HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Abuses by Indian Security Forces and Militant Groups Continue



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Abuses in the Kashmir Valley


Torture has been used routinely by all the security forces operating in Kashmir. Although the problem is widely known to the authorities in Srinagar and New Delhi, neither has ever made any serious effort to curb it. When questioned, officials frequently respond that they have no other alternative to deal with terrorists who do not respect the law. Torture is used to extract information, to punish detainees and to try to force detainees to become informers or to join countermilitant organizations. It is also used to extort money from the victim's family. The choice of certain forms of torture appears to be indiscriminate; while some detainees are subjected to a range of brutal torture techniques for no obvious reason, others may be subjected solely to beatings.

The most common forms of torture include severe beatings and electric shock. Detainees have also had their legs stretched apart, have been suspended from the wrists or upside down for extended periods, which can lead toparalysis, and have had an iron rod coated with chili paste inserted into the rectum. According to local doctors, this last can cause serious injury and infection when, as a result of pushing, the rod ruptures the bladder.

One of the most insidious forms of torture is the use of a heavy log or roller to apply excruciating pressure to the detainee's legs. The roller is rotated over the victim's legs, sometimes weighed down by a number of policemen who sit or stand on it. The practice has been widely used by police in India, notably in Punjab. Extensive use of the roller frequently leads to kidney damage. Severe beatings may also induce kidney failure, as can electric shock because the contractions caused by the shocks as well as the trauma, which leads the muscles to release toxins that the kidneys cannot handle in large quantities. The risk of permanent injury is exacerbated by the fact that the victims are often denied water during interrogation and frequently become dehydrated. Since the conflict began in 1990, doctors in Kashmir have documented hundreds of cases of torture-induced renal failure in Kashmir.48

Human Rights Watch interviewed four doctors in Kashmir who have treated torture victims. Estimates varied, but of the four, estimates ranged from three to eight cases a week. Sources at the Soura Medical Institute in Srinagar told us that they had registered more than 180 patients with torture-induced renal problems since 1994, some one hundred of which were admitted since 1996. These figures only include those cases serious enough to require treatment in the hospital. Of the 180 cases, six died of renal failure. Some of the survivors have suffered permanent damage. According to the doctors, those most at risk include persons with lowered immunity who may suffer kidney damage after even a mild beating. Those who have received treatment for torture-induced renal problems have been mostly young males but have included some older men.

According to one doctor familiar with the problem:

People who come to see me with torture-inflicted injuries are often so afraid that they virtually beg me not to reveal the facts of their case to my colleagues... You wonder how many cases don't come to the hospital at all. We usually only get the most severe cases. The most frequent torture cases I see are soft-tissue injuries: the use of the roller, gun butts, sticks, and kicks with pointed boots. When a person gets hit this way, a liquid is released that is toxic to the kidneys. To rinse it out people need to drink a lot, and the problem is that in the interrogation centers the detainees are not given sufficient water.49

He estimated that renal failure occurred in about 5 percent of the cases.

J. , October 1998
When Human Rights Watch was in Srinagar on October 18, 1998, the army conducted a cordon-and-search operation (known as a crackdown) in the Sariballa neighborhood of the city. This operation occurred a day after a grenade was thrown at a nearby bunker, injuring a BSF officer. Human Rights Watch interviewed J., twenty-five , one of the men from the neighborhood who had been detained during the crackdown, interrogated and released. J. had been sitting in a park with two friends waiting to see a movie and a nearby theater when army officers pulled up and order them into the vehicle. J. stated:

They didn't ask us any questions. They blindfolded us with a piece of cloth and took us to the Badimai Bagh camp in the Batwara area of Srinagar. They didn't ask us for our identity cards. They just said to us: "Give us the weapons. Show us where the weapons are." When we replied that wedidn't have any weapons, they started beating us, and this lasted for about an hour and a half. We were beaten non-stop. They used belts, boots, and thick sticks. They were five army soldiers, and they just kept asking us for the weapons. There was also an officer there, the commanding officer, who was in civilian clothes; he was asking the questions and also was beating us. Our hands were cuffed with metal cuffs and our feet as well. We were lying on the ground. We were wearing our clothes. They beat me on the soles of my feet and on top of my feet as well with sticks. They also pulled some skin off my forehead and near my elbow with pliers.50

