Skip to main content

Standard procedure on using civilians as human shields in India's "disturbed" areas is state secret: Modi government

By Our Representative
The Government of India does not want to make public its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) intended for use, by security forces, in areas where militant groups are active and use civilians as 'human shields'. This has come to light in a right to information (RTI) reply by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Revealing this, senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, who filed the RTI application, said, the MHA rejection "invoking security and strategic interests of the state as grounds for refusing disclosure" has come despite the fact that MHA has admits existence of the SOP, and the contents of its draft were revealed in a written reply to a query by P Kumar, AIADMK MP from Trichy, in 2013.
The MP wanted to know, with reference to civilians killed during anti-Naxal operations, whether it was true that many villagers in this country have complained that the Naxals were using them as human shields.
In his reply, the then Union Minister of State for Home Affairs revealed that a draft SOP on 'Maoists using villagers as human shields' was circulated for comments to the armed forces and states affected by left wing militancy.
The minister's reply especially insists that the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) must "take utmost care to avoid casualties/injuries and any form of harassment of locals while undertaking anti-Naxal operations even when they are used as human shields by the Maoists".
Based on the former minister's reply, Nayak made an RTI application on instructions issued to all State governments to "adhere to the highest standards of human rights" during anti-Maoist operations, SOP on ‘Maoists using villagers as human shields’ circulated to the governments of Naxal affected states, comments received from states, the latest version of SOP relating to the use of civilians as human shields, as also the version of SOP relating to the use of civilians as human shields by militant groups issued for the North-Eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The RTI query was especially meant to ascertain which SOP was used by the security forces, who tied a youth to a pilot vehicle being driven around by security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Budgam, J&K. The incident occurred in the poll-bound Lok Sabha constituency of Srinagar, and its video went viral in April 2017, soon after which the Indian Army ordered a Court of Inquiry into the incident.
"The findings of the Court of Inquiry are yet to be made public. A few weeks later, the officer responsible for this incident received a commendation for his performance in counter-insurgency operations, from the Chief of the Indian Army", comments Nayak, who is with the advocacy group Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
"In July, acting on the plaint of the victim, the J&K State Human Rights Commission directed the government to pay Rs 10 lakhs as compensation, unequivocally describing what several others called a 'life-saving strategy', 'humiliation, physical and psychological torture and wrongful confinement' of the victim which the law does not permit even for a convict", adds Nayak.
While rejecting the RTI plea, the MHA official said, the "information/documents, sought in your RTI application dated April 19, 2017, are secret in nature and disclosure of such documents would prejudicially affect the security and strategic interests of the State. Therefore the desired information/documents cannot be provided as per Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, 2005."
Nayak says, it is clear from the reply that "SOP to guide security forces for handling situations where militant groups use 'human shields' exists" but the MHA "does not want to disclose it", adding, he would now submit an appeal to the Central Information Commission.
Pointing out that there is "very little knowledge about the 'Do's and Donts' issued by the Indian Army for its personnel operating in areas covered by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958,", Nayak says, there exist "10 commandments" issued by the Chief of Army Staff under the 1958 AFSPA, and three of them are:
"1. Remember that the people you are dealing with, are your own countrymen. All your conduct must be dictated by this one significant consideration.
2. Operations must be people friendly, using minimum force and avoiding collateral damage – restraint must be the key.
3. Be compassionate, help the people and win their hearts. Employ all resources under your command to improve their living conditions."

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

UN experts object to GoI move to 'reinforce' trend of prosecution, eviction of tribals

Counterview Desk
In a report sent to the Government of India, three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs, expressing "concerns" over the failure to ensure "adequate" implementation of the India Forest Rights Act (FRA), have regretted that the Government of India has not cared to reply their previous communications on this.

RSS 'demonizing' Muslim demographics: Hindus' growth rate decline 2.5% lower

By Mohan Guruswamy*
The RSS is riding its old hobbyhorse again. Addressing the Yuva Dampati Sammelan attended by reportedly 2000 young couples organized by the RSS’ Kutumb Prabhodan in Agra on August 21, the RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, apparently concerned about the “declining Hindu population” exhorted young Hindu couples to have more children.

River interlinking to transfer tribals' drinking, irrigation water to Maharashtra industries

Counterview Desk
Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), recently submitted its comments on the Damanganga–Vaitarna-Godavari Intrastate Link project to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), a project sought to be packaged by the Maharashtra chief minister as diversion of water from allegedly water surplus Konkan region to the drought-affected Marathwada region.

As submergence stares Narmada valley, Patkar says: With powerful in throne, we're helpless

Counterview Desk
Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), plans to begin its “Resist Illegal Submergence in Narmada Valley” satyagraha on August 21 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, amidst news that the situation in the valley is “critical”, with two persons having already died in flood-related incidents in the upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.

Govt of India 'has no plan' to reduce energy, fossil fuel consumption, emissions

Counterview Desk
In his representation to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India on draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP), 2019, top power policy analyst Shankar Sharma has insisted that there is imminent need to consider the economic activities at the national/international level very carefully from the perspective of climate change.

Here's proof: Manual scavenging is rampant, Ahmedabad isn't open defecation free

By Parsottam Vaghela*
Authorities of Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat, may have gone into full swing in its cleanliness drive under the Swachh Bharat mission after the city was awarded the open defecation free plus (ODF+) certificate by the Union government’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. However, my visit to some of the areas of the walled city of Ahmedabad on August 7 in order to ascertain whether it has become open defecation free suggested that the claim is a total humbug.

RTI Act holy cow for Govt of India? Official insists, don't ask why, when, what, where

By Pankti Jog*
The Government of India appears to have begun treating the Right to Information (RTI) Act as a holy cow. Its officials seem to believe that the Act is a sacred law, under which people shouldn't be questioning its functioning. One recalls what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing an RTI convention in 2015: “Why should government wait for people to ask information, we will have all information out in the domain, we have nothing to hide."

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.