New Report Cites 432 Torture Cases In
Kashmir From 1990-2017, 70% Victims Civilians
Written by Atman Mehta | Published on: September 4, 2019
Mumbai: The Indian state
has routinely practiced torture as an institutional method of control in
Kashmir, according to a 
report documenting 432
cases, in which 70% of victims were civilians, between 1990 and 2017.

The report was released by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), an amalgam of research
and advocacy organisations based in Srinagar, and the Association of Parents of
Disappeared Persons (APDP), an advocacy seeking to end involuntary and enforced
disappearances in Kashmir, in February 2019. Torture 
qualifies as a war crime as per the International CriminalCourt (ICC) and the Geneva Conventions.
The report, endorsed by former United
Nations (UN) special rapporteur Juan E Mendez, accuses the Indian state of
violating international human rights law by practicing torture against
civilians, destroying property such as homes, and causing widespread
psychological distress.
“For the worldwide struggle against
torture, this report will constitute a landmark,” Mendez 
wrote. “It is to be hoped that it will be an
example to other civil society organizations in India and in other countries,
as a model for dispassionate and precise language, even when discussing
tremendously tragic suffering.”
Jammu and Kashmir is considered among
the most militarised regions in the world, indicative of an alarming human
rights situation. JKCCS 
estimates that 650,000-750,000 Indian
troops are present in the state; Ajai Shukla, a defence expert, contested those
numbers in July 2018, 
estimating the number to be 470,000 instead.
Another 38,000 were deployed in early August 2019, bringing
the presence between 700,000 and 800,000–more than one armed forces personnel
per 15 civilians, as per JKCCS’s figures.
On August 29, 2019, the BBC reported that civilians in Kashmir had
complained of being tortured by the Indian security forces since the abrogation
of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
The JKCCS report relates to the
period between 1990 and 2017. Its release comes at a time when Union home
minister Amit Shah, on August 28, 2019, 
suggested that the police do away with
the age-old third-degree torture and adopt new, more scientific methods of
However, the report has received no
coverage in the mainstream Indian media. The two largest newpapers in
India, The Times of India in English and the Hindi Dainik
, with a combined readership of nearly 90 million, have not covered
the report to date, despite reporting on allegations of torture carried out by
the Indian security forces and publishing more than 3,000 stories on Jammu and
Kashmir this year, an IndiaSpend analysis has shown.
The home ministry, The Times
of India
, and Dainik Jagran did not respond to emails for
comment sent on August 25 and 29, 2019. This story will be updated when they
Some experts view the report as
indicative of a general disregard for Kashmiris’ human rights, particularly
since Article 370 was removed. “Given what has happened since August 5 [the
abrogation of Article 370], what rights? What humans? The way they’re being
treated, the very idea of human rights for the people of Kashmir is an absurd
farce,” said Nitasha Kaul, associate professor of politics and international
relations, University of Westminster, London. She is of Kashmiri origin.
Others said the report must be seen
in the perspective of the situation across India.
“I don’t think this [torture] is a
special practice of the Indian state in Kashmir,” Manoj Joshi, distinguished
fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think-tank,
told IndiaSpend. “It is well known that torture is widely used by
police forces across the country. Of course, it does not serve the interests of
the Indian state. To the contrary, it negatively impacts it.”
Among the report’s findings: 27 of the 432 cases studied (6.25%) made it to the
State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), of which 20 received favourable
recommendations; in 2017, the state government accepted seven of the 44
compensation recommendations the commission made. The government has accepted
58 of the 229 recommendations (25%) made by the commission since 2009.
The report alleges that armed forces
in Kashmir are responsible for the destruction of civilian property and life,
alongside causing significant psychological distress due to the practice of
In 1993, Mohammad Shafi Hajam, a
barber from Anantnag, was questioned by armed forces regarding the whereabouts
of weapons, the report documents. Despite initially denying any knowledge,
following extensive torture, he revealed the location to be a ditch near his
shop. The next day, the army made all surrounding inhabitants including Hajam
enter the ditch, filled with human refuse, to find the weapons. Upon not
finding anything, an army officer slammed Hajam’s head onto a rock, causing him
to lose a few teeth. He was subsequently taken back to the camp and continued
to be tortured, the report added.
Based on the responses of each case,
the report found three major reasons why people were tortured: as a punitive
measure (50 victims, 12% of the total), a method to gain information, mainly
about militants (118 victims, or 27%), and a means to elicit confessions (11
Some victims said they provided false information to their interrogators just
for respite.
One of the victims documented by the report, from Anantnag, said he was doused
in petrol and set on fire. Another, Bashir Ahmad, claimed that boiling water
was poured on his back.
Torture methods documented in the
report include physical brutalisation, waterboarding, sleep deprivation,
starvation; and being forced to remain in uncomfortable positions such as 
aeroplane posture, burned, coerced to ingest
contaminated substances and get in unhygienic contact with animals. All of
these count as war crimes as per ICC rulings.

