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Dead but Not Forgotten: Baramulla, 1989-2006

This is a summary of the results of a survey carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society between 2003 and 2006 in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir that, in the context of the resistance to "occupation", tries to bring "alive" the profile of those who were killed during 1989-2006.


Dead but Not Forgotten: Baramulla, 1989-2006

Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society

society did they come from? What caused their death?

A questionnaire was prepared in which we asked respondents 37 questions, grouped under seven heads. Through this survey we hoped, so to speak, to bring “alive” the profile of the dead, and by so doing, fill out

This is a summary of the results of a survey carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society between 2003 and 2006 in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir that, in the context of the resistance to “occupation”, tries to bring “alive” the profile of those who were killed during 1989-2006.

Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society ( is a Srinagar-based civil rights group.

Economic & Political Weekly november 24, 2007

n 2002 we decided to undertake a door-to-door survey of an entire district of Jammu and Kashmir to find out not only who was killed, but also when, where, how, and if possible, why.

What was the rationale behind wanting to record these deaths? After all, in any war there are casualties. And amongst those who get killed there are combatants as well as civilians. But by leaving that death toll unexamined, by remaining innocent of the context and circumstances in which these deaths take place, one can never hope to understand what the nature of the conflict is. It was to provide precisely this context that a survey of the death toll in Baramulla district was undertaken.

Who were the dead? What were their names? How old were they? Were they students or working people? Where did they come from? Who did they leave behind? What did they do? How much had they studied? How many men, women, children perished? Were there more men than women? More young than old? Which stratum of the the contemporary history of our people, and rescue those who died in a struggle for freedom from becoming mere statistics in the records of an occupation force.

Although Jammu and Kashmir came under military occupation in October 1947 the armed resistance began only after 1988. The decades between 1947 and 1988 saw a movement for the right of selfdetermination through militant but nonviolent struggle. Every step of this way was punctuated with obstacles, in the form of direct physical assault, arbitrary arrests, false cases, long periods of detention without trial, as well as the politics of proscription where organisations were banned and their literature seized, and elections rigged.

But what followed was something unprecedented in scale and magnitude, and it will be no exaggeration to say that after 1988 J and K will hereafter not remain the same. Our 2006 report, State of Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir 1990-2006 pointed out that based on our research, projections showed that death toll for the period between 1990 and 2004 was more


than 70,000, when for the same period the Indian state was reporting a death toll of 47,000 (1990-2005). And that the authorities have underplayed tens of thousands of deaths of people killed in J and K as a consequence of a war against a democratic movement.

While we admit to being partisan, and hold the Indian state responsible for the loss of lives, we also do not believe in belittling anyone’s suffering. All those thousands of people who have been killed, including renegades who committed innumerable war crimes, have died as a consequence of war, as victims of a long, cruel war. It is inconceivable that such internecine bloodletting would have taken place but for the exigencies of counter-insurgency warfare, a euphemism for the suppression of a people. We are also concerned that Indian soldiers are made to fight an ignoble war against the people of J and K, a war which has begun to cause a great deal of harm to them too.

In remembering the dead we become familiar with them, as well as those they left behind.

Resistance and Violence

In any conflict situation, there is always an attempt to manipulate the death count. Our estimate of the death toll since 1990 is 70,000. This figure has been flatly denied by the Indian state. However, in an occupation of this nature it is not enough to only count the dead. The living too continue to pay an unacceptable price, their every move controlled by soldiers, their society shattered by spies, intelligence agencies, and government agents. Death then is only the most brutal metaphor of this occupation; there are other poignant markers of this occupation that seek to smother the aspirations of the living. A military occupation has evicted people from their farmlands and orchards, foisting interminable humiliations upon a people, and marking their spaces with instruments and agents of violence. The bunkers, checkpoints and the military camps of an army that seeks not only to perpetuate violence to gain military ends, but also seeks to secure, in the ultimate analysis, political ends through military means.

