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The Saga of Torture in Kashmir

Anti Torture Initiative, Latest

The conflict over Kashmir isn’t due to economic, social, cultural or religious reasons, though these reasons do play some part in perpetuating the conflict. The conflict remains grounded in historical roots. The identity ruckus is creating havoc, and the broken promises adding fuel to the fire and the dream of an Independent Nationhood being a hope which drives the resistance in Kashmir. The previous attempts of assimilating and integrating the Kashmiri identity with Indian one have failed, and in future too they are bound to fail. Kashmiris describe the Indian rule as continuity in the chain of oppressive regimes starting from the year 1585, when the Mughal Emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir by deceit5. Since then Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, Dogras and now Indians are ruling Kashmir. The desire for accession to Pakistan may have grown frail but the hope for an Independent Kashmir has never died, instead it has grown stronger with each passing day. The daily torture, frisking, humiliation, molestations, maiming and killings are reinforcing the dream of an Independent Kashmir.

http://www.mynews.in/News/the_saga_of_torture_in_kashmir_N467069.html

An article of well wisher from kashmir

The Kashmir issue has been festering since the partition of subcontinent and creation of Pakistan in 1947. Kashmir was a Princely State at the time of partition. India claims that the Maharaja had acceded1 to Indian State, in order to escape the onslaught of Tribal Raiders from Pakistan2. Pakistan counter claims it with the fact that according to the partition plan, Kashmir being a Muslim majority region, owing a geographical and topographical continuity with newly created Pakistan was destined to be a part of Pakistan. Pakistan further added that India honor the same principle that it applied to Jaunagarh, another princely state3.

Immediately after partition, both India and Pakistan resorted to full scale war against each other over Kashmir. In the aftermath of war the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) was rendered with division between Indian and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Later on in 1962 Indo-China war a large chunk of uninhabited area of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK), Aksai Chin was occupied by China for strategic reasons.

India took Kashmir Issue to the United Nations Security Council that ratified the Right of Self- Determination of Kashmiris. Since 1948 numerous resolutions were passed by the U.N urging both states to conduct a referendum, in order to know the wishes of Kashmiri masses4. Till now both countries have failed to carry out the required referendum, thus prolonging the conflict over decades. The victims of the tussle among the two countries remain the inhabitants of Kashmir.  Kashmir and its inhabitants till recently were not even a party to the dispute. Kashmir was debated as a bilateral issue between the countries of India and Pakistan, which needs to be solved bilaterally without any external intervention. The sacrifices rendered by the masses, coerced both to accept the inhabitants of Kashmir as a party to the dispute and inevitable for a concrete and Permanent Peace in Kashmir.

The conflict over Kashmir isn’t due to economic, social, cultural or religious reasons, though these reasons do play some part in perpetuating the conflict. The conflict remains grounded in historical roots. The identity ruckus is creating havoc, and the broken promises adding fuel to the fire and the dream of an Independent Nationhood being a hope which drives the resistance in Kashmir. The previous attempts of assimilating and integrating the Kashmiri identity with Indian one have failed, and in future too they are bound to fail. Kashmiris describe the Indian rule as continuity in the chain of oppressive regimes starting from the year 1585, when the Mughal Emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir by deceit5. Since then Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, Dogras and now Indians are ruling Kashmir. The desire for accession to Pakistan may have grown frail but the hope for an Independent Kashmir has never died, instead it has grown stronger with each passing day. The daily torture, frisking, humiliation, molestations, maiming and killings are reinforcing the dream of an Independent Kashmir.

What Constitutes Torture?

The term torture can be defined, debated and deliberated under various conditions, in varied contexts and claims. A broad consensus as to what constitutes torture hasn’t been accepted yet. But there are certain definitions that try to broadly define torture as ... 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”6

“Torture shall be understood to be any act intentionally performed whereby physical or mental pain, or suffering is inflicted on a person for purposes of criminal investigation, as a means of intimidation, as personal punishment, as a preventive measure, as a penalty, or for any other purpose. Torture shall also be understood to be the use of methods upon a person intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or to diminish his physical or mental capacities, even if they do not cause physical pain or mental anguish.

The concept of torture shall not include physical or mental pain or suffering that is inherent in or solely the consequence of lawful measures, provided that they do not include the performance of the acts or use of the methods referred to in this article” 7

Among all these definitions there is a consensus that any form of physical or psychological or mental pain if inflicted intentionally on a person constitutes torture. The victim of torture doesn’t suffer alone the consequences of Torture, but his immediate kith and kin also bear the brunt of torture. Thus associated with torture is always a “Suffering Group”. The torture of the victim also has negative ramifications for the suffering group too, as they get entangled in the psychological trauma, and in certain cases are direct innocent victims of torture alongwith the accused victim. 

