On July 1, Wednesday, 65-year-old Bashir Ahmad Khan was killed by security forces in northern Kashmir’s Sopore district, as per allegations by his family. The killing reportedly took place when the 179 Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force was being attacked by militants in the neighborhood Model Town, which resulted in at least five casualties. Among them, one security personnel later succumbed to his injuries.
Pictures of his grandson, a three-year-old toddler, sitting on Bashir’s dead body drenched in blood have since gone viral on social media.
The civilian’s killing was also described as “cold blooded murder” by many human rights activists and locals, who added that the police did not even try to rescue the toddler. Locals accused the police of uploading the graphic pictures of the dead body with the child as a public relations exercise to garner sympathy and divert public attention.
“He was dragged out from his car and shot dead from close range at a time when the encounter was underway in Sopore,” the sister of the deceased told reporters at her residence in Srinagar.
Bashir’s son stated that his father had left home early in the morning for some work in Sopore district. “CRPF men fired at him in retaliation when he was moving in his car,” he claimed. Likewise, Bashir’s wife Farooqa, in her 60s, lamented that “forces killed him and then kept his three-year-old grandson on his body. The child’s clothes are soaked with his grandpa’s blood. Ask (Prime Minister) Modi was he a militant. Tell me which militant outfit he worked for?”
“They ended our world, what else do you want me to say. The military personnel took him out of the car and shot him. Is this what you call Modi’s justice in this union territory and is this our freedom?
Another video of the toddler uploaded on social media shows him visibly frightened and crying inconsolably while the police personnel have him inside a police vehicle. Meanwhile, many social media users have alleged that the police used a tragic situation involving a minor to advance their public relation exercise, which is in clear violation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. “It is also a breach of the best interests of the child principle as required to be the basis of any action by the authorities under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a state party,” Amnesty International tweeted.
The police, meanwhile, claimed that the man was killed by militants.
Many, including some international organizations, have compared the incident to the case of 11-year-old Muhammad Al-Durrah who was killed in a similar manner by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza strip in 2000. His father, Jamaal, was trying to save his son but failed. The images were telecasted globally, triggering outrage that no one was held accountable for that killing.
Recording the damage
On July 1, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society ( JKCCS) released its bi-annual report on the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the report, at least 229 killings were recorded in different incidents between January 1 and June 30 in the region. During this period, 48 properties were partially or fully damaged in at least 57 encounters.
“The destruction of civilian properties during encounters saw an increase during the COVID-19 lockdown enforced by the government, rendering many families homeless and without shelter,” the human rights body said. It also noted that as many as 32 civilians have lost their lives in extra judicial executions in these six months. Three children and two women were among the civilians who lost their lives.
107 counter insurgency operations were conducted by the Indian forces in the region. The report highlighted that 143 militants and 54 Indian armed forces personnel were killed in different armed operations.
While reviewing press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir, the JKCCS said that the local media which includes newspapers and magazines “continued to be at the receiving end of the pressure, intimidation and harassment by the authorities”. The report states that several incidents of beating and thrashing of journalists testify to this fact.
“Besides physical assaults, few Kashmir based journalists were also booked under stringent charges and cases were filed against them,” as per the report.