Some 326 of the 432 victims studied reported being beaten by sticks, rods and belts.
Another 93 people claimed that they were physically brutalised, including the
smashing of glass bottles on their faces. One person reported being kicked down
a hill.
At least 80 victims had been tortured
during cordon and search operations (CASOs), which have been globally condemned
by groups such as Human Rights Watch
(here) and Amnesty International (here).
Civilian victims
Nearly 70% or 301 of the total
victims studied were civilians, of which 258 had no political affiliations.
Twenty were political activists, six were students, three journalists, two
human rights activists, and 12 associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami, a
politico-religious activist group 
banned by the government in March 2019
for its “close touch” with militant outfits.
Civilians were
mainly targeted for information regarding militants, or in response to
militant activity in neighbouring areas, the report said.
Nearly 119 victims were militants
(28%) and five were former militants (1%). Two members of the Jammu and Kashmir
Police were found to have been tortured.
In the cases where militants were
tortured, the report stated that most of the cases of arrest were not
registered with the local police on the day of arrest. Doing so is a
requirement under point six of the 
Armed Forces
Special Powers Act
In 32 cases, the report found that
the families of the victims were targeted in addition to the victim. Article 3
of the 
Geneva Convention states that those “taking no
active part in the hostilities” must be treated “humanely,” specifically
prohibiting “violence to life and person” and “outrages upon personal dignity”.
The principle is also mentioned in the ICC guidelines regarding war crimes.
Further, 27 of the 432 victims
studied were minors, of which one was female. From a total of 1,086 juvenile
detentions from September 2013 to April 2017, 623 (57%) were for pelting
stones, the report found.
Lasting effects on victims
At least 222 victims of the total 432
(51.4%) reported health complications from being tortured–209 reported chronic
health problems, frequent aches, fatigue and sexual impotency; 49 reported
acute chronic ailments such as cardiac issues, nephrological problems, internal
organ injuries and amputations. All 222 victims said they had been bearing the
costs of healthcare by themselves, without any compensation or support.
Sixteen victims reported dislocated
joints, in addition to 15 respondents who had suffered fractures. Three people
had to undergo amputations after being tortured. One victim, Mohammad Qalandar
Khatana, said that he was forced to eat the cut flesh of his buttocks, after
which his legs were broken. He wasn’t provided with any medical assistance.
While imprisoned, his legs got infected by maggots, following which they had to
be amputated.
At least 49 (11.34%) victims died
during or after torture, of which 40 died due to injuries sustained due to
being tortured, such as ruptured lungs, and a perforated liver and intestines.
Eight were shot dead after being tortured, whereas another one was poisoned.


Around 42 (18.9%) victims suffered from various psychological disorders after
being tortured, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression,
anxiety, insomnia, and dementia, according to the report.
Earlier, a mental health survey undertaken in December 2015 by Medecin
Sans Frontiers
 (Doctors Without Borders) said that 19% of Kashmir’s
population showed several symptoms of PTSD; 45% of the population, or 1.8
million adults, in the Kashmir Valley suffered from significant mental
distress; 1.6 million or 41% exhibited symptoms of severe depression.
Victims often poor
Aside from the physical and mental
impacts of torture, a significant facet of torture is its economic brutality,
as the victims are often underprivileged, the report said. The wife of one
victim, Din Mohammad, met the initial costs of her husband’s treatment by
begging for money in 1999.
Many victims it documented were
manual labourers, who were unable to resume their occupation due to the
significant physical distress caused by torture, the report said. At least 31 victims
reported an inability to perform any physically exhausting labour; almost all
of them previously farmers or manual labourers.
At least 36 victims (8.3%) and their
families lived in abject poverty because of the loss of livelihood or the death
of the breadwinner of the family, the report said. Four families have
subsequently died due to their dire situation.
Twenty five cases also involved the
payment of bribes ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 lakh to various agencies to
secure the release of their loved ones, or to protect families from relentless
Report ignored by mainstream Indian
In February 2017, the Ministry of
Home Affairs (MHA) compiled a report stating the necessity to “control” the
mosque, madrassa, print and TV media to enact effective “perception
management”, The Indian Express 
reported. The report listed TV channels and
newspapers as pro- and anti-India, recommending that the former be promoted
while the latter “discouraged”.
The Indian Army’s doctrine on sub-conventional operations
of 2006 notes that such operations are “essentially information campaigns”,
emphasising the importance of the government, the security forces and the
civilian population understanding the campaign in the “correct perspective”.
This makes the role of the media critical.
The JKCCS report acknowledged that
the primary challenge while researching torture is under-reporting, due to the
reluctance of victims to reveal details, and the political hurdles faced by
journalists. The Indian government has repeatedly withheld permission from
several journalists who wished to work in Kashmir; Greater Kashmir 
reported on one such prominent instance in
August 2019.
“The Indian government is interested
in perception-management, not in actually finding a solution, because the
dominant lens with which they see Kashmir is an Islamophobic one, and because
their own idea of India is to capture the state and convert it into a Hindu
nation, in line with the Hindutva ideology,” said Kaul.
“To call it a perception-management
strategy is perhaps to overstate it, because the emperor has no clothes. The
situation is clear to everyone globally, outside the hypernationalist Indian
televisual bubble. India’s narrative has no ground to stand on anymore,” Kaul

