HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE NORTHERN ARMY

 

                                       One’s Right to Live Pre-supposes
                                       One’s Duty to Respect Other’s Right to Live

 

                                                                     - Swami Vivekananda

 

1.   Human Rights ideology postulates human dignity and recognizes equality of every human being irrespective of race, religion, colour or sex and entitlement to rights as a human being. The ancient Indian Concept of Dharma embodied Human Rights consciousness in our civilization. The Indian Constitution, in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles provides for Human Rights of the people of India.


2.  Indian Army had been called upon since 1990 as the last bastion to aid the civil administration to maintain peace and tranquility as well as protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the face of externally abetted and sponsored dissent combined with demands for secession. The Northern Army while operating against these inimical elements has kept the tenets of Human Rights uppermost in their minds and embedded these in our operations.


Northern Army - Counter Insurgency Operations and Human Rights


3.  The Northern Army during the past two and half decades has witnessed situations varying from mass armed insurrection seeking secession from India to hard core terrorism to more subtle yet dangerous threats to public order and subversion of the people of J&K in the internal security calculus. Counter Proxy War Operations involve counter infiltration operations on the Line of Control and large uninhabited forest areas abutting it, tackling armed and mostly invisible opponent operating in the proximity or within civilian inhabited villages/towns through counter terrorist operations and securing lines of communication leading from the hinterland to the borders. The Army has a policy of `Zero Tolerance for Human Rights Violation' in place and has endeavoured to be transparent in handling of this sensitive issue.

 

4.  The Basic Values. The ‘Awaam’ of the State is the centre of gravity of operations conducted by the Army and winning their hearts and minds is vital to isolate them from terrorists and wean them away from secessionist elements. The sub conventional doctrine termed IRON FIST IN VELVET GLOVE summarizes its philosophy of calibrating its response when dealing with insurgencies/terrorism while upholding the values of human rights. By and large, the basic instinct and reaction of an Indian soldier, in most situations, is to protect human rights and uphold human dignity. Some of the factors responsible for development of this attitude and reaction are: -


(a) Military Discipline. The strict military discipline deters any “wrong-doing”, by a soldier. A soldier is trained to do that what is correct and proper, from the time he is enrolled into the service. It is almost second nature to him and the only way he knows to operate. Any violation is strictly dealt with by the superior authorities.

(b) Treat Everyone Alike. The armed forces are an all India cadre, without any caste, religion or regional biases and treat everyone alike. This contributes in upholding human dignity and human rights of persons belonging to all communities and regions.

(c) Apolitical Entity. The armed forces are not politically aligned with any ideology or party. They serve the state and uphold the fundamental rights of individuals as enshrined in the Constitution.

(d) Creation of Goodwill. The Armed Forces know it too well that their functioning can be optimized during peace and war, if the civilian population is with them in their ‘endeavour’. This need of the Armed Forces, thus, makes them more considerate to civilian needs and human rights.

 

5.   The unrestrained ruthlessness of the state forces worldwide in tackling terrorism/ insurgencies raging in other parts of the World, v.i.z. Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and the horrendous collateral damage; highlight the brutal nature of the sub-conventional warfare and the challenges faced in mounting successful military operations against a shadow enemy. If one dispassionately analyses the track record of armies worldwide as regards adherence to human rights, then it becomes amply clear that the Indian Army undoubtedly has a finest track record as a sentinel for preserving human rights. No other country in the Combat Zone to include US, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia etc faced with an insurgency of such a magnitude have restrained themselves from using escalatory modes of combat, including helicopter gunships, artillery, unmanned drones, tanks etc to quell insurgents/terrorists. Indian Army has in comparison been shouldering the burden uncomplainingly of ensuring that all its actions are done in `good faith' and taking in its stride adverse public/media criticism of even minor aberration or occasional collateral damage.

 

Institutional Measures to Uphold and Protect Human Rights

 

6.  In keeping with the changing internal security situation in J&K, the Army has constantly endeavoured to modulate its rules of engagement to prevent/minimize collateral damage during operations. The concept of `Iron Fist and Velvet Glove' has been translated through our fundamental stance of `Zero Tolerance for HR Violations' and promulgation of exhaustive orders, which include the COAS Ten Commandments and Do's and Don'ts while acting under AFSPA. This is evident from the sharp decline in the number of allegations of Human Rights violations against the Army in the recent years. Operations are launched only on specific hard intelligence and invariably carried out in the presence of police representatives. The Army has reduced its footprint by moving out of major cities / towns and handing over responsibility of securing the National Highway to the CRPF.

