Kashmir Group Seeks UN Probe Into Torture by India Troops

A prominent rights group in Indiancontrolled Kashmir is advocating for the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate what it calls the endemic use of torture by government forces amid a decadeslong antiIndia uprising in the disputed region.

The JammuKashmir Coalition of Civil Society on Monday released a detailed report saying India is using torture as a "matter of policy" and "instrument of control" in Kashmir, where rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989.

"Torture is the most underreported human rights violation perpetrated by the state," the report noted. "Due to legal, political and moral impunity extended to the armed forces, not a single prosecution has taken place in any case of human rights violations" in the region, the report said.

Indian authorities said they would study the report before commenting on it. In the past, officials have acknowledged torture exists in Kashmir but have denied that Indian forces strategically use sexual and other abuses to control the population.

The 560page report, researched for a decade, recommends an investigation be led by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It also urges India to ratify the U.N. Convention against torture and also allow global rights groups "unhindered access" to Kashmir.

Last year, the U.N. in its first report on Kashmir called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations like rape, torture and extrajudicial killings in the region. The report, which JKCCS helped with field research, particularly criticized Indian troops for firing shotgun pellets against protesters, blinding and maiming hundreds of people, including children.

India rejected that U.N. report as "fallacious."

The new report includes 432 case studies involving torture and maps trends and patterns, targets, perpetrators, locations and other details. The cases include 293 civilians and 119 militants, among others, and 27 were minors when they were tortured. The report says 40 people among those later died due to various injuries inflicted due to torture.

In the past, the government has said the allegations of rights violations are mostly separatist propaganda meant to demonize troops. The Indian army previously said it has punished 59 soldiers in 25 proven abuse cases, out of 995 complaints it has received.

According to the JKCCS report, the methods of torture after the eruption of armed rebellion include stripping detainees naked, rolling a heavy log on their legs, waterboarding, electrocution including of genitals, burning of the body with hot objects, sleep deprivation, and sexual torture, including rape and sodomy.

In one of the case studies, the report highlighted torture of a civilian named Qalandar Khatana by paramilitary soldiers in 1992. "His flesh was cut from buttocks and he was made to eat it. His legs were broken and he was not given any medical assistance," it said.

Later Khatana's legs got infected with maggots and were amputated, the report said.

Indian troops also tortured his wife leaving her ribs broken, the report said, adding "she died a few years later due to the injuries."

For years, international rights groups have accused Indian troops of using systematic abuse and unjustified arrests to intimidate residents opposing India's rule. Human rights workers have accused Indian troops of sometimes even staging gun battles as pretexts to kill for promotions and rewards.

"Despite global attention and condemnation of torture following exposes of indiscriminate torture practiced in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, torture remains hidden in Jammu and Kashmir, where tens of thousands of civilians have been subjected to it," the report said.

Apart from advocacy, the report serves "as an institutionalized form of memory of trials and tribulations of the people" of the region, said Parvez Imroz, a prominent rights lawyer and JKCCS president.

India is not exceptional "in its pervasive and systematic" use of torture those deemed dangerous or threatening to national security, said Saiba Varma, an anthropologist at the University of California, San Diego who has researched psychiatric ailments in Kashmir.

"In making these bodies spectacles, the state is further exerting its power, not only on those who have been tortured, but by also sending a message to those who have not been tortured, saying, 'this could be you,"' she said.

She said the effects of torture have been "systematic, pervasive, and psychologically, physically and socially devastating" in Kashmir.

"Torture is not just a technology on the individual body, but it is a profoundly social, relational, and political technology," she said.

Source: Voice of America