Torture Trails in Kashmir

India military personnel in occupied Kashmir are promised total impunity and given special powers by the The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990. (World Without Torture photo)
Kashmiri torture victim (World Without Torture photo)

Human rights abuses in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir state are an ongoing issue. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech.

According to WikiLeaks, Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have both asserted that Indian security forces and police have been accused of the systematic use of torture. U.S. officials first showed concern regarding the widespread use of torture in 2007 where they presented evidence to Indian diplomats.

In 2012, human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz and his field workers commenced the first statewide study of torture in Kashmir and his report concluded that torture in Kashmir is both endemic and systematic. The report suggests that one in six Kashmiris have faced torture. In Imroz’s study sample of 50 villages, more than 2,000 extreme cases of torture were identified and documented.

As recent as June, two different videos that surfaced on social media sites, of army men beating and abusing two youth at some undisclosed location in Kashmir, has led to severe criticism and condemnation, alleging the government forces of alienating and dehumanising the youth.

Reportedly by, one video was unofficially released by involved army personnel, torturing one youth for carrying pictures of slain youth leader Burhan Wani, who was killed last year on July 8 by the Indian forces, on his phone.

The video suggested an officer of high rank was supervising the torture, while two soldiers were mercilessly beating the young man who, from a translation of the video posted on Twitter, was saying “I’m fasting, I’m fasting”, the Indian soldiers were attempting to force him into the exaltation of India and denouncing Pakistan. Human rights groups have been alleging the forces of violations,and videos like these substantiate the findings.

Criticism loomed over social media condemning the torture and humiliation of the youth by the Indian army personnel; this is not the first time that government forces have shown boldness in posting torture videos to social media, despite alleged military advisory against posting on social media.

Many social media activists debated that the unconventional behaviour of the conventional military personnel was due to total impunity promised by the The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990, AFSPA, giving Indian Armed Forces special powers and providing cover to the government forces against prosecution in civil courts, particularly for cases in occupied Kashmir.

The law provides them a shield when committing human rights violations and has been criticised by Human Rights Watch as being wrongly used by the forces.This law is widely condemned by human rights groups. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay has urged India to repeal AFSPA and to investigate the disappearances in Kashmir.

Another video in June shows a young man forced to chant anti-Pakistan slogans, and humiliated by the army personnel inside a casspir armoured vehicle. The soldier threatens to place the young man’s name in the militants’ list and shoot him dead in a fake encounter. According to the translation of the video.

‘Fake encounter’ killings are common in occupied Kashmir. A ‘fake encounter’ is when Indian forces kill someone in cold blood while claiming that the casualty occurred in a gun battle. It also asserts that the security personnel are Kashmiris and “even surrendered militants”, according to the BBC.

Earlier, in April, according to the online source, many videos surfaced showing government forces shooting at young men from close range, the uproar led to months of instability in the conflict-torn valley.

Lost Kashmiri History has documented that there are more than 471 torture centers still functioning in Kashmir. Every fifth Kashmiri is victim of torture and after every five kilometers or 3.10 miles, there is a torture center. There are about four lakh, one hundred thousand, people who have been tortured from a moderate to severe degree. Ninety nine per cent of all those who were or are being arrested are subjected to torture. Methods of torture include head dipping in water, rolling on front side ledges, electric shock, inserting chili powder in the private parts, cutting body parts or mutilating, keeping detainee naked during torture, sexually abusing, legs or arms stretching, inserting or beating with iron rods, hanging upside down, forced to drink excessive water, amputation and humiliation — all having been experimented on Kashmiri people. In some instances detainees have been denied food, and instead force-fed their own flesh; if they refused they are beat mercilessly.

Hundreds of thousands of children in Jammu and Kashmir find themselves kidnapped, tortured and victims of custodial killing as noted by
India has not allowed the the UN’s special rapporteur for torture to visit Kashmir since 1993. The country has signed but not ratified the UN Convention against Torture.

Compiled by Hajjah A. Sabur