Torture in India

Torture in India is rampant but most of the cases go unreported. To add insult to injury no Anti Torture Law has been enacted in India. While recounting this flaw Asian Human Rights Commission report states, “India signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) in 1997 and stated that ratification will follow soon. However, 14 years later, India is yet to ratify the UNCAT. On 6 May 2010, the Lok Sabha passed an extremely weak Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010. It had only four operative clauses as it was “considered necessary to ratify the UNCAT and to provide for more effective implementation”. However, at the Rajya Sabha, the Government had to refer the Bill to a parliamentary select Committee. The Parliamentary  select Committee headed by Ashwani Kumar, the current Minister of  state for Planning, presented a revised Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 in December 2010 after calling for inputs from stakeholders and testimony from various experts including Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The revised Bill seeks to comply with the UN Convention Against Torture. Apparently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has objected to the many of the provisions recommended by the Parliamentary select Committee and therefore, the new Bill has not been introduced in the parliament as yet. During the examination of India’s human rights records under Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 8 April 2008, the UN Human Rights Council recommended India to “expedite ratification of the Convention against Torture”. India accepted the recommendation and informed the UNHRC that “the ratification of the Convention against Torture is being processed by Government of India”. After three years, ratification of the UNCAT had not been processed but India was once again required to submit voluntary pledges in February 2011 for membership to the UNHRC. India this time reiterated that it “remains committed to ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”8 Thus the Anti Torture Law remains yet to be passed and enacted.

Commenting on issue of Anti- Torture Law in India Fahad Mustafa who was a research assistant with the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture in ViennawritesIndia is in the process of enacting a legislation to combat torture. In April, 2010 the cabinet approved of a bill that would enforce a ban on torture, and in the process ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture.  While this is a welcome move which would send a clear message from the government to law-enforcement personnel, the legislation itself reflects little progress in the mindset of the authorities.

Shortly before the bill was approved by the Lok Sabha, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), a human-rights NGO, released a report on torture in India. The group said that the Indian government had proposed a similar bill in 2008 which was highly unpopular with civil rights groups. According to the ACHR, no consultation with civil society or public debate went into the drafting of the present bill. Even after being approved by the cabinet in April, the Bill was not released for public scrutiny until much later, by which time it was already an Act.

The bill was released to public after it was passed by the Lok Sabha as the Prevention of Torture Act 2010, and is now pending in the Rajya Sabha. The Act defines torture as ‘grievous hurt’ or ‘danger to life limb or health (mental or physical)’, specifically bars the admissibility of evidence under torture, and prescribes a punishment of ten years for offenders. However, it goes onto establish that any prosecution under this Act would require previous sanction of the government, entrenching the impunity provided by Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It also raises the possibility that any action under this bill would target the lowest levels of law enforcement, whereas the superior officers who authorized such practices remain immune due to some contacts within the government” 9.

 

Eminent Human Rights Activist Lenin Raghuvanshi writes, “The biggest problem in combating the State on the issues of torture in India has been the non availability of verifiable data” 10 In many cases false medical reports of torture victims are produced in league with medical doctors and sometimes reports are concocted by Police themselves. Lenin alos writes about the Legal flaws, “The judiciary is hampered by lack of specific legislation to address cases of torture and human rights violations by the security forces as well due to delayed judicial processes. All these leave the poor victim lonelier, shattered and completely disintegrated, irrespective of economic status”11. Lenin wants and desires, “India is yet to adopt any legislation recognizing the right to compensation for human rights violations. The government continues to maintain its reservation to Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that under the Indian legal system there is no enforceable right to compensation for persons claiming to be victims of unlawful arrest or detention against the State. The courts and National Human Rights institutions, however, have awarded compensation for human rights violations, including torture”12.

The impunity enjoyed by the security personal from persecution, encourages them to use systematic torture on victims whether they are guilty or innocent. The National Human Rights Commission has proved to be a toothless tiger, when it comes to putting curbs on security forces use of torture.

