of the people is exhibited.” [pages 168-169]

The mandate of the inquiry [page 4 of interim report] bears no relation to the role of VDC’s in general. The inquiry was tasked with identifying the reasons for the violence, lapses and responsibility of specific persons. Instead, the longest finding of the interim report is on the need for VDC’s.

The JKCCS further added that the privatization of human rights abuses and the outsourcing of criminality by the Indian State besides being in violation to many international laws are also violative of India’s constitution, the rule of law and the Supreme Court decision in the Salwa Judum case.

The communal nature of the Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir is apparent from the very constitution of the VDCs. In response to a RTI application, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, in December 2012, provided the following details regarding VDCs in Kishtwar District [where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims is 35:65]: of a total of 3287 VDC members, 3174 [96.56%] are Hindus. Further, out of 3287 VDC members, 865 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these 865, only 21 [2.43%] are Muslims. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs [97.57%] are Hindus,” the statement said.

The JKCCS also says that an important part of the cover up of the institutional criminality in Jammu and Kashmir has been the appointment of inquires that rarely carry out any meaningful inquiries and only serve to protect state perpetrators.

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