“Government forces have killed 225 militants, including all top commanders of several militant outfits in 2020,” Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbagh Singh told reporters on Thursday.
During the year in which the COVID-19 lockdown ran parallel to an aggressive military crackdown and communications lockdown imposed on Aug. 4 last year, 299 militants and their associates were also arrested, according to Singh.
As many as 16 policemen, 44 army and paramilitary soldiers were also killed during operations or militants’ attacks, Singh added.
The police chief’s statement came a day after three youths were killed by security forces calling them “militants.” However, the deceased’s family members stated that the youths were civilians and they had no links with any militant group.
“The police chief conveniently brushed the explosive human rights situation under the carpet,” said Ahsan Untoo, chairman of the International Forum for Justice Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Three cousins were murdered in a staged gunfight in July. Only yesterday three families protested outside the police control room, claiming three youths killed in a gunfight had left homes to fill admission forms at university,” Untoo told Anadolu Agency.
Contrary to the police chief’s statement, a report published on Wednesday by the Legal Forum for Oppressed Voices of Kashmir, said at least 65 civilians were killed “extra-judicially,” meaning in staged gunfights.
The report particularly highlighted the “extrajudicial killings” of three laborers in the Shopian district in a staged gunfight in August. The rights group also said that a total of 474 people, including 232 suspected militants and 177 Indian troops, were killed from Jan.1 to Dec. 30 this year.
Some other international rights groups have also voiced their concerns over the extrajudicial killing of civilians in the region.
Pakistan has strongly condemned the yesterday's killings and demands an international investigation for all "extrajudicial killings" in the heavily militarized Indian-administered Kashmir.
Singh also said that 635 “over ground workers,” a term used by police to describe alleged supporters of militants, were arrested and 56 of them jailed under a preventive detention law called the Public Safety Act, which was termed as a “lawless law” by Amnesty International. A person can be detained up to six months without trial and detention could be repeated perpetually.
Thousands of civilians, pro-freedom and pro-India leaders in the region were detained -- and some of them later released -- after the Indian government scrapped the special provisions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.
Untoo said that pro-freedom leader Ashraf Sehraie, an ailing 76-year-old man, has been detained under the law “even though he has barely stepped out of his home for the past several years.”
“Human rights are being violated with impunity, like in the past,” said Untoo, who has been arrested several times by the Indian authorities due to his strong stance against human rights violations in the region.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence, or for unification with Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands have been killed and tortured in the conflict that flared up in 1989.