New Delhi: International media organisations have released reports which shed light on security forces’ use of violence, often without any reason at all, on Kashmiris in the aftermath of Delhi’s August 5 decision to take away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The reports, most recently by The Associated Press and earlier by BBC, carry accounts by residents who have allegedly come in the face of brutal torture by Indian forces. In several accounts, the victims would allegedly be administered electric shocks whenever they would fall unconscious after a round of relentless beatings. Photographs accompany the AP and BBC reports, showing harrowing bruises sustained on the legs and backs of men who allegedly came in the way of the Army and paramilitary forces’ beatings. The forces also allegedly subjected residents to degrading and humiliating punishments, destroyed their stocks of food and issued threats to the women, in addition to allegedly arresting thousands of men.
Most of these human rights abuses were reported to have taken place in the night.
Torture claims by Kashmiris, directed at the Indian military and paramilitary, are not new. Yet they appear to have renewed in intensity since the August 5 decision of the Centre to take away the state’s special status.
Severe restrictions continue to be in play, more than 35 days since the clampdown first began in J&K. In the communications blackout, both Kashmiri and Indian media and their ability to do their job has been affected. In the lacuna, it is foreign media which has stepped up to report the ground-level situation in J&K.
The AP report, published on September 10, begins with an account of south Kashmir resident Bashir Ahmed Dar who faced two rounds of beatings over security forces’ suspicion that he, like his brother, had joined the militants’ movement. Dar was left bloodied and unable to sit. Reporter Aijaz Hussain writes that he spoke to close to 50 people, all of whom recounted similar atrocities by the security forces.
One Muzaffar Ahmad of Parigam tells Hussain of an incident where the ‘apprehended’ were brought to the village square in a protracted show.
“They hit our backs and legs for three hours. They gave us electric shocks,” Ahmed said, lifting his shirt to show his burned and bruised back. “As we cried and pleaded (with) them to let us go, they became more relentless and ruthless in their beating. They forced us to eat dust and drink water from a drain.”
The BBC report from August 29 speaks of similarly brutal torture techniques. Reporter Sameer Hashmi writes of the added complication of doctors and healthcare workers unwillingness to speak of the nature of injuries in their patients. Hashmi’s travels to six villages in southern Kashmir took him through the spectrum of torture by the Army. A villager says the beatings began on the night of August 5 itself, another says it was intended to scare.
”Once I took off my clothes they beat me mercilessly with rods and sticks, for almost two hours. Whenever I fell unconscious, they gave me shocks to revive [me]. If they do it to me again, I am willing to do anything, I will pick up the gun. I can’t bear this every day,” he said.
The BBC reporter also spoke to men who recounted having been hanged upside down and beaten for two hours, their beards pulled at and their legs broken with beatings.
Both reports note that the authorities have vehemently denied such claims. Among those who were quoted by BBC and AP denying allegations of torture are Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Northern Command spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia. The latter pronounced the villagers’ comments ‘baseless’.
It must be noted that these are instances of specific, targeted torture and not the several pellet injuries which Kashmir residents have been on the receiving end of.
Political activist Shehla Rashid too had tweeted on torture allegations against the Army in the Valley. Those have led to a sedition case against her and a subsequent court order against her persecution.
Detainments have been rampant in J&K, according to several foreign media organisations. Reports, all denied by the Indian Army, have alleged that the jails in Kashmir are so full that detainees have been brought to Agra jail. A Washington Post video shows a father of a teenager in tears and confused over why his son was picked up by police.