Torture tales continue as India portrays a false sense of ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir

Jun 23, 2023 | On the Ground


Torture tales continue as India portrays a false sense of ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir

Sitting on a bed inside a makeshift wooden accommodation, Faraz Ahmed Lone has been waiting for the past 50 minutes for his brother. A picture of Faraz from three years ago is on a small wooden table next to the bed. A small boy with curly red hair and innocent chubby face, it is hard to imagine that the person on the bed is him. His eyes do not sparkle like in the picture; they gaze far away into the emptiness. His cheeks are sunken and cheekbones protruding, replacing the round innocent face.

“It is becoming unbearable; I need to use the bathroom immediately,” he says, as he calls frantically for his brother, Farhan.

A few minutes later, Farhan rushes in, throwing his bag into the corner, “Sorry I’m late. They stopped my bike and were checking my belongings.” Farhan asks his brother to put his arms around his neck, and then with a sudden hook, he lifts him. “Moujiiiiii”, as Faraz screams in pain. His lower back and his thighs have turned black from the torture.

“He needs assistance to go to the bathroom. It has been two weeks since he was released from incarceration after the G20 meeting, and he has still not stopped passing blood with his stools. The inside of his bowel is bruised and swollen. The doctor said that there are cuts on his insides, and pieces of wood splinters remain stuck inside his rectum. The torturers must have violently inserted a broken stick through his anus,” Farhan says. The room fills with howls and screams as Faraz defecates blood again. Squatting next to him for support, Faraz breaks down. “May Allah destroy their family. These monsters ruined my little brother.”

One of the worst tools that the Indian forces have been ruthlessly employing against the Kashmiri youth is torture under arbitrary incarceration. These marauding troops are like monsters lurking in the dark, chasing the souls of Kashmiri adolescents. These victims of torture cannot flee because the torture scars remain with them for life. Detentions coupled with brutal torture are the signature of the Indian military before any Indian-sponsored event in Occupied Kashmir takes place. From May 22–24, 2023, India had a few G20 meetings in occupied Kashmir to legitimize its settler-colonial control of Kashmir and project a false appearance of normalcy. In addition to routine frisking, impeded traffic flow, and street harassment that the populace experienced, the region saw an increase in nocturnal raids and arrests. Fernand de Varennes, the UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues, had issued a statement saying that the G20 was “unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy” when human rights violations, political persecution, and illegal arrests were escalating in Kashmir.

Faraz is only one among the many detained ahead of the event. The story of 17 year old Shabir is no different. Along with his 20 year old companion, they were detained for about a week and released after the event concluded. When Shabir was 13 years old, he was falsely accused of carrying out a grenade attack close to his house in the southern region of Kashmir. This led to Shabir’s first exposure to the horrors of infamous Indian torture centers. Both for him and his family, the horrors of his arrest are now sporadic memories. The invading soldiers stole their peace the same night he was detained. In addition to raiding his residence, he was tortured in prison, forcing him to confess to a crime he did not commit.

Shabir recalled his ordeal: “That night, while I was sleeping, they took me out of bed wearing just my underwear and began parading me around my neighborhood. I pleaded guilty to a crime I did not commit because the Indian soldiers put a roller over my thighs. I will never forget how much anguish that gave me or how much it made them laugh to see me suffer.”

Shabir’s detention and subsequent soul-crushing torture have stolen a whole stage of adolescence from him and thousands of other Kashmiri kids who have been and are subjected to extreme physical and psychological torture. More than 50% of the victims reported being tortured repeatedly, according to a report by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) titled ‘Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control in Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir,’ which exposed the indiscriminate and systematic use of torture by the Indian state. Many were forced to report to the Amy camps every Sunday for weekly attendance, even after being freed. Most of the time, many forms of torture were applied to individuals simultaneously. There have been instances of collective punishment in which severe consequences were inflicted on an individual or a group without regard to each one’s guilt.

“Even when the wounds on his body heal,” says Farhan, “he will carry the mental scars of this torture with him all his life.” The innocent faced Faraz in the photograph stares at Faraz in the bed. The sheets have dried blood marks, filling the room with a foul smell. Faraz looks out of the window, tears flowing down his face. “Will you please let me have poison, baaya? This will make it easier for the both of us,” he tells Farhan, who punches the table with full force as the pain of those words pierces his heart.

According to human rights organizations, thousands of Kashmiris, including children, women, sick people, and older people, have been detained in jails across India and Jammu & Kashmir both before and after the events of August 5th, 2019, and this number is expected to rise. In addition to those who have been languishing in prison for years for their part in anti-Indian occupation protests, an estimated 4,000 to 13,000 people have been imprisoned since August 5. As per another Indian report, there are presently 5,148 Kashmiris being held in 14 jails located around the Disputed Territory, compared to the sanctioned capacity of 3,629. They are overflowing with more detainees than they can handle—prisons and torture centers in occupied Jammu and Kashmir house around 90% of those still awaiting trial. Additionally, fewer than 2% of all people detained in situations involving militancy have been found guilty. Estimates say that over 50% of those imprisoned have faced physical torture and the mental trauma it causes. After Covid-19, a committee responsible for clearing out prisons said, it would not issue parole to anyone from Kashmir who had been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) or had been found guilty of a crime connected to militancy.

(Names in the story have been changed to protect privacy)