No justice in sight for 18 mentally unstable people killed by security forces in last 15 years in Kashmir

Family memebers of Rayees Ahmad staging protest against his killing in South Kashmir. Pic (Kashmir Reader)

By Auqib Javeed,

Srinagar:- On the afternoon of November 2, Bilal Ahmad was packing apples while his brother-in-law Rayees Ahmad Wani, who is mentally unstable, was taking a nap in their apple orchard in Kulgam district in South Kashmir. After a few hours, Rayees went to a nearby market. “He would often go and come back late night,” Bilal recalls.

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But that night, Rayees didn’t return. An anxious Bilal along with his family members started an unsuccessful search looking for Rayees. “Since Rayees was mentally unstable, we were very worried about his safety, and keeping in view the current situation in Southern Kashmir, our anxiety grew beyond control,” Bilal said in a conversation with

Rayees was the lone son of his parents and is survived by four sisters. Since there was no one to look after his parents, Bilal decided to stay with them permanently.
Next day, friends of Bilal gathered to help locate Rayees whom they knew well. The Peer group soon flashed the “missing report” of Rayees on social media websites including Facebook and WhatsApp along with his photograph.

At around 5 in the morning, Bilal, whose family could not sleep the whole night, received an unusual phone call from one of his friends. “I was told to report at the Police Station in Shopian,” said Bilal. He rushed, travelling around 22 kilometres from his home in Kulgam with a hope to bring back Rayees, but that did not turn out to be the case. “I was shocked to know that I had been called to collect the dead body of Rayees.” Rayees had been shot in his head and back.
According to a statement released by Jammu and Kashmir Police later that day when the incident happened, “Rayees tried to walk into the army camp of 34 Rashtriya Rifles stationed at Pahnoo village of Shopian district, when a sentry manning a bunker fired some warning shots in the air but the man did not stop and he then fired some shots upon him, killing him on the spot.”

The police, as is the custom, have registered a case in this regard, however, for the family of Rayees “it’s a mere eyewash”. Rayees’ killing was the second such incident this year when a mentally unstable person was killed by men in uniform.

Earlier this year in February, government forces personnel shot dead an elderly man who was later identified as Syed Habibullah of Central Kashmir’s Budgam District. The government forces had claimed that slain Habibullah had allegedly “entered the Air Force Station” in Humhma area near Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA) Airport in Budgam District. An FIR about the incident stands registered at the local police station and a probe was ordered, however, eight months have passed there is no outcome.

Records maintained by Srinagar-based rights defender group, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS) show whenever a mentally unstable person was killed by men in uniform in Kashmir, no justice was provided to victims or their families. It is pertinent to point that JKCCS has been able to maintain records only since 2003.

On January 8, 2009, a civilian, Abdul Rashid Reshi (45) of Pahalgam in Southern Kashmir’s Anantnag district, whom the police claimed could not hear and speak, was shot dead by Indian Army soldiers when he allegedly “intruded a high-security Army premises housing officers in Srinagar”.
According to reports, the Army soldiers ordered a high-level probe into the incident, but till date, neither enquiry was made public nor anyone was punished. A ‘murder’ case still stands registered at a “local Police Station”.

According to JKCCS data, a copy of which lies with, there have been at least 18 such cases where men in uniform have killed mentally unstable persons, sometimes allegedly mistaking them for militants in the last fifteen years.

“I am sure there might be more than 18 killings of mentally unstable persons, but we have data from 2003 and these cases were reported (by media),” noted Irfan Mehraj, a researcher with JKCCS.

Mehraj says that the killing of a mentally unstable person by Indian armed forces in Kashmir is “nothing new”. “Such killings have happened before, and the trend has largely been unnoticed,” he claims, adding “no one has been convicted in any case so far”.

The family members of the victims don’t even expect justice from the system “saying that the registration of an FIR is a mere eyewash,” Mehraj added.

“When people who are mentally fit are being killed for no reasons and when their families don’t get justice, how could we (families of mentally unstable slain persons) think of justice,” wonders Bilal.

Noted human right defender and 2017 Rafto prize winner, Parvez Imroze, told TwoCircles.Net that the condition of mental hospitals in the Valley is pathetic. “A patient doesn’t get proper treatment and care in these hospitals. The problem is with patients who do not have money to treat themselves; they don’t even get proper treatment due to lack of attention or their families don’t have money to get their patients treated,” Imroze says. He says it is the responsibility of the state (government) to adopt and take care of these mental patients who are vulnerable because of poverty.

Confirming Imroze’s view that mentally unstable patients are vulnerable to violence, Valley’s known psychiatrist Dr Arshad Hussain, said that residents of a conflict zone have higher risk of   mental illness. People with severe mental illness like schizophrenia have tendency to wander.

“Even though nothing can exonerate the killing of an innocent being, it is high time that we think of strategies to minimise the loss of life of people with severe mental illness and do not make it a norm to accept it as collateral damage,” he explained.

“The wandering tendencies and homelessness of severely mentally ill people is a global reality…our vulnerability comes from being in the midst of a conflict and paying the price for it which most of the times is cruel and heart-wrenching as is the case of this Shopian boy,” Dr Hussain added.