A DAMNING report detailing the Indian army’s alleged torture of Kashmiri protesters has been made public this week, underscoring the sheer scale of the methods employed by the state to quell dissent in India-held Kashmir. Titled Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control, the 560-page report, compiled by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, records human rights abuses over the past decade in the disputed region. The report is the first of its kind, documenting 432 case studies against the backdrop of what it describes as the systematic and indiscriminate torture perpetuated by security forces in occupied Kashmir. The cases mentioned in the report are records of torture, with a focus on “patterns, targets, perpetrators, contexts and impact of torture in Kashmir”.
The accounts are chilling: “Forms of torture include stripping the detainees naked, beatings with wooden sticks, iron rods or leather belts, roller treatment whereby a heavy wooden log or an iron rod is rolled over the legs of the detainee, with extra weight applied to it by forces personnel who sit on the opposite sides of this rod, water-boarding, electrocution, hanging from the ceiling, dunking detainees’ head in water, burning of the body with iron rods, heaters or cigarette butts, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, sexualised torture including rape and sodomy, among others.” Grimly, the report notes that not a single case has been prosecuted. It also says that a lack of faith in institutions prevents victims from seeking justice or redressal for the torture. At the end, it calls on the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate what it says is the endemic use of torture by government forces.
It is evident from this report that an immediate investigation must be launched by the UN to determine the extent to which the Indian army in occupied Kashmir is using torture on Kashmiri youths to suppress their struggle for self-determination. It is not enough that the Indian government is “looking into it”, as they have said in response to the report’s publication. Last year, the UN had called for an independent probe into the violation of Kashmiris’ rights in a report — a call rejected by India. This fresh report, which has been hailed as “landmark” by a former UN special rapporteur on torture, demonstrates the need for finding a solution that will end this reign of normalised torture that India has inflicted on the Kashmiri people. Although the report is the first documentation on this scale, it is not the first time India has been accused of rights’ violations in Kashmir. The Indian government simply cannot ignore calls by human rights groups — both local and international — which draw attention to these inhuman practices. It will risk further alienating an already crushed section of the population if it continues with its abhorrent practices.
Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019