Use of Torture in Kashmir

The year 1931 marks the watershed in the contemporary history of Kashmir. It was in this year that scores of Kashmiris were martyred at the hands of Dogra soldiers on 13th July. After this incident, mass political awakening took place in Kashmir. The Kashmiri Muslims formed Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference in 1932 to struggle for the restoration of their usurped social, political, cultural and economic rights from the Maharaja. But the Muslim Conference changed to National Conference in 1938 and subsequently it led to disunity among Kashmiri masses. Later on the masses got divided into various factions, Shers (Lions) followers of Sheikh Abdullah, as he was known as Lion of Kashmir (Sher e Kashmir)13, and Bakras (goats) followers of Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, who was a religious figure head of Kashmir. Further the masses got divided on ideological lines among Muslim Conference who believed in cause and unity of Muslims and National Conference who were ‘secular’ and ‘nationalist’ in their orientation. There has been a tussle going on among these groups before partition too.

Kashmir has assumed a disputed status since 1947. Since the birth of this dispute torture has been systematically used by the State machinery against opposition and to silence voices of dissent. The opposition which comprised of Bakras and Muslim Conference (MC) cadres were crushed ruthlessly by then popular leader and J&K National Conference (NC) Supremeo Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah14. From 1947 till his illegal and unconstitutional deposition he suppressed every dissenting voice. Most of the dissidents were tortured mercilessly and incarcerated for long spells of time. If these tactics didn’t break their spirit, they are forcibly pushed across the border to Pakistan15. These tactics remained in practice even after Sheikh Abdullah was deposed.  

The workers of NC had perpetuated an era of ruthless terror through hooliganism, muscle power, and torture in the society. The Halqa (Community level) President of the NC was above every law. He maintained the administrative and other functions at the grass root levels. The other members of the NC would resort to exploitation and plunder. The victims of their wrath were particularly the political and ideological opponents of NC. “Those days I heard many stories about denial of food grains from government depots to people not subscribing and supporting political party in power. There were stories about denial of monthly ration of food grains from public distribution centre to people supporting Kisan Mazdoor Sabha in villages and the Muslim Conference supporters in towns and cities. Some Kashmiri Pandit intellectuals calling themselves as Royalists were also at the receiving end and had to face incarceration for years together. I have seen three of them Prem Nath Bazaz, Ragunath Vishnu and Jagar Nath Sathu, of the three I knew Sathoo only very well. He till his last days remembered those awful years vividly”16.

The reign of terror was such that even listening to Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) Radio Station would lead to public beatings and incarceration. “There were lots of stories in our childhood about sending behind bars anyone caught murmuring signature tune of AJK radio-today many have put this as ring tone in their cell phones. Those days it was seditious to tune in any other radio station other than the Radio Kashmir. We heard stories about sleuths eavesdropping and people being cane charged and even fed with hot potatoes by dreaded cops for listening to AJK radio”17

A notorious “Special Staff” comprising of Policemen was situated at Kothi Bagh, which was also known as Peace Brigade headed by an infamous police officer known as Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali. He was known for his tactics of torture and silencing the dissent. It included using hot iron on body, feeding hot potato, ruthless beatings, making the victim sniff red chilies, rubbing salt on inflicted wounds and sometimes sodomising the under trails or illegally detained victims. Here I quote one instance which depicts the torture as prevalent in Kashmir after 1947. “I as a member of MC alongwith another member decided to speak at Jamia Masjid, Srinagar on Friday 3rd August, 1951 after midday prayers. We stated that Kashmiris should boycott the upcoming elections, as the State of Jammu & Kashmir has been divided into two parts and the fate of Kashmir is yet to be decided by the United Nations, hence no elections or legislative assembly can have a true representative character.

The speech concluded with slogans of Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live Pakistan) domineering and ranting through the air. The people were with us till the gate, where NC hooligans attacked us. My companion escaped, and they laid their hands on me, despite my stiff resistance, I was outnumbered. Then I was illegally confined in a house. In the room where I was confined, NC hooligans started pouring and whosoever entered the room, he paid his salutations with ten-fifteen kicks and punches, meanwhile bestowing filthy abuses. After this drama, someone among them advised to hand me over to the police. I was taken to the nearby Nowhatta police post. All along the way I was dragged and beaten. At the Police Post too I was beaten by NC goons. From here I was shifted to Khanyar Police Station. I met the same treatment along the way. Here I was kept behind the bars. Again one after other, NC hooligans started pouring and they would bestow their choicest invectives on me. This show continued till late evening.

At night the vehicle of Special Staff arrived at the police station. I was bundled in the vehicle and take to Special Staff, Kothi Bagh, about whose notorious credentials previously I had heard only but today I was going to experience the same. The name of this place and Qadir Ganderbali used to send shivers down the spine of common people. I was confined in the torture room of the Special Staff. After sometime the notorious beast Qadir Ganderbali, entered the room and within seconds he leapt towards me like a lion on his hapless prey. I was clutched beneath his feet; he was carrying a strong thick baton in his hand, and started mercilessly beating me. He was accompanied by five-six men who started kicking me like a football till I was unconscious…..

