Plight of Kashmiris under bayonets

How Indian forces torture them

Since, October 14, 1997, India is signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Yet, it has not ratified it.

India    prevaricated     to    ratify    it    despite its   Law    Commission’s    observation    that non-ratification militated against India’s demand for extradition of criminals who have absconded abroad. Many financial absconders (Mahul Choksy, Vijay Modi, Nirav Mallya and 36 other absconding businessmen) pleaded in foreign courts that they should be tried abroad for fear of torture in India.

Kashmiri teachers shout slogans during a protest demonstration in Srinagar, India, Monday, July 16, 2007. Hundreds of teachers, who work on a daily wage basis, were injured when police used force to disperse them during a protest demanding permanent job and hike in their salary. A daily wage teacher is paid an average of USD$38 per month.

No law against torture: India drafted Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017, that was never enacted (compare it with alacrity with which Citizenship Amendment Act was passed). At international forums India has consistently and unequivocally condemned and deprecated custodial torture and has signed the U.N. Convention. But the Centre’s reluctance to ratify the U.N. Convention stems from the fact that it envisages comprehensive and standalone legislation, which India lacks at present.

Victoria Schofield on torture in Kashmir: She graphically depicts behaviour of Indian forces in Kashmir in Chapter 15: Hearts and mind (pages 262-264) of her 1996 book, Kashmir in the Crossfire (I.B. Taurus, London/New York). Her observations are still relevant today. A few extracts are in order.

Page: 263-264: `

`…Initially there was tremendous reluctance to acknowledge or publicise any of the alleged excesses, indiscriminate killing or arbitrary disappearances noted by the human rights groups for fear of humiliating and hence possibly demoralising the soldiers. …As noted by the Report of the International Commission of Jurists after their visit in August1993…`The jurists , however, also noted that the authorities had been `tardy in instituting proceedings against governmental personnel who commit abuses against the people and have created an aura of impunity surrounding officials who violate human rights.’ In conclusion, they stated: …There is however a long way to go, to overcome indiscipline and misconduct of the security forces, particularly the BSF, the persistent and regular use of torture in interrogation and the practice of extra–judicial execution’. (Human Rights in Kashmir, Report of a Mission, International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, November 1994).

 

`Since the insurgency began, torture of the militants and suspected militants had been a feature of Indian counter-insurgency tactics as a means of extracting information, coercing confessions and punishment. According to Amnesty international, `the brutality of torture in Jammu and Kashmir defies belief. It has left people mutilated and disabled for life. The severity of torture meted out by the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir is the main reason for the appalling number of deaths in custody (Amnesty, Torture and Deaths in Custody in Jammu and Kashmir, March 1995, p. 2).

`The torture generally includes electric shocks, beatings, and the use of a heavy roller on leg muscles, which can result in extensive muscles damage, leading to acute renal failure. Other forms of inhuman treatment on various parts of the body, including sexual molestation also have been reported. According to one victim, quoted by Amnesty,” You always know in advance about the “current” because they send in the barber to shave you from head to foot. This is supposed to facilitate the flow of electricity. After he finishes shaving you, he hands you a cup of water to drink and then they attach the electrodes (The Observer London 13 November 1994, as quoted in Amnesty, Torture and Death in Custody January 1995, p. 19).Other common methods described by the U.S. Human Rights Agency, Asia Watch, include suspension by the hands or feet, stretching the legs apart and burning the skin with a clothes iron or other heated object. Victims have also been kicked and stamped on security forces wearing spiked boots.’ (Asia Watch, The Human Rights in Kashmir: A Pattern of Impunity’, Rawalpindi, June 1993, p. 58).

`Sixty-three interrogation centres where torture is routinely carried out are believed to exist in Jammu and Kashmir, mostly run by the BSF and the CRPF. ..In its December 1993 report Amnesty produced information about the appearance in Kashmir. In its response, the Indian governed answered many of the allegations contained in Amnesty’s report and supplied details on some of those listed as missing…Another report by Amnesty in January 1995 regarding 705 people who, since 1990, had died in custody as a result of torture, shooting, or medical neglect, produced yet another rebuttal from the Indian government. Amnesty however, described their response as `evasive and misleading’. (Analysis of the Government of India’s Response to Amnesty International’s Report on Torture and Deaths in Custody in Jammu and Kashmir, March 1995, p. 1).

Abovementioned 1996 torture techniques still being applied: A report by Hilal Mir and Muhammad Rafi in TRT World Magazine dated September 17, 2020 titled India’s torture methods: new claims emerge from disputed Kashmir reflect that torture techniques outlined by Shofield are still being used by Indian army. An abducted Kashmiri, Sohail, told reporters `he was abducted by 66 Rashtriya Rifles B Company, at Chowgam, hung from a pole, with his hands and ankles tied with a rope. ` “Soldiers” took short run-ups and struck his buttocks, hips and back with batons’ Then `They passed electric current through his body after dunking him in water’.

United Nations’ reports on human-rights violation in Kashmir: Several other reports document torture, custodial killings, and molestation in India. One such report is United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, June 14 “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan” by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Its 49 pages have 388 footnotes, citing, mostly, Indian records such as official statements in Parliament, while refusing the U.N’s repeated requests for on-site inspection.

Conclusion: India’s draconian laws, including Section 4 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990, as pointed out in international reports, allows any personnel operating under the law to use lethal force not only in cases of self-defence but also against any person contravening laws or orders “prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons”.

 

Amjed Jaaved

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