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Stripped Naked, Sexual Abuse, Beaten with Iron Rods: How Civilians Face 'Torture' in Strife-torn J&K

The report, which has been prepared by two prominent rights bodies who have been researching on torture in the state for around a decade, was dismissed by authorities and police.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:May 21, 2019, 5:52 PM IST
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Stripped Naked, Sexual Abuse, Beaten with Iron Rods: How Civilians Face 'Torture' in Strife-torn J&K
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Srinagar: On September 5, 2018, Feroz Ahmad Hajam from the Kokernag area of south Kashmir was allegedly arrested by Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel.

He was allegedly tortured at an Army camp and later the SOG, the counter-insurgency wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, “slit his throat, holding him from behind and damaged his vocal cords severely so that he won’t be able to speak again”.

This is one of the recent cases of suspected torture documented by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the two prominent human rights organisations working in the strife-torn state.

Hajam, while being treated at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital in 2018, revealed similar details to News18. He described the torture he had suffered, while doctors declared that he won’t be able to speak and even his “survival was a miracle”.

The two rights bodies, researching for around a decade, have released the “first comprehensive report” on torture in Jammu and Kashmir.

Focusing on the rights abuse perpetrated by the forces since 1990 and giving a contextual understanding of various phases of torture, 432 case studies have been used to chart out “trends and patterns, targets, perpetrators, sites, contexts and impacts of torture in Jammu and Kashmir”.

The report says a significant number of victims are civilians — “301 out of 432, which include women, students and juveniles, political activists, human rights activists and journalists.”

“The forms of torture that have been documented in this report include stripping the detainees naked (190 out of 432 cases studied for this report), beating with sticks, iron rods or leather belts (326 cases), roller treatment (169 cases), water-boarding (24 cases), dunking detainees’ head in water (101 cases), electrocution including in genitals (231 cases), hanging from the ceiling, mostly upside down (121 cases), burning of the body with hot objects (35 cases), solitary confinement (11 cases), sleep deprivation (21 cases), sexual torture (238 cases) including rape and sodomy, among others,” the rights bodies said in its report, which was launched in Srinagar on Monday.

But police and authorities have rejected this report.

“This is a false report. Wherever we have come across such cases, inquiries and other investigations have been done,” a top Jammu and Kashmir police officer told New18. “If there’s any such case, the victim should approach us and we will investigate.”

Most of these cases have not been reported to authorities.

The report says, “Most survivors of torture choose not to report what has happened to them for various reasons, most importantly the fear of state reprisals and social stigma. Many feel lucky to have escaped with their lives, and do not wish to invite further state attention to themselves by speaking out.”

The report has divided the incidents of torture in five phases, namely “crackdowns and mass torture (1990-1992), “catch and kill’ and “the outsourcing of torture (1993-1996)”, “civilian government and the normalisation of torture (1996-2001)”, “healing touch and the invisibilisation of torture (2002-2008)” and “civilian uprisings, street protests and the re-visibilisation of torture (2008-2018)”.

“Detention, particularly prolonged unrecorded detentions for the purpose of custodial interrogations, has been a continuing and constant feature of the counter-insurgency policy,” the 560-page report states. “It bears a close causative correlation to the high occurrence of custodial deaths that have been reported in Kashmir since the commencement of counter-insurgency operations. Many such detentions are entirely lawless, without any basis in law whatsoever.”

It further talks about “the existence of extraordinary legislations, which dilute the requirements of the Indian and Jammu and Kashmir constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code, and are in violation of international human rights standards with respect to the rights of detainees, creates a moral and legal climate where prolonged, pre-charge and without charge detentions are legitimised”.

Earlier, the Army had said it had punished 29 soldiers guilty in 25 of the 995 complaints received by it.

The first-of-its-kind report gives an insight into how the “torture has ruined the lives of survivors with a multitude of them suffering from chronic ailments resulting from torture.”

“Apart from the physical ailments, people who have been tortured or even witnessed it, have suffered from psychological issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Forty-nine of the 432 victims of torture died post-torture, 40 of them as a result of injuries received during torture,” JKCCS said.

“Since many deaths due to torture-related injuries are not immediate, but may occur after years or even decades, accurate figures of such fatalities and morbidity are extremely hard to estimate,” it added.

The report has also widely mentioned the “sexualised torture” stating that half of those who were studied for this research “were subjected to some form of sexual torture.”

“As many as 190 people were stripped naked. 127 people were electrocuted in their genitals. Foreign objects like rods, petrol, chilli powder and needles were inserted into rectums of 23 victims,” it says.

In the report, Mohammad Ahsan Untoo, a prominent human rights activist from Kashmir, also alleged that he was “sodomised when he was detained in Tihar Jail in Delhi”.

In one of the incidents that occurred in October 2009, the report mentions “11 boys between the age of 13 and 19 were arrested in Srinagar on charges of stone pelting. During their detention, the boys were forced to sodomise each other. Not only did the perpetrators watch the whole incident, they even recorded it on their mobile phones, hurled abuses on the victims and spat on them”.

In the 432 cases studied for this report, the report mentions that 24 were women of whom 12 were allegedly raped by the forces. One of them was a bride.

The torture victims have suffered from severe health implications, suggests the report.

“Our data shows that 222 (51.4 %) out of the 432 victims suffered from some form of health complications after being tortured. Of these, 209 (94.1%) suffered health issues with chronic ailments e.g., cardiac problems, nephrological issues, complete or partial loss of eyesight or hearing ability, amputations, sexual impotency, etc. and these people have been on regular or irregular medication since,” it mentions.

The report claims “these people are completely dependent on medication and some of them have undergone one or multiple surgeries”.

Most of the infamous torture centres are defunct now and one which was called 'PAPA 2' was converted into the residence of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syed and currently Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti is living there.

| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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