At around midnight, I regained consciousness; a person came near me and asked if I had eaten anything. I answered in negative. He put some food in a plate before me and commanded to eat. When I tried to move my body, I couldn’t as I was feeling numb. The police tried to forcibly make me eat, but I couldn’t swallow even a morsel. Ganderbali had gone for dinner and after he was back, he was drunk and in an angry tone asked the policemen if I had eaten anything? When they replied that they gave me food but I couldn’t eat, he started abusing me and ordered for more batons as in the first round many batons were broken. This time they suspended me by my feet upside down with roof. This suspension by feet proved to be the worst torture and I soon lost consciousness, while they were beating me”18. Thousands of political dissidents, MC cadres and innocent men met the same and even worse treatment at the hands of Ganderbali in the following decades, and he himself met a very slow painful death.

On 9th August, 1953 Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was removed unconstitutionally from power at the behest of Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. A close friend and stalwart of NC Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad was made the Prime Minister of J&K19. Soon afterwards, in 1955 Plebiscite Front was formed by close companion of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Mirza Afzal Beigh. Sheikh was its incarcerated patron. The workers of this Plebiscite Front demanded and struggled for the implementation of UN Resolution which gave the Right of Self determination to Kashmiris. They now became the new victims of political vendetta at the hands of NC workers and Peace Brigade. “I remember a willow worker who was earning livelihood by making baskets, vats and firepots outside our school was an icon of resoluteness and fidelity. His faith in the Plebiscite Front leadership was absolute. Many times I have seen his shop plundered. He was dragged from the shop and made to drink gutter water. He was often arrested and put in police lock ups. Majority of the Front workers were like him, they lived a very poor life”20 This kind of illegal and unconstitutional torture continued in future too.

Torture and Mass Armed Insurgency in Kashmir

During the early 1990s mass armed insurgency started in Kashmir. To suppress the popular armed insurgency, Kashmir was declared as Disturbed Area under Disturbed Areas Act (DAA). The DAA proved a precursor for invoking Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The existence of three Draconian laws, Disturbed Areas Act (DAA), Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA), resulted in gross human rights violations of civilians and the guilty haven’t been punished yet.The "Armed Forces Special Powers Act", enables certain special wide powers to be conferred upon members of the armed forces in the disturbed areas of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Any officer in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area, as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order; prohibit the assembly of five or more persons; prohibit carrying of weapons; arrest, without warrant. PSA grants the right to security agencies to arrest and incarcerate anybody without a judicial trail for two years21.

With impunity to kill at will and mere suspension, torture was no exception and a lesser crime. Hence torture became endemic in counter insurgency operations. Killing became legitimate for the greater national cause; hence torture became a norm, and was not even testified as a Human Rights violation. Talal Asad, shows that torture is not just manifestation of authoritarian, disciplinary societies. Modern torture has a practical rationale in the arena of policing. It is integral to the maintenance of the nation state’s sovereignty where national security needs override other social values and legal rights. This legitimizes those forms of pain that the state can inflict and those that are proscribed22 Thus the Indian national Interests overrode the Human and Legal Rights of Kashmiris that were violated with impunity.

Torture was prevalent in Kashmir before the inception of mass armed insurgency too, but torture was systematically and on a mass scale used against Kashmiris as a tool of counter insurgency after 1990s, to extract information about the insurgents and their activities. In many cases, the victims of torture were innocent citizens picked by the security agencies and troopers on mere suspicion. “I was taken to Interrogation Centre at Kalam-Chakla, where I was severely interrogated, the modus-operandi of the interrogation was that I was forced to walk bare-foot on the snow for hours and later on I was beaten with sticks inside the room... There-after I was shifted to Interrogation Centre, Langate, where I was again forced to walk bare foot on the snow for hours and there-after my feet were burnt with Bhukari [a stove]... My lower limbs due to torture became totally non-functional, with the result I was urinating and defecating in the room... Finally at Badami-Bagh Interrogation Centre at Srinagar, because of my urinating and defecating, I became [a] nuisance for them besides my wounded feet have started developing infection. So after one month seven days I was thrown out from Badami-Bagh.Nazir Ahmad Sheikh, the 25-year-old son of Abdul Jabbar Sheikh, was arrested by members of the Army's 14th Dogra Regiment after leaving his home at Chak Yahama, Handwara, to go shopping on 1 January 1995. There were witnesses to his arrest. He has alleged that he was taken to the army camp at Kalam Chakla where he was subjected to torture as described above over a period of 12 days. He says he was then transferred to Langate army camp where he was again tortured and interrogated for ten days. Once again he was transferred to the Joint Interrogation Centre, Baramulla, before being taken to the Badami Bagh army camp in Srinagar. He was finally released from custody on 6 February and handed over to local police who took him to the Bone and Joint Hospital, Srinagar, where he was diagnosed as having gas gangrene. On 17 February both feet and the fingers of his left hand were amputated. Other parts of his body reportedly bore marks of torture." 23