The most obvious marker of this strategy is the half million plus armed forces stationed in the state, who are surely there not only to fight the thousand odd officially estimated militants. If this were the case then the military and paramilitaries of the Indian state would cut a sorry figure on parameters of military efficacy.

This military occupation has been foisted upon the people not only to fight and kill but essentially to establish a hegemony of force and coercion amongst a people perceived as being perpetually rebellious, and thereby to break their collective aspiration and will to freedom.

Not all of the 70,000 victims of this dirty war died at the hands of Indian forces. Many were victims of militants. Some of these deaths were either in the nature of

Visiting Students Program 2008

As part of its outreach activities, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) is seeking applications for the Visiting Students Program 2008.

t Visiting Students Program is meant to provide a taste of economics research for Master’s (M.A., M.B.A., M.Com., M.Sc. and M.Stat.) and final year engineering (BE, B.Tech.) students of other Colleges/Institutes/Universities.

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t Applications can be sent electronically (supporting documents should be scanned) or by post (only self-attested copies of supporting documents be sent now) to reach IGIDR by 21 December 2007. The subject head for email and top of the envelope for post should indicate APPLICATION FOR VISITING STUDENTS PROGRAM 2008. Selected participants would be intimated about the decision by mid-January.

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internecine killings or deliberate targeting. Some of these were caused by the use of weapons such as grenades and mines which when exploded in crowded areas cause more damage to the non-combatants than the combatants they are aimed against. However, the armed struggle in Kashmir is a direct response to the suppression of peoples’ democratic right to self-determination. The Indian government has consistently and ruthlessly stamped out, discredited, co-opted or destroyed every attempt at non-violent resistance, thereby privileging violence, and this has undoubtedly led to excesses perpetrated by militants as well. In other words, while there may be several actors in the violence in J and K, the primary responsibility for the destruction caused rests fair and square on the shoulders of the Indian state.

Overarching Fact of Occupation

This is why it is a critical matter to understand who is responsible for this war, and why is this war being prosecuted? When deaths occur it is the circumstances which determine and explain why people died and what meaning and significance is or can be attached to it. It will not do to equate victim and the victimiser in a game of sophistry whose purpose is to obfuscate the overarching fact of occupation, and the struggle for people’s inalienable right to self-determination.

The resistance to occupation became an armed struggle in 1988, and as a result scores of deaths turned into hundreds and then thousands and then tens of thousands. There is a fundamental political, historical, and moral difference between an occupying force and the resistance to it. When the resistance commits crimes we must not flinch from criticising them for their excesses. But equally we must be mindful of the principal problem – which is the occupation. This obvious point needs to be stressed because pseudo “humanitarian groups” pretend to be neutral between two warring groups, and pretend to be only interested in “people’s welfare”. However, they choose to remain ignorant about the war, and its context, and gloss over the fact that militants are organically linked to the people, whereas government forces are not. Is it therefore surprising that to this day every namaaz-e-janaza (funeral

Economic & Political Weekly november 24, 2007

prayer) of a militant is attended by thousands of people? This does not happen when soldiers or renegades die.

The Survey

The actual survey began in 2003 and continued till 2006. Teams of four or more volunteers would travel to a village and move from house to house, asking people if any member of their family had died or disappeared, either at the hands of the Indian security forces, renegades or the militants. Volunteers then filled the questionnaire prepared by JKCCS.

Before commencing the survey a workshop was organised where volunteers were familiarised not just with the questionnaire but also with the broader reasons why the survey was being undertaken and its significance for our own time. People volunteered their time, formed teams, and systematically covered one village after another.

Teams went from house-to-house accompanied either by a village elder or a social activist of the village. The respondents were told clearly that the survey was not meant to get them compensation and that it was not linked to any government project but meant to record those who died, be it a militant, civilian, renegade or police personnel. These forms were then carried to Srinagar, and one member of the team usually supervised the data entry, after which the forms were labelled and stored.

