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Border Security Forces

The Border Security Force (BSF) is responsible for guarding India's land borders during peacetime and prevent trans-border crimes. BSF has an extensive intelligence network to support these missions. The BSF was established on 01 December 1965, following Pakistani intrusions in the Rann of Kutch earlier that year. The total strength of the BSF is approximately 180,000.

Nearly, one third of the BSF is deployed in Jammu & Kashmir. As part of its occupation of Kashmir, the Indian Government has deployed more than half a million soldiers and a quarter of a million paramilitary forces. Beginning in 1990 the Indian central government deployed the full range of paramilitary forces to Kashmir, as the Army was unwilling to commit its forces to the counter-insurgency operation. The BSF had never been committed tor this type of operation. The BSF transforme itself from a border force to a counter-insurgency formation, and established an intelligence network in the area. However, more units of the force were deployed without the required specialised equipment and training.

Allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir primarily implicate the BSF. The first three years of BSF search, cordon, detention and killings produced an increase in the incidence violence in the Valley. Overused personnel committed excesses, including unacknowledged detentions, "disappearances" and other human rights violations. Torture is practised to coerce detainees to reveal information about suspected militants or to confess to militant activity. It is also used to punish detainees who are believed to support or sympathize with militants. Security legislation authorizes the security forces to shoot to kill and to destroy civilian property, increasing the likelihood of abuses.

By the beginning of 1995, over 400,000 troops were reportedly deployed in Kashmir, including eight army divisions and other independent brigades across the state. At least fifty-six of 148 battalions of Border Security Forces - each including one thousand men - were engaged in Kashmir. Thirty-nine in the valley and seven in Doda District are involved in counter-insurgency operations, and ten along the line of control are involved in border security operations.

Security forces committed an estimated 100-200 extrajudicial killings of suspected militants in Jammu and Kashmir during 1997. Although well-documented evidence to corroborate cases and quantify trends is lacking, most observers believe that the number of killings attributed to regular Indian forces declined slightly from the previous year. According to press reports and anecdotal accounts, those killed typically had been detained by security forces, and their bodies, bearing multiple bullet wounds and often marks of torture, were returned to relatives or were otherwise discovered the same day or a few days later.

Impunity has been and remained a serious problem in Jammu and Kashmir. Security forces have committed thousands of serious human rights violations over the course of the conflict, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture. Yet, during the period January 1, 1990 to June 30, 1997, only ten members of the security forces were tried and sentenced to 10 or more years imprisonment for violations of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

Civilian deaths caused by security forces in 1997 diminished for the fourth consecutive year in Jammu and Kashmir. This decrease apparently is due to press scrutiny and public criticism of abuses in previous years, increased training of military and paramilitary forces in humanitarian law, and greater sensitivity of commanders to rule of law issues. The security forces have not abandoned the abduction and extrajudicial execution of suspected militants, nor accepted accountability for these abuses. However, the inclination of many commanders to distance their units from such practices has led to reduced participation in them and a transfer of some of such actions to countermilitants.

Killings and abductions of suspected militants and other persons by progovernment countermilitants, believed to operate under the direction of the Border Security Forces, continue as a significant pattern in Jammu and Kashmir. Countermilitants are former separatist militants who have surrendered to government forces but have retained their arms and paramilitary organization. Although precise numbers are unavailable, progovernment countermilitants may have committed 100 to 200 extrajudicial killings in Jammu and Kashmir during 1997. Human rights groups believed that the number was slightly lower than in 1996. Government agencies fund, exchange intelligence with, and direct operations of countermilitants as part of the counterinsurgency effort. Countermilitants are known to screen passersby at roadblocks and guard extensive areas of the Kashmir Valley from attacks by militants. In sponsoring and condoning countermilitant activity, which takes place outside the legal system, the Government cannot avoid responsibility for killings, abductions, and other abuses committed by these irregulars. Perhaps as many as 3,000 continue to operate in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the countryside, outside major towns. During 1997 the Government took steps to organize Kashmiri counter-militants as a battalion in the paramilitary forces as a means of bringing them under enhanced control and military discipline.

In Punjab the pattern of disappearances prevalent in the early 1990's appears to be at an end. Hundreds of police and security officials have not been held accountable for serious human rights abuses committed during the counterinsurgency of 1984-94. However, steps have been taken against a few such violators. The CBI actively is pursuing charges against dozens of police officials implicated in the "mass cremations" case. Police in the Tarn Taran district secretly disposed of bodies of suspected militants believed to have been abducted and extrajudicially executed, cremating them without the knowledge or consent of their families. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has reported that 984 unidentified bodies were cremated by Punjab police in Tarn Taran. Most reportedly were killed by Border Security Forces while trying to cross into India from Pakistan, were unidentified victims of accidents or suicide, or died in clashes between militant factions. However, 424 were apparently militants killed in the interior of the district, 291 of whom were subsequently identified. These numbers demonstrate the extent of the bloodshed during those years and, given the pattern of police abuses prevalent during the period, credibly include many killed in extrajudicial executions.

Under the auspices of the UN and with USG encouragement, counternarcotic officials of India and Pakistan have continued the cooperation begun in 1994. Indian and Pakistani officials met three times in 1995 and agreed to speedy exchange of information and contacts. Narcotics representatives also participate in the quarterly meetings between the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistani Rangers. Few tangible results have yet come out of these meetings

At times of general elections to Lok Sabha and to the Legislative Assemblies, the State Governments generally seek assistance of the Central Government Offices and Departments located in the States for deployment of their employees in connection with the conduct of elections. The civil employees of Central para-military forces like the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force may also be required for such election duty.




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