Advani orders troops to avoid human rights violations
14 February 2004
The Daily Times
NEW DELHI: Indian Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani on Saturday asked security forces to ensure there are no human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir when they carry out anti-insurgency operations.Mr Advani made the plea at a meeting with senior members of the security forces, intelligence agencies and Home Ministry officials in New Delhi. Saturday's meeting was conducted as a backdrop to the recent killing of five civilians working as porters with the Indian Army during an anti-terrorist operation in Kashmir's Bandipora district. The meeting came before bilateral talks starting on Monday between India and Pakistan in Islamabad on a range of issues, including Kashmir.Mr Advani asked security forces to adopt a more humane and 'people- friendly' approach in tackling the 14-year-old separatist insurgency in the region and to ensure minimum 'collateral damage,' the agency said.He asked the army and paramilitary forces to strictly follow certain standard operating procedures while conducting cordon and search exercises, frisking at checkpoints and during night curfews in Kashmir. The government's key concern 'was to safeguard the security of the people of the state and ensure against violation of their rights whether by the terrorists or by security force personnel,' Mr Advani said.The meeting was held as a follow-up to Mr Advani's landmark talks with moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders last month to discuss ways of ending the conflict.The separatists had asked Advani to ensure an end to human rights violations in Kashmir while seeking the release of some political prisoners.The Indian Army has said the civilians were porters it hired who died in crossfire. But residents of the closest town, Bandipore, said the five dead were among 25 civilians taken as human shields by the army.Talking to reporters after the meeting, Army chief of staff General NC Vij said the human rights violations charges against the security forces were baseless. Border Security Force (BSF) Director General Ajay Sharma said, 'It is not correct to say human rights violations do not occur. Sometimes they occur by mistake, but we have to ensure these don't recur and that severe punishment is meted out to those who violate human rights.' The Indian Home Ministry spokesman said the meeting agreed investigations of human rights violations should be made 'more transparent and conducted speedily'.'Strict punitive action should be taken where complaints are found to be genuine and this should be made public,' the spokesman added.