 

Another similar victim describes his ordeal as, “I was laid flat on a bed with my face downwards. My hands were tied with a rope. My legs were pulled apart and tied apiece with the bed. And then my back and heels were hit mercilessly with an iron belt. Next, I was tied with a post with my legs upward and the soles of my feet were subjected to merciless beating. Thereafter I was asked to have sufficient intake of water and, then three soldiers were made to sit on and press my inflated belly causing me immense pain and vomiting. Finally, electric shocks were given to me on my arms and feet"

 

Mohammad Amin Shah, son of Ghulam Ahmad Shah, was arrested, together with several others by members of the Border Security Force (BSF) 81 Battalion and the Police Special Task Force from the General Bus Stand in Batamaloo, Srinagar, during a cordon and search operation on 29 January 1995. They were taken to the BSF camp at Karan Nagar, Srinagar. While at the BSF camp, Mohammad Amin Shah has alleged that he was subjected to severe interrogation and torture as described above. He was subsequently taken by the Special Task Force to Shergarhi police station where he claims to have been subjected to similar methods of torture. He has also described a different method of torture:

 

"... Later in the night, while I was in a bad shape, I was hand-cuffed and dumped outside on a cemented floor with one blanket spread over it and another to cover my body. My feet and legs below knee-joints turned cold and next morning, my feet had developed lot of swelling. Much though I beseeched my tormentors to grant me permission for movement to help restore circulation of blood but they would not agree"

 

He claims that he was not given any medical treatment. He was finally released from custody on 25 February 1995 at which time he was rushed to the Bone and Joint Hospital, Srinagar, where he underwent surgery on 2 March to amputate both his feet which were badly affected by gangrene.,”24

Torture was inflicted on victims to make them confess that they were militants. In certain cases the victims would confess in order to escape the brutal torture. “I was taken to the Interrogation Centre located at New Airport, Srinagar. I was tortured mercilessly there. During my detention at the centre, everyday scores of youth were brought there by army, from various areas. Most of them were not militants, still they were tortured inhumanely, particularly those who were sporting beards. They were tortured to that extent that they confessed of being PAK trained militants. Because for arresting a PAK trained militant army would award monetary compensation and promotions25. Due to the greed of money and quick promotions hundreds of youth were tortured and made to confess that they were PAK trained”26.

In many cases the victims in the aftermath of torture joined insurgent ranks as a reaction to brutal torture. “There was a crackdown in my mohalla when I was studying for 9th class exams-I was about 15 years old. I argued that I needed to study and should not be forced to come out of the house. For this I was beaten up by the security forces and I was not able to give the exam. A month later, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) raided my house and took me and my brother into custody. We were taken to Hari Niwas. They kept accusing us of giving shelter to militants. I was crying throughout but I still argued that even if militants come, what were we to do? But actually no militants had come. We were tortured. One SP Raman Singh, who used to call himself Rehman Khan-was very brutal. He beat me on my face and broke my teeth. Although I was innocent, under torture I made a confession that I was a militant and had gone to Pakistan for training. I wanted them to stop the torture and release my brother who was the only earning member in our family then. I said I would be an informer, point out militants to them. They released my brother….I was taken to Kot Balwal in Jammu…the IB interrogated me. Once they forced me to put my hand in a box in which they said were scorpions. I was crying all the time in those days. Once IB officer said I could not be a militant, I was crying so much…When I was released I had to give hazari (attendance) to all the security agencies. Sometimes they would just pick me up and question me and threaten me. This was always terrifying-the centers of the security forces are very scary-dark, dingy, with discolored walls that look as if they are splattered with blood…very frightening for a youngster…I had no faith in the gun-my only interest was to have peace to study, to make something decent of my life and look after my family. But with so many experiences of intimidation by security forces, and as the number of innocent people who fell victim to the Indian security forces grew, I decided to join militant cause, but not with a gun. I joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in 1994 believing they would be able to protect me. They were a big organization, of local people, and very powerful”27

In many cases the brother, siblings, acquaintances or relatives of insurgents were arrested and tortured by army and counter insurgent groups to give them leads about the activities and hide outs of the insurgents. In this process they were tortured and many of them died in custody too. In some cases property was destroyed or confiscated and houses of the insurgents were blown up by the security agencies.

