Kashmir: Amnesty International condemns massacre of civilians

The human rights organisation expressed concern that the killings may have been intended to undermine movements towards peace talks in Kashmir, and called on the authorities to begin an immediate investigation and to prosecute the perpetrators.

The murder of the 24 members of the Kashmiri Pandit, including eleven Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and two Children's rights, follows the local government's call on the Pandit community, who left the Kashmir Valley in 1991 and moved to camps around Jammu and New Delhi, to return.

Amnesty International said: 'All sides must safeguard the lives of civilians in Jammu and Kashmir. The killing of innocent civilians should never be used to score a political point or to undermine a political process.'

Amnesty International has urged the authorities to take measures to prevent further human rights abuses against civilians, and to ensure that the killings in Nadimarg are comprehensively and transparently investigated. The organisation said it was essential that the perpetrators be held to account.

'All too often in the past the unlawful killing of civilians has been left uninvestigated and those responsible have not been punished,' Amnesty International said, siting the March 2000 massacre at Chitthisinghpora in which 36 Sikh civilians were killed, which has still not been subjected to scrutiny.

Background

According to reports, around midnight on 23 March, approximately 15 men wearing army fatigues and carrying automatic weapons disarmed police officers at a nearby police station before ordering villagers out of their homes. When the villagers where gathered outside, the armed men fired on them indiscriminately, killing 24 people, before escaping into nearby forest.

The rise of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir led to the migration of large numbers of the Hindu Pandit community from the Kashmir Valley more than a decade ago. The Pandits were regarded by some as having strong links to the rest of India because they were Hindu and because they held a large percentage of government posts. Sections of the press called for the community to leave the Valley and anti-Pandit demonstrations took place in Srinagar. Several prominent members of the Pandit community, such as leading academics, were allegedly killed by militants.

In 1991 about 150,000 Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Kashmir Valley. Those who were wealthy or had relatives in New Delhi moved there while the rest were relocated in camps around Jammu and New Delhi. A decade later, thousands of the migrants still live in camps around Jammu. According to government figures in April 2001, about 32,000 Kashmiri migrant families have been registered with relief organisations.

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