‘Blood on my hands’ by Kishalay Bhattacharjee

An anonymous confession by an army officer about staged encounters, exposing the precarious human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir and India’s Northeast

An army officer splits open the anatomy of staged encounters in India’s Northeast and Jammu & Kashmir, exposing the culture of killing with impunity. Blood on My Hands also explains, shockingly, how awards and citations are linked to a body count. Speaking to Kishalay Bhattacharjee, the confessor speaks of the toll this brutality has taken on him.

An essay by Bhattacharjee on encounters in West Bengal, Punjab, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram and a postscript – where bureaucrats and diplomats speak on record about the hidden policy of extra-judicial killings and how it threatens India’s democracy – contextualize this searing confession. An explosive document on institutionalized human rights abuse.

The Wire wrote: “A remarkable book just published – Blood on My Hands: Confessions of Staged Encounters by Kishalay Bhattacharjee – has confirmed that our suspicions were justified. His interviews with army and police officers show, sadly and shamefully, that in India’s conflict zones, these crimes were indeed standard operating procedure. Whether the families of the victims, or the survivors, will ever find justice, when the state refuses to acknowledge that these enormous crimes were committed, is moot. That is a battle which must be fought…”


“Then he is shot. I have never seen anyone react before the

shooting takes place. Hands are never tied just in case they

injure themselves but they know what it is and they don’t

resist. It is a sort of resignation.”


“This book records the chilling moments of planning and

execution of innocents, in the voices of the people who

ordered them, the people who carried them out and those

who witnessed them. In hearing their voices, we can see that

this is an undeclared war, where civil and private spaces have

become battlegrounds.”


“In Jammu and Kashmir the battalions facing the

international border buy weapons from Pakistani intelligence

agencies. Muslim men from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are

abducted from Jammu, kept in the post for two or three

months, and once these weapons are purchased, they are

killed and shown as militants trying to infiltrate with

weapons. The CO gets a thumping report and the unit gets

a citation.”


“You know what ‘shopping’ is?

That is when you are desperate, and you are looking for these

gangs to supply you victims. Sometimes they may fail, but

you still have to show your kills, so you set out on your own

– and Guwahati is the place to strike the deals. You can’t

just pick someone up from the road and shoot him. It’s like

shopping for arms or narcotics or any other illegal product.

They are available and are in good supply, but the chain is

important to know; and nobody breaks this chain. You only

keep adding to it.”


“All the chakras (awards, referring to the different gallantry

awards all of which end with the word ‘chakra’) give you

points, and how do you get the chakras? Kill people. Add

up points. Move up the ranks. The only casualty in this is

the truth. The stories they make up – how they ‘put their

lives at risk’ and ‘managed to avert a terror attack’, and killed



“They were two militants who were picked

up just after their prison term and before they went home.

So as they stepped out of the central jail, they were abducted.

This is crazy, but it is routine. This is another target group

exploited by the suppliers. They wait for their release and

then abduct them. In the villages, everyone would know they

are in jail and would be indifferent to their absence. There

was an open bidding and I won the bid.”


“In this book, perhaps for the first time, some of the

perpetrators of this form of violence have narrated accounts

of how they hunted down their prey. Their revelations of how

the system has coerced and supported them in committing

atrocities, then concealed and even rewarded acts of

almost unthinkable depravity, are profoundly disturbing,

and compel one to question the essential morality of civil

government in India.”



“Name after name, story after story, date after date. The sheer

volume and horror of the stories is numbing. And it is just as

difficult to maintain sufficient civic indignation to question

and debate all the preposterous accounts of encounter

killings that are fed to us by a tame media. It is far easier to

rationalize that the victims were in some way culpable, and

deserving – at least in some sense – of their fate. Because the

reality of a democratic State whose agents arbitrarily kidnap,

torture and kill for personal benefit or gratification, is simply

too horrific.”