Renegade Militants in Kashmir   Click here for detailed version

The phenomenon of renegade militants has been extensively documented by Human Rights Watch. Renegades are former militants who have surrendered and changed sides to the Indian forces. Since the 1989 insurgency in Kashmir, renegades have been used for extrajudicial executions of militants (besides human right activists, journalists and other civilians) and later conveniently dismissed as "intergroup rivalries". Many of these groups have been responsible for grave human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and illegal detention as well as election-related intimidation of voters. They are never arrested or prosecuted and go scot-free.

In 1997, the Director General of Police Gurbachan Jagat acknowledged that the continued services of the renegades had become counter-productive in view of their excesses; an estimated 5000 renegades were reportedly 'rehabilitated' as Special Police Officers (SPO) in the State police and many others were absorbed in the security forces. The present number of renegade militants continues to be significant and the estimates vary; In 1999, Gurbachan Jagat acknowledged that there were 1,200 renegades in the payroll of the government; According to a renegade representative Javed Shah, the number of renegades exceeded 2,000; The 2001 US State Department Report on Human Rights in India estimates that there are about 3000 such renegades operating in Kashmir who remain the most dreaded group and continue to engage in excesses.

Chattisinghpora massacre in 2000

In July 2000, the DNA test by the Central Forensic Laboratory, Kolkata, has established that the five persons killed by Indian security forces in an "encounter" in Panchalthan following the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora in Kashmir Valley in March 2000, were in fact civilians and not "foreign militants" as claimed by the forces. In the light of the latest findings, it is worthwhile to re-examine the mystery of the Chattisinghpora massacre and the possible reasons behind the subterfuge by the Indian forces and the related phenomenon of renegade militants used by India as the secret army in Kashmir, thus placing in perspective the almost daily killings in Kashmir including communal killings which tend to generate paranoia. The series of unexplained killings by unidentified gunmen where no militant outfit has claimed responsibility, could very well have been engineered by India using renegades and that only an impartial inquiry into these killings can shed light on the true identity of the killers.

The army-renegade nexus has been suspected in many other prominent killings before.

  • Jalil Andrabi, the human rights activist was abducted by the paramilitary and renegades in March 1996 in the presence of eye-witnesses and tortured to death in custody. Despite the Government's initial denials of the army's involvement, the Special Investigation Team identified Major Avtar Singh in April 1997 as the person responsible for the death; however the accused major was released with no punishment.
  • H.N. Wanchoo, the noted human rights activist had documented and filed writ petitions for hundreds of custodial deaths in 1992; Being a Pandit, his petitions were an embarrassment to the government. He was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in December 1992; Although the government claimed that the persons responsible belonged to the militant outfit Jamiat-ul Mujahidin, human rights activists who investigated the case have alleged that the militants of that group were released from jail on condition that they kill Wanchoo . Following his death, none of the cases were heard in the court and lawyers attempting to get the cases listed have reportedly found that many of the files of these cases were now missing from the High Court premises.
  • Zafar Mehraj, a veteran Kashmiri journalist was shot and critically injured as he returned from an interview with Koko Parray, the head of the state-sponsored paramilitary group Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon. The evidence strongly suggests the involvement of state-sponsored militia forces.
  • Dr. Farooq Ahmad Ashai, chief of orthopaedics and a human rights activist who had spoken against the government was killed by gunshots from a CRPF bunker. The government stated that he had been killed in 'crossfire', despite evidence to the contrary. Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, a surgeon who had treated torture victims was killed by unidentified gunmen.
  • Communal killings:

    Though militancy is mainly concentrated in the Valley and is largely non-communal, some militant outfits operate in the Jammu region and wage a communal campaign. Since 1990, an officially estimated 19,866 people have been killed in J&K, half of them civilians, including 982 Hindus and Sikhs as of 1999. In the communal killings in the Jammu region, 307 Hindus and 377 Muslims have been killed in the Doda and Rajouri districts as of 1998, according to official reports; Hindu fundamentalism by the local armed Village Defence Committee (VDC) backed by the Army and terrorism by Muslim insurgents in defense of the Muslim community, have fed each other.

    In early 1990, a few prominent Kashmiri Pandits were killed by the JKLF for political reasons; Though the JKLF tried to explain that the killings of Pandits were not communal, the murders caused a scare among the minority Hindu community. The rise of new militant groups, some warnings in anonymous posters and some unexplained killings of innocent members of the community contributed to an atmosphere of insecurity for the Kashmiri Pandits, which led to the exodus of most of the estimated 162,500 Hindus in the Valley, including the entire Kashmiri Pandit community in March. Some of the unexplained killings could very well have been due to renegades. Joint reconciliation efforts by members from both Muslim and Pandit communities were actively discouraged by Jagmohan. A thorough, independent enquiry alone can show if this exodus was entirely unavoidable. An estimated 36,000 Hindu families and 20,000 Muslim families (as of 1993) have fled the Valley and many of them still languish in the refugee camps in Jammu and Azad Kashmir, being displayed by India and Pakistan respectively for propaganda.

    Given the well documented phenomenon of Indian sponsored renegades and given the subterfuge of the Indian forces in incidents such as Panchalthan and the killing of Andrabi, one can see a pattern of impunity on the part of Indian forces - extrajudicial executions, denial and dismissal of the killings as "encounter killings" or conveniently placing the blame on "foreign militants". Only an impartial investigation by an independent agency can find the truth in such attacks by unidentified gunmen, where no militant outfit has claimed responsibility - whether separatist militants or renegades were involved.

    Pakistan's support for the insurgency has been well documented by Human Rights Watch; The JKLF admitted in a press release in 1990 that ISI had financed the operations of the JKLF and the Hizb. In November 1995, a BBC documentary programme showed evidence of camps in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, supported by the Jamaat-i-Islami (political wing of the Hizb), where fighters were trained and openly professed their intention of fighting in Kashmir.

    Kashmiris are alienated from both countries given brutal repression by India and violence by pro-Pakistan militants. In a recent poll by MORI [BBC News, 31 May], only 9% and 13% of people of Kashmir Valley, where the discontent and insurgency is concentrated, have preferred to join India and Pakistan respectively Caught in the crossfire between militants and Indian security forces, Kashmir continues to bleed.