Not all forms came back fully filled. Some had one or more columns unfilled. Those with more than 30 per cent of the columns unfilled were not accepted. (The total numbers of rejections were six.)

Since data was collected over a period of three years obviously a village covered in 2003 would naturally not include figures for the subsequent three years. This makes yearwise comparison between various villages difficult, and may also result in a possible underestimation of the number of deaths. Also, while we did cover most of the villages in Baramulla district four had to be left out as access to these was denied by the Indian army.

The extent of killings could be higher than the survey data throws up on account of the fact that many of those not present during the survey could be from the Kashmiri Pandit community, who had migrated from the valley in 1990. Since the data was collected from the residents of the district, information from those families who were not present was also clearly not collated. The questionnaire did not have a column for religion.

Ideally, the survey would have had to be simultaneous over space and time, clearly impossible without a huge team, and substantial resources.

Summary of the Data

One of the principal findings of our survey is that of the 5,106 people who were killed in Baramulla district between 1990 and 2007, a disproportionately high number of people belonged to the age group 18-35. This is the age group that comprises the principal bread-earners, those who contributed significantly to their household income. Thus it was not just lives lost, but livelihood too that was taken away, leaving whole families in penury.

  • Total number of people killed: 5,106
  • Males 4,908: Adults 4,557 Children 349 (i e, those below age 17)
  • Females 198: Adults 156 Children 42 (i e, those below age 17)
  • Civilian casualties: 2,508
  • Militant deaths: 2,267
  • Custodial murders: 408
  • Enforced disappearances: 343
  • It is notable that of the total of 5,106 nearly 50 per cent (2,508) were civilians and another 44 per cent (2,267) were militants. Age group of 18-35 years comprises 3,634 deaths. Since adult women comprise about 3 per cent of the deceased, males in the age group 18-35 clearly bore the brunt. If you add the militant deaths in the age group 18-35 years (1,972) to those of civilians (1,444), about 67 per cent of all those killed are in this age group, suggesting that the age group 18-35 years has been particularly targeted. The age profile of government forces personnel and renegades killed too corroborates this. Out of 273 people in this category, 209 belonged to the age group 18-35 years.

    Custodial killings at the hands of government forces: survey figures indicate

    408. Of these 205 are civilians, 197 militants and former militants, and the remaining six are renegades and others. This reveals the nature of state aggression and how it is managed. More than 50 per cent of those killed overall, as well as more


    than 50 per cent of those killed in custody are civilians: clearly, civilians have been seen as legitimate targets in the war against militancy. This deflates two myths. One, that the army only targets combatants. Two, that militants have no support from local people. The fact is that the army has consistently conflated civilians and militants, seen them as one and the same thing. Civilians have therefore become “legitimate” targets.

    Enforced disappearances reported for the whole period are 343. Out of this 81 are militants or former militants while five belonged to government forces and 11 were renegades. However an overwhelming 72 per cent (246) are civilians. The Indian government is clearly making use of enforced disappearances as a matter of policy in order to terrorise people. The phenomenon is clearly not specifically targeted at combatants to qualify as anti-militancy or anti-insurgency operations. The figures overwhelmingly bear out that this war crime is perpetrated on an entire people.

    The Indian government has often claimed that many of those disappeared have crossed the LoC for arms training, a claim that has been consistently contested by the families of the disappeared.

    Data Analysis

    Occupational Profile: Almost half of all the male civilians killed in Baramulla district (2,452) were moderately or highly economically productive people and more than a third were students. A bare summary of the occupational profile of those killed, as per the survey, was as follows:

  • Farmers: 1,174
  • Skilled: 662
  • Professional: 532
  • Government: 84
  • Students: 989
  • Out of 2,508 civilians killed, occupational data for 112 was not available. In the case of 2,267 militants killed, the data is not available for 143. The survey, however, reveals that the dead belonged to all sec tions of the society: 55 different occupations were listed for civilians and 36 for militants. Respondents reported those killed as farmers, labourers, artisans, government servants, businessmen, milkmen, blacksmiths, mechanics, engineers, etc. What do we make of this? Simply a confirmation of the fact that no section of the society remained aloof and/or unscathed by the war.