 

7.  Training. Training and education on Human Rights has been formalized and institutionalised in Northern Command. All troops inducted into the Command theatre for duties on the Line of Control and hinterland undergo training on Human Rights and observance of correct rules of engagement prior to their deployment on operational tasks. Regular briefing and informal talks are organized to sensitize troops and reiterate the importance of upholding HR of the local population during operations. Interactive sessions and seminars are regularly organized where noted Human Rights Activists, members of NHRC and media representatives are invited to share their views with the Army.

8. Human Rights Cell. A Human Rights Cell exists in Headquarters Northern Command with similar Cells established in subordinate formations up to Divisional Headquarters, which promulgate policy guidelines on Human Rights issues to troops of all units and formations in the Command and process complaints of Human Rights violations against the Army received from MoD, MHA and NHRC. The Army also takes suo-moto cognizance and investigates cases based on media reports/intimation by NGOs about alleged excesses by the Army.

9. Investigations. All allegations of violation of Human Rights are investigated by an independent and unbiased Inquiry ordered by higher formation headquarters by an Inquiry Committee comprising members from units other than the one against whom allegations are raised. The Committee examines civilian witnesses and documentary evidence from civil police and civil administration officials. The Detailed Investigation Report submitted by the Inquiry Committee is scrutinized by Commanders in successive formation headquarters in the hierarchy and finally forwarded to Army headquarters with recommendations of Headquarters Northern Command.

  

10.  Punishments. The Army has taken prompt action under the Army Act in cases where allegations of Human Rights violation by its personnel were proven to be true and exemplary punishments has been meted since 1990 to 150 Army personnel including 51 Officers, 18 Junior Commissioned Officers and 81 Other Ranks ranging from cashiering, rigorous imprisonment in civil jails, dismissal from service and other punishments in accordance with law. Out of these the Army has suo-moto taken cognizance and punished 52 Army personnel for HR digressions. Unlike civil courts, where litigation carries on endlessly for years, Army courts have promptly punished the offender in a much quicker time frame of three months upto a year at the most.

Misc Issues

11. Casualties in Operations. The security forces have lost more than 4000 trained personnel during counter terrorist operations in J&K in the last two decades. The loss of lives of such a large No of trained personnel vindicates the Army’s commitment to upholding the principle of use of minimum force and avoiding civilian causalities and collateral damage during operations. Several more have sustained injuries in operations, many of whom carry lifelong disabilities. The human rights of these soldiers and the great multitude who have served and continue to serve in counter terrorist operations, silently braving privations of harsh terrain, hostile weather and prolonged separation from their families is seldom given a thought.

12. Frivolous Complaints and False Allegations. A No of complaints of HR violations against the Army have been found to be false and instigated by inimical elements. A number of such complaints are initiated several years after occurrence of the alleged incident with no formal police complaint in the form of an FIR. Such complaints are aimed at maligning the Army and embroiling it in legal tangles and provide ripe fodder for various HR activists and separatist organizations to polarise perceptions and subvert the minds of the general population.

13. Upholding Dignity and Empowerment of Civil Population. The Army has undertaken a number of initiatives to provide succor to the civilians in remote areas lacking basic facilities. A number of projects have been implemented for providing education, health care, computer literacy, youth and women empowerment, employment generation, sports and games to improve the quality of life of people in J&K. The commitment of the Army in upholding human dignity and promoting universal brotherhood is clearly evident from the plethora of welfare and development projects executed in the State.

Conclusion

14. The Indian Army has an institutional ethos in upholding Human Rights. In fact, it is the only Organisation, wherein all ranks at the time of commission/attestation take an oath to uphold the ‘Constitution of India’, which in itself is an epitome of Human Rights. The concept of truthfulness, righteousness and dignity of human beings, is deeply embedded in the psyche of all ranks of the Indian Army. The Indian Army can be justifiably proud of its impeccable ‘Human Rights’ track record, when compared to other professional Armed Forces of the world.

 

DO’S AND DON’TS WHILE ACTING UNDER THE
ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT

 

DO’s


Before Operations


• Establish clear need for opening fire.


• Arrest only persons who have committed or are strongly suspected of committing cognizable offence.


• Search of premises only based on definite information.


During Operations


• Use ‘minimum force’. Open fire only after due warning.


• Conduct ‘Search’ in presence of two or more independent local witnesses.


• Maintain proper record of arrest and release of individuals.


• No undue harassment of innocents / destruction of public property.


After operations


• Handover arrested individuals (within 24 hrs) and seized property to Police.


• Ensure medical aid to injured persons.


• Maintain record of all operations conducted.



DON’Ts


• Do NOT keep any person in custody for more than 24 hrs.


• NO use of third degree methods.


• NO use of force against arrested persons.


• NO direct release of apprehended persons. Always release through police.


• Do NOT take back person once handed over to police.


• Do NOT tamper official records.