Alleged Murderer of Kashmir Human Rights Lawyer Kills Family in California

Retired Indian Army Major Avtar Singh, wanted for the murder of human rights activist Jalil Andrabi, shot and killed at least three members of his family before turning the gun on himself outside of Fresno, California on June 9th.

He was arrested in 2011 for alleged domestic violence incident where he was accused of choking of wife. He was then released from custody mainly because the Indian government could not be bothered to seek his extradition despite being wanted for murder charges in Jammu and Kashmir.

The head of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists, Jalil Andrabi was killed at the height of protests in Kashmir against Indian rule in the disputed region. Andrabi disappeared in March 1996 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. His body was recovered 19 days later in the Jhelum River. He had been shot in the head, and his eyes were gouged out.

A police investigation blamed Maj. Singh and his men for that killing and also accused Maj. Singh of involvement in the killings of six other Kashmiri men.


Listen to the Silent Cries of the Disappeared in Kashmir

soldiers kashmir india

Soldiers in Kashmir

I’ve been following the debate about whether India’s Jammu & Kashmir government (called J&K or Kashmir interchangeably) will lift the draconian impunity legislation (called the AFSPA) for soldiers now in place over large swathes of Kashmir Valley.

The Indian Army, for its part, makes the rather astounding claim that if they are not allowed to continue to operate in the Kashmir Valley without impunity then Kashmir will secede. I often hear this type of stuff as well—oh if we don’t continue to abuse human rights with legal cover, then the terrorists win!

The irony is that opponents of lifting legal immunity are admitting that the security forces have been responsible for widespread human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley and that is the only way to keep Kashmir in India.


Kashmir Legislators Must Not Ignore Human Rights

Click image to enlarge. Copyright: Malik Sajad, used by permission

Yesterday, Amnesty International wrote an open letter to all members of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State Assembly calling on them to take action to protect human rights and to investigate past human rights violations.

Among the actions we are calling for legislators to accomplish in this session:


Thousands of Unmarked Graves Discovered in Kashmir

For more commentary of Kashmir and India as a whole, please follow me on twitter at

Following a report by a police investigation team, confirming the existence of over 2,700 unmarked graves containing bodies of people subject to enforced disappearances, urgent action needs to be taken including preserving the evidence and widening the investigation across Jammu and Kashmir.

Over 2,700 unmarked graves have been identified by the 11-member police team of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in four districts of north Kashmir. Despite claims of the local police that the graves contained dead bodies of “unidentified militants”, the report points out that 574 bodies have been identified as disappeared locals – 17 of these have already been exhumed and shifted to family or village grave sites.

The police report concludes that there is “every probability” that the remaining over 2,100 unidentified graves “may contain the dead bodies of [persons subject to] enforced disappearances.” The report further clarifies that the only way to negate such a claim is to study the DNA profiles of the unidentified dead bodies and warns that in the absence of such tests, “it has to be assumed/ presumed that [the] State wants to remain silent deliberately to hide the Human Rights violations”.


Hopefully Kashmir Won't Be a Forgotten Conflict

Abid Nabi was protesting against the killing of his younger brother Fida (17 yrs old). (Photo courtesy of Majid Pandit.)

Al-Jazeera English launched a special human rights spotlight on Jammu & Kashmir called “Kashmir: The Forgotten Conflict”.

It’s an apt description given the difficulty human rights organizations have faced in highlighting the abuses that have occurred in the past two decades. For example, we need 30,000 signatures on this petition to improve juvenile justice in the state!

Now, it’s not to say that Kashmir never gets in the news. The problem is that when it is in the news it’s always talked about in the context of the Pakistan-India conflict.


Teenage Nightmare in Kashmir

Contrary to Katy Perry, 16 and 17-year old boys in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K or Kashmir) are not living in a Teenage Dream; they face the daily prospect of being detained indefinitely, without charges as adults under existing law in the state. The law, called the Public Safety Act is horrible enough.

But, the detention of children is in flagrant violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of which India is a state party. You can take action now to urge the J&K government to do the right thing. The Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, promises to bring this up in the Monsoon session of the assembly so time is of the essence!


Free Murtaza Manzoor @abdullah_omar

I have written elsewhere about the “lawless law” known as the Public Safety Act in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Well, we’ve got a perfect example of the Kashmiri government acting outside of international law (specifically, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and holding a child without charge. You can read all the details at the links above.

But, I need a favor from you all– send twitter messages from your twitter account directly to the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir (@abdullah_omar) asking him to #freemurtaza. We did it before and it worked. If you get a response, put them in the comments here or send them to me at my twitter account which is (you can follow me as well). Please be respectful. Here are some suggested tweets but you can craft your own of course (limited to 140 characters):

@abdullah_omar #freemurtaza, pls stop violating UN child rights treaty & say #no2psa

@abdullah_omar pls immediately end detention of Murtaza Manzoor & repeal PSA #freemurtaza

@abdullah_omar why is ur govt holding child without charge? #freemurtaza immediately

California Domestic Violence Case Can Help End Impunity in Kashmir

This is part of a series of articles on Kashmir for Amnesty International’s Security and Human Rights Campaign.

You can take action to end impunity for human rights violations in Kashmir by taking action.

Major Avtar Singh, a retired officer in the Indian Army and an indicted human rights violator, was arrested in February 2011 on domestic violence charges in an agricultural region of California. While he should definitely face charges in California on domestic violence charges, he must also be extradited to India to face murder charges for the killing of a human rights lawyer in 1996.

The story starts in 1996 during the height of the violence that wracked the disputed Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Many human rights organizations, civil society groups and human rights defenders faced threats from anti-India militants and Indian security forces.