    On the other hand, data available for 2,396 civilians and 2,124 militants also shows that farmers comprise 626 of the civilians and 548 amongst militants. Among those whose occupation was given as labourers 221 were civilians and 166 militants. 364 civilians and 625 militants were reported to be students. It means that half of those killed (2,540) were farmers, labourers and students. One hundred and eighty-nine civilians killed were businessmen, 205 government employees and 145 were artisans. Some intriguing patterns were noted: among militants killed 269 were reported to be carpet weavers, a category absent amongst civilians killed. And 56 per cent of all women killed (113) worked in their houses.

    Educational Profile: The survey shows education profile of 4,408 persons killed in Baramulla district, with 2,695 literate and 1,713 illiterate. A bare summary of the educational profile of those klilled, as per the survey, was as follows:

  • Doctorates: 8
  • Islamic Studies: 9
  • Postgraduate: 35
  • Graduate and Undergraduate: 422
  • Matriculate: 932
  • Under-matriculation: 1,289
  • Amongst the militants, a large number

    (691) were illiterate. Under-matriculation were the next largest group (677) followed by matriculates (477) and those who had completed 10+2 (229). Undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate were 36, 60 and 22 respectively. And there were two doctorates amongst the militants.

    Similarly 1,022 civilians were illiterate. Under-matriculation numbered 621, matricu lates 455, with 10+2 counted at

    195. Undergraduate and graduate civilians killed numbered 87. Only 13 were postgraduate while 6 had completed their doctoral studies.

    Income Profile: The income profile of those killed, as per the survey, was a follows:

  • Less than Rs 1,000: 863
  • Between Rs 1,001 and Rs 2,000: 1,634
  • Less than Rs 5,000: 503
  • Rs 5,000 and above: 85
  • For slain militants, respondents could not provide income profile of 738, while 414 were reported not to be earning members of their respective families. Another 425 reported monthly income of less than Rs 1,000; 512 earned between Rs 1,001 and 2,000 and 163 made between Rs 2,001 and 5,000 per month. Out of 2,267 militants killed only 15 reported a monthly income above Rs 5,001 and more.

    What about civilians? In 686 cases, respondents failed to provide any information

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    november 24, 2007 Economic & Political Weekly


    on income and left the column blank while 352 reported no income. Thus 1,038 out of 2,508 civilians or 40 per cent of the civilians killed had most likely no income. Those earning less than Rs 1,000 per month numbered 438 and between Rs 1,001 and Rs 2,000 were 622. Whereas 340 were shown as earning between Rs 2,001 and Rs 5,000 and only 64 between Rs 5,001 and Rs 10,000. Only six deceased civilians earned more than Rs 10,000. So the overwhelming majority of 2,098 civilians killed comprise those either with no income or less than Rs 2,000 per month.

    Profile of Perpetrators: The number of deaths, as per the survey, classified according to the identity of the perpetrators was a follows:

  • Government forces: 2,821
  • Militants : 417
  • Unidentified: 1,768
  • Out of the total 5,106 people killed, the survey identifies perpetrators in case of 3,337 deaths. But in a large number of cases in the survey (1,768) the perpetrators remain “unidentified”. Amongst these 3,337 cases, in 2,812 instances, Indian forces were found responsible for killings. In contrast, the survey points out that, 417 killings were caused by militants and 108 deaths were ascribed to “cross fire”. Significantly, 1,952 militants were killed by government forces and 910 civilians also died at their hands.

    But what of 1,768 deaths caused by “unidentified gunmen”? A breakup of these deaths shows that 304 were militants, 1,256 were civilians and 170 were members of government forces or its agencies, and 38 were political activists. Overwhelming majority of these killings (1,236) by “unidentified gunmen” was by direct shootings. Three-fourths of them occurred in public view and a quarter inside the houses.