The torture wasn’t confined to men only, but women too were victims. The women frequently became victims of torture at the hands of security agencies, particularly if their men were sympathizers or related with insurgency.  If the women were suckling infants, the babies were snatched from their mothers and kept separated from them. This tactic was used so that the women prevail over their men to surrender. “One Mumtaz Bano 24, W/O Imtiaz Ahmad Dar, R/O Kanisipora, District Baramulla was picked up by a joint group of Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel camped at Singhpora, Pattan, District baramulla, and Special Operations Group (SOG), stationed at Humhama, District Budgam on September 23, 1999 at 5 P.M and demanded weapons from her. She denied having any, as she was simply a housewife, nothing to do with subversive activities, said the locals. Not satisfied, they took her to BSF camp Singhpora and put her to severe torture there. The victim pleaded innocence. “The SOG camped at Humhama tortured me to the extent that I miscarried, being in the fourth month of pregnancy. I bled profusely”, said the victim, “not minding this I was again transported to BSF camp Singhpora and subjected to further torture and harassment till I swooned. Then I was taken to my parental home to find weapons and was administered electric shocks. There I again fell unconscious and was later handed to police, alleged Mumtaz”28

The torture continued systematically with impunity. It resulted in gross Human Rights violations at the hands of security forces. The gruesome murder of the noted advocate and Human Rights activist Jalil Andrabi in 1996 under torture by Major Avtar Singh and others is a glaring example. The accused Avtar Singh was allowed to move out of India. Despite many extradition orders issued by the court, he was not deported. Ultimately he committed suicide on 9th June 2012 before killing his family members which included three sons and wife in California.

Before the armed insurgency phase the houses or offices of ruling party alongwith police stations and a few scattered places were used as torture centers, but after 1990s, hundreds of torture centers were established. Each military camp, cantonment, and police station was used as a torture centre, besides the infamous special torture centers like Papa Two, Hari Niwas, Humhama, Cargo, Red 16, Bagh e Mehtab, Airport, etc. Spontaneous torture centers were established during army crackdowns in houses, shops, schools, government buildings etc. 

Recently Wikileaks cables also corroborated the facts about widespread use of torture by Indian troopers in Kashmir.  The leaked cables stated that US officials had evidence of widespread rampant torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir. The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees.

 

Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.

The torture at the hands of the insurgents can’t be denied. They too used torture against their ideological and political opponents, but most of these cases have remained in oblivion. There has been no holistic documentation of the cases of torture. Most of the torture cases go unreported, as various impediments hamper their reporting particularly the fact that the guilty will never be punished. In case of State agencies, they are protected by law, hence the victim feels hapless as greater crimes and violations like murders and rapes go unaccounted and the guilty roam freely. Hence there are least chances of persecution of perpetuators of torture. In case of torture at the hands of insurgents, victims are debarred by social and peer pressure from reporting. The insurgents were seen as saviors who were fighting for a great cause of Azadi (freedom), hence their violations were to be veiled and sidelined.

Kashmiris were tortured in PAK too. The Pakistani security agencies in most cases treated them as agents or Indian spies particularly those who were fighting against India and went to PAK for political, diplomatic or armed support to further strengthen their goals. They were tortured severely to make them confess that they were Indian Agents working against the interests of Pakistan. “Tyranny and oppression are tolerated by a man. I am also made of flesh and bones as others are. But in this fort, there are occasions when a man out of sheer frustration calls for the angel of death but the angel does not appear. Hanging upwards down, lashing and giving electric shocks is a commonplace torture method. Have you ever heard the name of Sherwali cell or a cell of cobras or of spiders where sugar is rubbed onto the legs of human beings and insects are let loose to eat it up.

There is a cup-like thing in which an insect that makes a hole into the earth is kept. A tube is attached to this cup by which air is gradually taken out and then this cupped insect is placed on the navel of man. Two things happen. One that the cup sticks to body and secondly when the insect inside feels the lack of air, it begins to scratch the navel”29.