As we said, despite the report on torture being the first ever comprehensive
documentation on the subject, the dominant media in India have not covered it
to date.

The Times of India, the largest English-language
newspaper of the country with a 
readership of 15.2 million, despite publishing
one story almost every two days on the state, did not cover the report. In 109
stories covering Jammu and Kashmir as listed on their website, over eight
months between the start of 2019 and August 27, the word ‘torture’ was
mentioned only four times. The word appeared four times in a single 
story, which covered the Indian Army
denouncing allegations of torture and excesses committed by the Indian security
forces by Shehla Rashid, member of the Jammu and Kashmir’s People’s Movement,
as “baseless” and “unverified”.
Similarly, Dainik Jagran,
the largest newspaper in India with a 
readership of 73.6 million, published
3,296 stories on Jammu and Kashmir from January 2019 to late August
2019–almost 14 stories per day, but did not cover the report released on torture.
However, it also covered Shehla Rashid’s allegations, on 
August 19 and August 20, and the case filed against her for
doing so.

Coverage of Jammu and Kashmir, per se, spiked during August 2019,
the month in which the abrogation of Article 370 was announced, for both these
newspapers, our analysis shows.
“In all of this, the signs of
optimism and prospects for peace is the humanity and resilience of the Kashmiri
people. Prospects for peace can only come from millions of people who are going
to read, think, know and understand what cannot and must not happen,” Kaul
No government action on previous
In June 2018, after protests erupted
following the killing of Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old commander of the Hizbul
Mujahideen (HM) terrorist outfit, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR) at the United Nations released a report on the human rights
situation in Kashmir for the first time.
The security forces had killed
130-145 civilians between July 2016 and March 2018, in addition to 16-20 killed
by militant groups, the 
report noted. In a subsequent report
published in July 2019, the UN body 
reported that the security forces had
blinded 1,253 people with the use of metal pellets from mid-2016 to the end of
2018. The government had detained over 1,000 people between March 2016 and
August 2017 under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
The OHCHR said it had asked India for
access to Kashmir to monitor the human rights situation, but the government had
unconditionally refused.
“India has not allowed international
monitors since it views Kashmir as an internal issue,” Joshi said, adding,
“Second, it would be embarrassed by the findings.”
Some 4,000 people have been detained in the state since the
abrogation of Article 370, The Hindu 
reported on August 18, 2019. The Public
Safety Act violates several clauses of international human rights law, an
Amnesty International 
report of June 2019 showed.
“Where else do you have protestors
being blinded by pellet guns, or an entire region being collectively punished
by a siege? They [the Indian State] are doing it [blocking international
monitors] because they can,” said Kaul.
Earlier, in 2016, Physicians for
Human Rights (PHR), a US-based human rights NGO that documents human rights
violations around the world, 
reported that the Indian state had obstructed
access to medical care for protestors, prevented medical officials from
treating injured protestors, and intimidated doctors and patients at the
hospital. Security forces had 
destroyed 200 ambulances in the same
year, another JKCCS report had found.
Denying civilians access to
humanitarian aid or attacking humanitarian workers is a violation of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, and a war crime as per the 
guidelines of the International Criminal
There existed at least 2,700 unknown,
unmarked graves containing more than 2,943 bodies across 55 villages between
November 2006 and November 2009, a report by the International People’s
Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) 
documented, including photographic evidence. In
November 2017, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC
reportedly ordered a DNA probe into 2,080
unmarked graves in the districts of Poonch and Rajouri, but no information is
available on any follow up.
(Mehta, a second-year undergraduate
at the University of Chicago, is an intern at IndiaSpend.)                                                               
Courtesy: India Spend

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