Srinagar: They are figures that have been quoted so often that they are widely believed to be true: almost 100,000 dead Kashmiri civilians and 10,000 people who have disappeared in the last two decades. From public meetings in small villages to TV studios, from online pages to newspaper reports, these figures are cited and printed, used to stir emotions and silence voices in Kashmiri society, even presented to visiting ambassadors and printed in petitions to the UN. Except, nobody bothers to explain just how these figures were arrived at.
TOI accessed Jammu & Kashmir government documents to arrive at the truth behind the urban legend. Collected between January 1990 and April 2011, the records are comprehensive and give year-wise breakup of all violent incidents in the state, the nature of the acts of violence, the number of people killed, and also the circumstances that led to the deaths.
Here's what the data says. In the last 21 years, 43,460 people have been killed in the Kashmir insurgency. Of these, 21,323 are militants, 13,226 civilians killed by militants, 3,642 civilians killed by security forces, and 5,369 policemen killed by militants. The 21,323 militants were killed in operations by security forces and include both Kashmiri and foreign militants. And of the 5,369 members of the security forces, around 1,500 are Kashmiri policemen.
The government has collated the figures of civilians killed by security forces since 1990: it lists 3,642 people. The numbers vary from a high of 539 civilians killed in 1990, the year in which 51 people were massacred by the CRPF in just one incident when it fired at a crowd of protesters on a bridge at Gaw Kadal in downtown Srinagar, to 120 protesters killed across the state in firing by the police and paramilitary forces in the summer of 2010.
The records also show another slaughter that has gone on ceaselessly since 1990, a slaughter that nobody comments on, nobody laments: of Kashmiris killed by militants since 1990. Of the 13,226 civilians killed by militants, 11,461 were shot and 1,765 died in grenade blasts and explosions.
These deaths are the ugly truth that Kashmir has learnt to ignore. The civilians killed fall into a black hole that Kashmiri society never discusses, remembers or protests against. They include two young sisters, Arifa (16) and Akhtara (18), who on January 31, 2011, were dragged out of their one-room house in downtown Sopore and killed. Akhtara took four wounds on her face and Arifa was shot in the chest. They were accused of being "immoral."
The moderate, the mukhbir (informer), the political activist or the unlucky bystander, these deaths are forgotten the day after they occur. But the central message is remembered: if you cross the line, you shall pay with your life. This message has been received and understood by the average Kashmiri.
The knowledge that you can be killed anytime, anywhere, and the fear of the hidden assassin, has percolated across society. That`s why separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Omar Farooq or Prof Abdul Ghani Bhatt, who have spent years spreading the truth about the atrocities on Kashmiris by security forces, are protected by the very same CRPF and J&K police. That`s why many journalists in Kashmir are followed around by armed policemen. No local newspaper dares print a story accusing militants of killing a civilian; the operative word is "unidentified gunmen".
These 13,226 Kashmiris just do not exist in the collective psyche. There are no websites to them, no petitions and no organizations to keep alive their memory. Their only contribution has been to cement fear in 70 lakh people, where a clear distinction exists between what is said privately and in company. Where even people who are victims of militant violence are more comfortable talking about security forces and their atrocities.
These figures are from the government. They make no mention or distinction between the official account and what sometimes happens in this dirty war. For example, there`s no clarity on whether the 21,323 militants claimed killed in operations by security forces includes or excludes the six innocent Kashmiri boys picked up and murdered by the Army after the Chittisingpora massacre in 2000.
The Army had claimed they were foreign militants responsible for killing 36 Sikhs in Chittisingpora. The CBI later said the Army had abducted the six from places around Anantnag and shot them in cold blood. Or the three innocent young Kashmiris "bought" by an Army unit for Rs 50,000 each and murdered in Machil in April 2009.
So, how many militants killed were actually militants? How many of the civilians killed by militants, as claimed by the government, were victims of Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar and not of "government agencies" as the separatists claim? Unfortunately, neither the Hurriyat nor the Lashkar have any lists of their own. They neither investigate their mistakes nor own up their actions. The only thing these records establish is that one lakh people haven`t died in Kashmir insurgency. What they help prove is that minus the some 4,000 jawans of the Army, BSF and the CRPF and the 5,000 odd "mehman mujahideen" from Pakistan, 34,000 Kashmiri men and women have died violent painful deaths as militants, mainstreamers, moderates or mukhbirs.