The victim further relates his ordeal in a Pakistani torture centre as “I was arrested during the martial law period. The section of police to which I was handed over tried all the methods of torture. Not only were lashes inflicted on my body, I was also given electric current shocks. I was tortured. For weeks at end, I was suspended upside down. I was stripped of all clothes and made to go about in burning sun. For several days at a stretch I was not allowed to sleep. Once I had fallen half dead as a result of torture. I was informed that Javed Saghar, the only son of my sister was shot dead. This news made me out of my mental senses. The police told me that they were sending for my mother, sisters and my wife into the fort. The Police telephoned my mother in Rawalpindi in my presence and enquired where my wife was. I was told that all of them would be summoned into the fort and that they would be abused. After this threat I lost whatever perseverance I had in me”30

Thus Kashmiris continue to suffer torture at the hands of both Indians and Pakistanis.

Torture as Described in Jail Dairies

Jail Life is altogether a different world where only the supposed guilty are confined for punishment. The word Punishment seems harsh to the State and Establishment, as they brag and boast that Jail Term is only Reformation Period in the life of those who have gone astray from the right path thus posing a threat to the Peace, Harmony and Unity prevalent in the society. In any conflict zone, the role of jail becomes indispensable as number of distracted and youth gone astray boom up thus in need of reformation and guiding light towards the right track; prison provides the Ideal Place to bring these disgruntled youth to the road of Salvation as described in the Gospel of State.

Kashmir since the partition of subcontinent has remained a thorn in flesh of Indian Polity and dissidents, disgruntled and dissatisfied have always found Prison at beck and call but since the early 1990s when the mass armed Intifada was initiated the prisons became lively, vibrant and necessary for imparting the Gospel of State to these distracted souls. As continues the norm alongwith the guilty innocents are also crushed in the system of justice because Law is blind.

Majority of Kashmiris have the experience of Interrogation and Jail life especially the separatist leaders though only the towering among them Syed Ali Shah Geelani has came out with four tomes of his prison diaries Rudad-e-Qafas(2 Volumes), Maqtal Sey Wapsi(Return from Gallows) and Bharat Key Istimarey Harbey Kralagund Sey Jodhpur Tak but others have failed to document the same, even Sheikh Abdullah and his compatriots Mirza Afzal Beg and Maulana Masoodi too have failed on this account. Other lesser known mortals who are mostly illiterate can’t thus be held guilty. But now the Kashmiri prisoners are penning down their jail experiences and many jail dairies are being published.

Torture has been the fate of anyone who finds himself in the clutches of the security agencies. The torture doesn’t end once one is transferred to the Prison after court sentence or as an under trail. The torture continues especially if the victim is transferred and lodged in a jail outside Kashmir.

Iftikhar Geelani, a reputed journalist was framed on fictious grounds and transferred to Tihar Jail. He narrates his ordeal as, “One Assistant Superintendent Kishan was sitting on a chair behind a table. Ten to twelve others were in the room. Some seemed to be jail staff, while others appeared to be inmates. Assistant Superintendent Kishan asked my name. Before I had finished saying it, a Nepali staffer slapped me. It was the signal for a free for all. I was kicked from behind, blows rained on my back and someone grabbed my hair and banged my head against the table. Blood started oozing from my mouth. My nose and ears started bleeding too. Accompanying these blows were the choicest abuses.

Sala, gaddar, Pakistani agent, they were screaming. ‘People like you should not be allowed to live. Traitors should be hanged straightaway’.

For about half an hour I suffered this ghastly display of patriotism as both the officials and jail inmates exhorted each other to show me the punishment for treason. Finally I lost consciousness. When I came to, I found myself dumped in the corridor outside, with fresh blood stains on my face. I was told to go and wash my face. A barrage of abuses followed me to the bathroom. Suddenly a voice thundered, ‘Clean the toilet’.

It was Rajesh (name changed), one of my tormentors displaying his authority. The toilet was as filthy as a public lavatory at a bus station. Before I could say anything, Rajesh ordered me to take off my blood soaked shirt and clean the toilet with it. I had no choice but to obey him. It took me almost an hour to clean the toilet.

Barely had I finished when Ramu (name changed), another convict loomed over me like an executioner, and ordered me to bring an enormous cooler lying some distance away and fix it near the room. Despite all my efforts, the cooler did not budge. A Tamil Nadu Special police (TNSP) personnel was moved by my plight and asked some of the new prisoners to help me.

Only later did I learn that Rajesh and Ramu, who sought to give me lessons in patriotism right through my stay in Tihar Jail, had been convicted for far more heinous crimes. Rajesh was facing charges of triple murder and was later sentenced to a total of eighty years of rigorous imprisonment. Ramu, an under trail was accused of rape and later sentenced.

The corridor was now jam packed with new prisoners sitting on the floor, waiting for admission formalities to commence. The adjacent room was unlocked. Again I was summoned and ordered to clean the room and the tables and chairs inside. I obeyed unquestioningly. Admission proceedings began. One by one the new prisoners were called inside. A jail official and a doctor were doing the job with the help of a few favored prisoners.

