Train Forces To Respect Rights, Says J&K Panel8 January 2011
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Security forces in Jammu and Kashmir must be “trained” to respect the rights and dignity of citizens, the three-member team of interlocutors appointed by the Centre has recommended. “Peaceful protests” must be allowed, and mass protests “must be handled without loss of life”, using “non-lethal” methods of crowd control, they have said in their interim report submitted to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. The report was submitted on November 2, but its contents have not been made public so far. The interlocutors - journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academic Radha Kumar and former Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari - have made three much-publicised visits to the state and interacted with the public and political leaders. It is learnt that another visit is planned for later this month, focussed on the issue of regional disparity. Sources said the interlocutors have discussed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, but not made any specific recommendation about it. They have called for strengthening the monitoring of alleged human rights violations in the state through the State Human Rights Commission and Accountability Commission. The sources said the group is in favour of demarcating specific areas in Kashmir and Jammu where peaceful protests can be staged against the government - somewhat along the lines of Hyde Park in London or Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Home Ministry officials told The Sunday Express that the Centre has already initiated action on many of these recommendations. The Ministry has already received the draft of a new set of standard operating procedures, drawn up by a high-level committee, to deal with protesters without using lethal weapons. The Centre has asked the state government to put in place a mechanism to check the harassment of civilians due to security curbs. The state government recently informed the Ministry that it has set the ball rolling on implementing the recommendations that come within its purview. The panel has recommended that jobs be identified in the central government, which can be offered to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. It has recommended that all militants and protesters, including stone-pelters, against whom there are no serious charges, should be released from prison. Jailed youth should be imparted training to improve their skills and employability. A significant recommendation is to adequate “representation in political institutions and bureaucracy to Muslim Gujjars and Bakerwals”. The panel also wants the government to accord special status to Pahari-speaking residents, of whom there are sizeable populations in Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu and Baramulla and Kupwara in Kashmir. A long-pending demand for Scheduled Tribe status for Paharis is opposed by the Gujjars. An important recommendation seeks an increase in the monetary assistance provided to the widows and orphans of militancy. Another recommendation seeks extension of fiscal and other incentives for businesses that invest in Kashmir. The panel also wants the central and state governments to announce special scholarships for Kashmiri students who want to pursue higher education in institutions of excellence. The interlocutors have recommended an increase in the monthly stipend given to the over two lakh displaced Kashmiri Pandits in view of the increased cost of living.