India not issuing death certificates in occupied Kashmir to 'keep statistics down'

Published: August 27, 2019
An AFP photo taken during the latest clampdown in India occupied Kashmir.

An AFP photo taken during the latest clampdown in India occupied Kashmir.

Indian authorities have stopped issuing death certificates in occupied Kashmir and are compelling medical personnel to not acknowledge the use of force by occupying forces in clashes with the people of the disputed valley.

An exclusive report by The Independent is in stark contrast to the Narendra Modi-led government’s official stance that ‘all is well’ in the occupied Himalayan region since it revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution thereby withdrawing IoK’s autonomy.

Despite a strict clampdown on movement and information, foreign media has reported protests breaking out across the occupied valley with Indian forces using live ammunition, shotgun pellets and other tactics to subdue demonstrators.

A doctor from Srinagar told The Independent that the hospital staff has verbal instructions from the Indian authorities “to keep admissions related to the clashes to a minimum, and to discharge victims quickly, in order to keep statistics down”.

“And in the cases of the three deaths, relatives spoke of their frustration at trying to get doctors to formally acknowledge the role played by the clashes – or even to issue them with death certificates at all,” the British newspaper adds.

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Late in the afternoon of 9 August, Fehmeeda Bano, a 35-year-old mother with two young sons, was at her home in Bemina on the outskirts of Srinagar when clashes erupted between security forces and protesters outside.

Her husband, 42-year-old Rafiq Shagoo, took the children inside a room as they started to panic.

“After the protesters were chased away, the security forces started pelting stones at the houses, breaking glass windows,” Rafiq Shagoo recalls while talking to The Independent. “If a vehicle parked outside the house came in their way, they damaged them [too].”

The 42-year-old adds that he heard “police firing at least four teargas canisters just outside the house”.

“Fehmeeda was at the window as smoke, in huge quantities, entered through their window. I could hear her coughing,” recalls neighbour Taslema.

“I could see her struggling to breathe. She had inhaled extreme [amounts of] teargas,” adds Shagoo. He took her to the Jhelum Valley College Hospital where Fehmeeda breathed her last within 40 minutes.

When Shagoo went to collect the death certificate he was told that it was with the Indian police. After days of efforts, he was given a death certificate that stated that his wife died of “sudden cardiac pulmonary arrest”.

“They lied, they dodged me,” Shagoo told The Independent. “When I managed to get the certificate, it didn’t mention the real cause of death. I am not able to register the real cause of my wife’s death. They have been told by the authorities to manipulate the cause of death to keep the casualty record clear.”

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In a similar case, victim Ayoub Khan’s family was prevented by the Indian police from conducting a funeral procession and limiting the number of attendants to no more than 10.

Ayoub died when a couple of teargas canisters thrown by the occupying forces during a clash, exploded between his legs and he started suffocating. “When we reached the hospital, doctors told us he was already dead,” says his brother Shabbir. “We asked them to mention on the record that he died due to teargas, but they refused.”

Even after they got the body home in an ambulance, security forces personnel broke up a crowd gathering at the home by opening fire with shotgun pellets, injuring Shabir and other family members.

“It is clear that in any case against the police, they won’t mention the real cause of death,” says Shabir. “It’s injustice, we aren’t able to register the casualties. We are helpless.”

Meanwhile, the Indian officials continue to claim that the situation the occupied valley is “returning to normal”.

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