Obviously Rajesh and Ramu were among the favored lot. Rajesh was with the doctor. As he recorded my name and identification marks, he let loose a volley of verbal and physical abuse. The doctor enquired about my offences. When he was told that I was an ISI agent, he too beat me up.

However, as a medical practioner, he was there to give every new prisoner a through medical examination and record injuries, if any. He asked me to put down in writing that the injuries inflicted at the jail were actually caused by the police while I was in their custody. He expressed surprise that the police had let off a traitor like me so easily. For the first time I gathered some courage and refused to sign the report. The doctor could not force me to do his bidding. I realized he could do nothing worse than hand me over to Rajesh, Ramu and company.

‘Where is your shirt?’ asked Ramu.

‘In the bathroom’, I said.

‘Go get it and wear it as it is,’ he commanded.

The shirt was so filthy that I almost vomited. But I was forced to wear it for the next three days. That too in the sultry June heat of Delhi. Apparently such treatment is meted out to every prisoner who is perceived to have committed rape of minors or offences under Official Secrets Act.”31

Two women prisoners Anjum Zamrooda Habib Chairperson Muslim Khawateen Markaz (MKM) and Farida Behenji Chairperson J&K Mass Movement were lodged in the notorious jail for years. Both have recounted their horrific ordeal in this jail. Zamrooda Habib also published a jail dairy with the title Prisoner No. 100 that describes her days and nights in Tihar. She writes, “Beena was an uncivilized, unfriendly woman who troubled me all the time. One day she began to shout that Kashmiris are treacherous (ghaddar) people. To this the head matron promptly added, ‘just as you Kashmiris are fair skinned, you are equally malicious, and you have black hearts! You people support Pakistan. If it were in our control, we would hand you to death. You are mean, wicked and anti-national’. As she yelled, she came menacingly close to me and continued to abuse me. I couldn’t even complain to the only policewoman there as she seemed to support all the abuse being hurled at me. But I gathered enough courage and said, ‘You too are a prisoner like me and should not talk like to another’. She was now enraged and yelled louder, until her voice pierced my heart with its violent intonations, it echoed in the large ward attracting the welfare officer’s attention. Just as I asked her why these women hated me and I was alarmed, to see that all the other women too wanted that I get into a fist-fight with them and get into deep trouble. I had sensed from the beginning that these women were hostile to me and looking for ways to corner me but I had tried to be patient and ignore them. Their hearts were full of poison for Muslims, particularly Kashmiri Muslims. They had managed to alienate all other Muslim prisoners from me and prevented them from talking to me or meeting me but Fatima, a foreign national who operated the tea vending machine would greet me warmly as she was not afraid of these women. She whispered to me the next morning at the machine that ‘we’, the Muslim women, were with me and that the Munshi had been shifted after the matter was reported to Deputy Superintendant (DS).

It had been a month since I landed in jail it felt like a lifetime. During this time, I found that where Kashmiri prisoners were concerned, there was an all round hostility reserved for them; the judge, the jail inmates and even the environment was hostile to them. It is difficult to maintain one’s mental equilibrium in such an atmosphere, the outside world, or even its memory recedes and blurs inside the jail where one’s life shrinks into its narrow, dark confines”32.

Then she goes on describing the alienation which a Kashmiri suffers from the Indian State, the apathy of judges, the reluctance of lawyers to defend the case, even the doctors who are supposed to be Messiahs discriminate against Kashmiris and don’t want to touch them even for mere examination, the hurt and agony of being labeled as High Risk prisoner, the taunts of being called a traitor, the hostile attitude of prison staff and administration, communal prejudice against Muslims especially Kashmiris, stigma of being called a terrorist, the agony of hateful glances whenever there is a bomb blast in any part of India, the punishment when Pakistan wins a cricket match plus the constant fighting, abusive nature and unabated chanting of prisoners making  life a virtual hell and to remain in one’s senses is an impossible task in such an alien and completely hostile environment.

A Kashmiri Student writes from The Tihar Jail, “I was brutally tortured, forced to drink my urine and kept with a pig in the jail cell,” writes Muhammad Rafiq Shah of suburban Alesteng

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The work of PVCHR was awarded with the Gwangju Human Rights Award 2007, ACHA Star Peace Award 2008 and 2010 Human rights prize of the city of Weimar in 2010 and Usmania Award from Madarsa Usmania, Bazardiha for the development and welfare of education.

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