One of those of brave human rights defenders, Jalil Andrabi, paid with his life. Andrabi was a prominent defender of human rights in the Kashmir Valley, exposing a number of human rights violations committed by Indian security forces. He was last seen on March 8, 1996, when he was taken away by Srinagar based military personnel who were led at that time by Major Avtar Singh. Nineteen days later, Jalil Andrabi’s dead body was found in the Jhelum River.

Those responsible for the death of Jalil Andrabi have remained free for years, despite persistent efforts by his family and members of the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association to obtain legal redress for his death.

As you know, we have released a report on administrative detentions in Kashmir and visited the region as part of the release. So, we had a chance to speak Jalil Andrabi’s brother and lawyer, Arshad Andrabi. He blamed the Indian authorities for failing to ensure that Major Singh stood trial even after he was named as accused by a special investigation team set up on the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir high court a year after the murder. According to Arshad Andrabi, evidence exists which suggests that at least five others were present in the room at the time of Jalil’s death, but none of them were ever charged with any offence.

Arshad Andrabi accused the Indian authorities of trying to avoid a trial. The Jammu and Kashmir high court had noted that the central government officials had not been cooperating with the special investigation team in a proper manner, and the Indian army has also failed to take any action, merely stating that Major Singh was untraceable. Singh left India for Canada before moving to the United States.

Well, Government of India, he’s been found and it’s time to stop abdicating your responsibilities in this matter. Seek the extradition of Major Avtar Singh and prosecute him for the cold-blooded murder of Jalil Andrabi. You can help by taking action and writing the Indian Embassy on this matter.

For more on human rights in South Asia, please follow me on Twitter:

A Lawless Law

This is part of a series of articles on administrative detentions in Kashmir for Amnesty International’s Security and Human Rights Campaign.  

We released a report documenting the misuse of the Public Safety Act in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). As part of this report’s release, I will be writing a series of posts on this blog (with actions that you can take) over the coming weeks highlighting cases of people whose human rights have been violated because of the misuse of the Public Safety Act in J&K. For more information related to Kashmir and human rights in South Asia, please follow me on twitter at

The report talks of how Kashmir is holding hundreds of people each year without charge or trial in order to “keep them out of circulation,” not by charging people with a crime, but just holding people because they can. In fact, the Indian Supreme Court has called this law a “lawless law.”

The authorities in J&K are using PSA detentions as a revolving door to keep people they can’t or won’t convict through the legal system locked up and out of the way. These arrests expose people to a higher risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.


Suggested Itinerary for Sarah Palin’s Visit to India

Memo to Former Governor Sarah Palin regarding her upcoming visit to India…

To: Former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin

From: Govind Acharya, South Asia Co-Group, Amnesty International USA

Subject: Your upcoming trip to India

Dear Governor Palin,

I understand that you will be travelling to India to deliver a speech to the India Today Conclave.  This conclave is a a group of extremely wealthy and self-declared important people in India, talking about how awesome India is while pretending not to see all of the poverty and hardship faced by hundreds of millions every day. OK, there are some good people speaking at the event and I shouldn’t be so cynical. But, I digress…

Keep in mind that there are lots of vegetarians in India, Gov. Palin.

I realize that we need not worry too much about your expertise on India. India is pretty darn close to Russia and as you told us when asked about your foreign policy experience, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” But despite that, I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a suggested itinerary to give you a more well-rounded picture of the country:

1. Gujarat: I’m sure that Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who will also be at the India Today Conclave, will tell you all about how much economic growth and development has occurred in his state during his rule. He’ll tell you about the factories, the roads and the GDP growth. But, I’m sure he’ll omit the fact that nine years ago, he presided over the worst communal pogroms since Indian independence, which left over 1,000 dead.  His former Home Minister (sort of like a state Attorney-General) is currently facing charges for his involvement in a “fake encounter”. He will also fail to inform you that malnutrition indicators have deteriorated since Modi took office. But, when you visit, I’m sure you will get a sense of the problems in the state.

2. Kashmir: It’s great you’ll be there right around the time that Amnesty International is planning to release its report on indefinite detentions in Kashmir. The report entitled A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, documents how authorities are using the Public Safety Act to secure the long-term detention of political activists, suspected members or supporters of armed groups and a range of other individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial or conviction to ‘keep them out of circulation’. I can send you a link over twitter if you’d like, Governor Palin (by the way, my twitter feed is at in case you’d like to follow it).

3. Chhattisgarh: This rural eastern Indian state has been the center of Maoist violence. And while I doubt that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh will be at the India Today Conclave, I’d recommend heading over just the same to get a look at the violence wrought by the Maoists and by the government-backed Salwa Judum. It’s a horrible situation for the tribal peoples in the area because they are caught between the two militias. The result has been widespread human rights violations. This state is also the place where Dr. Binayak Sen has been imprisoned (take action here) for speaking out for the rights of the indigenous people in the area. Kartam Joga, a political activist, has also been arrested in the same state. While there, Gov. Palin, I hope you will get a chance to ask the Chief Minister to arrest all those involved in human rights violations and to see that there are no more prosecutions of human rights defenders such as Dr. Binayak Sen and Kartam Joga (take action here).

Well, Governor Palin, I could list other human rights concerns in other parts of India, but I’ll stop there since I know that your time is limited. But, I’d urge you (and others of course!) to check out AIUSA’s webpage on India. And, again, I encourage you and others to follow me on my twitter feed, as I’ll be posting lots and lots of stuff on the upcoming Kashmir report in the coming days.