    It is not surprising that the targeted killing of civilians started peaking alongside the rise of fratricidal “Ikhwani” or renegade phenomenon in 1994. Ikhwanis were collaborative militants bought, armed and protected by the Indian army. They were then let loose on their own people. The phenomenon began getting formalised in 1994 although the diabolical process had started two years earlier.

    Not surprisingly the survey registers that the year 1994 witnessed the highest number

    Economic & Political Weekly november 24, 2007

    of killings attributed to “unidentified gunmen”. According to the survey, out of a total of 1,768 people killed and ascribed to unidentified gunmen between 1989 and 2006, a bulk of 833 slayings were perpetrated between 1994 and 2000. This coincides with the emergence of the Ikhwani phenomenon. The Indian army’s patronage to the renegades was aimed at crushing the popular support on the one hand, while giving the Indian state plausible deniability for the crimes against an entire people.

    State Culpability

    In the prevalent situation the Indian state cannot be absolved of having attempted to eliminate and deter the public support for the fight against occupation through methods which escape and subvert any future legal recourse. In the ultimate analysis, the renegades, although a potent antiinsurgency force, ended up being used as human shields by the Indian army. The killings of civilians correspondingly declined with the systematic liquidation of the renegades by the rebel groups. By 2000, the renegades had also ceased to be a tactical tool for the Indian forces.

    It is significant to note that whereas most of the deaths occurred in public places (even if they were by lanes of a village) disappearances and large number of those shot dead by “unidentified gunmen” happened inside houses.

    According to the survey, out of 417 persons killed by the militants, 273 were government forces personnel and renegades. Internecine clashes claimed 76 militants, and 68 were either civilians or political acti vists. But it is interesting to note that out of these 76 inter-group killings, 57 occurred during 1991-1994. These internecine killings began to subside after 1994. Post1998, the survey for Baramulla records no inter-group fratricide amongst militants.

    The survey also reveals that out of total 2,267 militants killed in Baramulla district, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) guerrilla group lost 1,328 cadres, which is more than half of all militants killed. The group also bore the brunt of killings by “unidentified gunmen” in losing 130 out of 304 militants killed.

    The yearwise breakup of the militants killed highlights that the years between 1991 and 1994 has also been the period of a rise in killings of militants: 142, 217, 299 and 354 respectively. Civilian killings too reveal a similar trajectory: 173, 247, 240 and 243 in corresponding years. In other words killings were the highest during this period.

    Out of 1,545 encounters in Baramulla district, the same period (1991-94) also provides evidence of escalation in number of gun battles between militants and government forces: 98, 147, 200 and 244.

    The likelihood of government forces, sent to crush a rebellious people, striking at anyone remains high. Given the very workings of counter-insurgency warfare (which is conducted among people), they become targets.

    Government Forces: A look at the death toll of government forces and renegades in the survey shows that 273 personnel were killed. Out of these, 170 were killed by “unidentified gunmen”. Of these 105 were renegades and 59 police personnel. Assuming that all these 170 killings were carried out by the militants, the scenario throws up two possibilities. In the first place the total num ber of killings of government forces personnel at 273 is just about 5 per cent of the total death count. And secondly, this death toll reveals that even among the government forces overwhelming majority of those who died were Kashmiris. Thus there is a form of double jeopardy that people experi ence in such situations. On either side, it is the local people who are the primary victims.

    Most significantly, the survey highlights high incidence of killings through gun battles (1,510), custodial deaths (408), direct shootings (1,236), and crossfire deaths (108). These account for 3,262 out of 5,106 deaths or little more than 60 per cent of all deaths. If enforced disappearances

    (263) are added to this figure, it reveals how this form of warfare is a “dirty war” in which brutal death is inevitable.

    Consequently, out of 5,106 people who died between 1990 and 2006 in Baramulla district, of which 4,775 were civilians and militants, in nearly 90 per cent of the cases the culpability of the Indian state is not only primary in that they caused it, but they are also the principal perpetrators of such deaths.

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