Indian Kashmir Lists Custodial Deaths For First Time
18 February 2008
Srinagar: More than 300 people have been killed in police custody in the disputed Indian state of Kashmir since a Muslim insurgency began in 1989, according to a police report. The state police report, obtained by AFP from a source, said 331 people had died in custody and 111 had disappeared after being arrested - the first time security officials have given numbers on custodial killings and disappearances. Local human rights groups, however, say some 8,000 people are missing, most of them after they were arrested by the security forces. But officials say many of these people had crossed over to neighbouring Pakistan to join insurgents. Police in Kashmir are also investigating five cases where innocent civilians were detained and killed, and then passed off as Islamic militants. Nearly a dozen police officers have been arrested and charged with murder in those cases. Still, rights groups say the number of such cases have declined over the past year, matching a similar drop in violence attributed to the ongoing peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad. The official report also put the overall death toll from the insurgency at 43,183, with civilians accounting for more than thirty percent of the victims. Rights workers have also disputed that toll. 'Nearly 60,000 people have died since the start of insurgency,' said Pervez Imroz, the head of Coalition of Civil Society, Indian Kashmir's main rights group. 'Our figures are based on a proper survey,' he said, adding that police wanted to 'downplay the figures'. Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, and in 1999 fought a two-month pitched battle in the peaks of Kargil, a northeastern sector of Indian Kashmir.