(By Abdul Majid Zargar)
Former GOC of India’s Srinagar based 15 Corps, Ata Hasnain has written an article in praise of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) which appeared first in South Asia Defence & Strategic Review, and was later reproduced by Swarajya Magzine The article is available at https://swarajyamag.com/defence/rashtriya-rifles-the-story-of-independent-indias-finest-military-experiment .
Sh. Hasnain, now associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, has every right to eulogize a force close to his heart & mind and so do have we a right to rebut & correct him. This write-up is a rejoinder as well as a reminder to Ata Hasnain that he has produced only a one-sided positive, polished & luminous side of the force. He has concealed, for obvious reasons, the other side of the force which is quite horrible, grotesque and sickening.
Rashtriya Rifles along with other units of Indian army have committed grave human rights violations and war crimes in Kashmir. A few instances are given hereunder:
On Ist December 1993, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Bhat, a chemist of Bijbehara, District Anantnag was picked from his shop in broad daylight ,subjected to torture & enforced disappearance by Major Alok Chakarbarti, Major Omprakash & Sepoy Vinod Kumar of I Rashtriys Rifles. His disappearance (now presumed as killed) was thought necessary because he was an eye- witness to the fact of security forces not allowing the ambulances and medical aid to reach the victims and even firing on volunteers trying to take the injured to the hospital in the Bijbehara Massacre which happened a few months earlier in that year near Bhat’s shop.
After the massacre of 36 innocent Sikhs in Chittisinghpora in March 2000, five innocent persons were virtually dragged from their beds from various areas of Anantnag district during the intervening night of 23rd & 24th March 2000, held captive for the whole day of 24th March, taken into a Kotah (A mud hut) atop a small hillock and shot dead in cold blood in the wee hours of 25th March 2000. In an attempt to obfuscate their identities, their bodies were burnt & dismembered. This ludicrous deed was performed by the officers of 7 Rashtriya Rifles. This infamous episode is known as pathribal incident.
In October 1996, seven members of the families of Ghulam Qadir Dar & others were shot dead in Saderkoot Bala, District Ganderbal by a counter insurgent group ‘Ikhwan’ working under the patronage of 13 RR.(FIR No. 125/1996 regd. In P/S Sumbal).
On 16th July 1997, three civilians were killed by Major Ganpati of 28 Rashtriya Rifles in a fake encounter.(FIR No. 80/1997).
During the intervening night of 11th & 12th May 1999, around 50 personnel of 24 RR camp at Gushi, Kupwara led by commanding officer, Colonel Bali & aided by few counter insurgents entered the house of and killed Mohammad Amin Shah (Professor of Chemistry), his wife Sharifa(Lecturer in Botony), his ten year old daughter snowber (5th class student) and his sister-in-law Zarifa (Home maker).
On 19th June 1999, Mohammad Ramzan Mir along with four others were summoned to 30RR chatoosa camp under the charge of Captain Dinesh Kumar.The Captain & his men first beat them mercilessly.After that they were forced to drink water till their bellies swelled up. Then wooden rollers were rolled over their legs. This was followed by administration of electric shocks into their bodies with wires tied with their toes & private parts. Mohammad Ramzan couldn’t bear the torture and died. His body was wrapped in a gunny bag & surreptiously buried in a ditch. The said body was finally retrieved after then president PDP, Mehbooba Mufti intervened in the matter.
On 21st Feberuary 2004, a shopkeeper of Narashtan Tral was picked by Major Sumit Rastogi of 42 Rashtriya Rifles and was killed in custody.An FIR No. 9/2004 u/s 302 & 304 of RPC was filed at Tral Police station. After conclusion of the investigations, the case was sent to Union Home Minstry for sanction under AFPSA which was declined vide letter dated 19th August 2010.
That besides committing war crimes & crimes against humanity, Rashtriya Rifles is a highly undisciplined force, can be gauged from the recent incident ,in which soldiers of 24 RR attacked Gund police station in Ganderbal district and beat up the policemen besides ransacking the station. The only fault of policemen was that they didn’t allow soldiers in civvies, who were returning from Amarnath yatra to travel beyond a certain point in accordance with standing instructions drafted for the purpose for their own safety. There have been many similar cases in which the Army has attacked police stations but hardly any have led to a transparent inquiry. In 2001, a police inspector, JJ Mattoo, who was an SHO in Mahore in Reasi district was beaten by an Army party of 38 Rashtriya Rifles. On August 13, 2001, Inspector M Yousuf, who was posted as the SHO of Kulgam was beaten by 9 Rashtriya Rifles men headed by Major Anoop Dash.
Mr. Hasnain, I have no dearth of instances to quote and such quotations can go on until cows return home. I end this article here with this couplet.
Kabba kis mounh sey jawogey Ghalib-Sharm tumko magar nahee Aati
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)