Human Rights Watch saw the scars on J.'s forehead, arm, back and soles of his feet. J. stated that because the beatings were so bad, he and his friends finally told the security forces that they had weapons. The security forces then accompanied them back here to their homes. J. continued:

When we got here, they told us to show them where we had hidden the weapons, so we said that we didn't have any. We were here two and a half hours. One of my two friends was taken out of the vehicle and led into his home. They told his mother that if her son refused to show them where the weapons were they would kill him. I was taken into the house of other people, whom they asked to identify me as a militant. I was beaten in that house for about an hour. And they were still asking the same question.51

Then they took all three back to the same camp. After about an hour, the same officer came and began to lecture them, saying: "Don't support the militancy! Why did you tell me earlier that you have weapons?" They then released them at about 8:30 p.m. They were treated at the Bone and Joint Hospital and released. Documents Human Rights Watch obtained from the hospital confirmed that there had been trauma particularly to J.'s feet.

When Human Rights Watch interviewed J. two days after his arrest, he could stand only with great difficulty. He bore the marks of a severe beating on his back and feet and had lesions on his forehead, and said that he was still in great pain.

X., twenty-five, a resident of Anchar, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Srinagar, was first arrested in November 1995. He was detained and tortured at various jails and interrogation centers for three years. He was picked up from the street in the Hapt Chinar neighborhood of Srinagar, where he was visiting relatives. At about 3:00 p.m., the 12th Battalion of the BSF from Karanagar camp carried out a raid in that area. As they arrested him, one soldier struck him on the nose with his rifle butt, fracturing it. They took him to the interrogation center at Karanagar camp. There he was interrogated for two months continuously. After four months he was moved to the Papa II interrogation center in Srinagar, from where he was transferred to Kortbulwal jail and then to Udhampur jail, where he was held for one year. On April 17, 1997, he was moved to Jammu central jail, where he stayed until November 1997. Then he was transferred back to Kortbulwal until January 1998. From there he was taken to the Harinawas interrogation center in Srinagar for four days, and then to Rangrat jail in Srinagar. On April 20, 1998, he was taken to the police station in Soura, where he stayed for three days before he was granted bail. X. recalled:

The first two months were very bad. They said they wanted me to take them to the weapons. I told them I had never touched a weapon and that I had no connection to the militants. They wanted me to tell them the locations of the militants. In Karanagar they hung me upside down. They burned parts of my leg and foot with a torch. They stuck a metal pin in my penis and sent a current from abattery through it. They also used the roller on my legs. I was interrogated also in Papa II and Papa I, and then in Udhampur. Each time they questioned me they used electricity. It happened countless times... Udhampur was particularly bad. The guards there were very brutal. They were always beating me even when they knew I was ill. I couldn't even walk at the time.When I was in Udhampur I also temporarily lost my sight in my right eye, while my other eye was all blurry. I couldn't see at all. This lasted about six months. I don't know what brought it on.52

X. showed Human Rights Watch the fading scars on his legs, feet and neck. He could hardly walk and then only with the aid of a cane. At the time of the interview, X. still had no sensation in his left arm.

While X. was in jail in Jammu, he was examined by a doctor who referred him for admittance to a hospital. At the government medical college hospital in Jammu, doctors examined X.'s nose and left arm, which has become paralyzed in Udhampur jail. He was then returned to Jammu jail. X. told Human Rights Watch that after his release he received treatment and recovered his sight but continued to have episodes of dizziness.

48 Human Rights Watch interviews with doctors in Srinagar in October 1998. Human Rightrs Watch staff also interviewed doctors about torture-induced renal failure during a visit to Kashmir in October 1992. See also Human Rights Watch, The Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir, pp. 91-92.

49 Interview in Srinagar, October 20, 1998.

50 Interview in Srinagar, October 20, 1998.

51 Interview in Srinagar, October 20, 1998.

52 Interview in Srinagar, October 19, 1998.



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