India's Kashmir doctrine: Claims of torture, night raids, mass detentions

  • 19 Aug 2019

In a series of tweets, Shehla Rashid, a Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement leader claims Indian armed forces are conducting night raids, picking up boys and ransacking houses since India-administered Kashmir’s autonomy was stripped two weeks ago.

Shehla Rashid, a Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement leader has alleged that Indian troops are conducting night raids, picking up boys and ransacking houses since India-administered Kashmir’s autonomy was stripped two weeks ago. ( Reuters )

Since India’s Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) decided to revoke laws key to the accession treaty (Article 370) of India's only Muslim-majority region Kashmir, the entire valley is facing a communications blackout and curbs on movement.

While many sections of Indian media are claiming that the situation is ‘calm’ in Kashmir, reports of illegal detentions, night raids and torture are slowly but steadily coming to the fore.

A woman weeps inside her house after her household goods were allegedly damaged by Indian security forces following clashes between protesters and the security forces on 16 August, 2019.(Reuters)

On Sunday, Shehla Rashid, an activist and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement leader tweeted a series of claims that Indian troops had gone berserk in the valley.

In South Kashmir’s Shopian district, four men were called into the Army camp and ‘interrogated’ - a byword for torture. A mic was kept close to them so that the entire area could hear them scream, and be terrorised. This created an environment of fear in the entire area, she tweeted.

She further wrote: “People are saying that J&K Police has no authority on law & order situation. They've been rendered powerless. Everything is in the hands of paramilitary forces. One SHO was transferred on complaint of a CRPF man. SHOs carrying batons. Service revolvers can't be seen on them.”

The Indian army refuted the allegations as “baseless”. It told ANI that “unverified” and “fake news” was being “spread by inimical elements and organisations to incite unsuspecting population”.

However, Rashid told The Wire that she has had “detailed conversations with people about the situation there” and is willing to share “details” about the incidents she has mentioned with the army if it were to “conduct an impartial investigation”.

Though, some in India are calling for her arrest with #ArrestShehlaRashid trending on Indian Twitter, many who are critical of government are supporting Rashid.

On the weekend, overnight clashes erupted in various parts of the city, in which Indian troops fired tear gas, irritant pepper grenades and pellets to disperse protesters, according to reports.

Mohammad Siddiq, 70, was wounded when an Indian police man fired a pellet gun at him while returning home from a mosque badly damaging his left eye on August 17, 2019.(AP)

Dozens were reportedly admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries.

A 65-year-old named Mohammad Ayub had died in the hospital on Saturday night after being admitted with breathing difficulties from tear gas and pepper grenades fired in the old city

Despite the fact that Kashmir is already one of the most militarised areas in the world, a fresh troop deployment was made to clamp down on voices in the valley, right before the abrogation of Article 370. The entire valley has since been gripped by chaos and confusion.

Soldiers are guarding every nook and corner, there are checkpoints every few hundred feet and barbed wire is strewn across the streets. The army seems to be cracking down on the locals with an iron fist and the fear is palpable.

An Indian army soldier stands alert in a truck while travelling in a convoy in Srinagar on August 18, 2019.(AFP)

India-administered Kashmir has been a battlefield for decades now. But this time around, the region, especially the restive south Kashmir—which has been a witness to deadly protests and the highest militant recruitment in recent years—did not experience any mass protests as it did during past agitations.

In a recent report published in The Telegraph, locals allege that people are being arrested and taken into prison to instill fear in them. Many “potential stone-throwers” have been rounded up during nocturnal raids, their fathers and brothers incarcerated in an attempt to urge them to surrender.

According to government sources, thousands of people have been detained in India-administered Kashmir over the past two weeks including pro-India politicians, lawyers, businessmen, professors, members of the J&K Bar Association and civil society. 

A magistrate said on condition of anonymity that at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.

"Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity," the magistrate said, adding that he had used a satellite phone allocated to him to collate the figures from colleagues across the Himalayan territory, amid a communications blackout imposed by authorities.

Authorities have repeatedly declined to provide a tally of how many people have been taken into custody, apart from confirming more than 100 local politicians, activists and academics were detained in the first few days after the state was stripped of its semi-autonomous status.

They said the "few preventive detentions" were made to avoid a "breach of the peace" in a region that has fought an armed rebellion against Indian rule for three decades.

Jammu and Kashmir government spokesman Rohit Kansal said previously there was "no centralised figure" for the total number of people detained.

But numerous government officials in Kashmir's main city Srinagar, including police and security personnel, have confirmed the sweeping arrests.

Kashmiris walk past broken window glass after clashes between protesters and the security forces on Friday evening, during restrictions following the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government on August 17, 2019.(Reuters)

A police official who asked to remain anonymous said: “Around 6,000 people were medically examined at a couple of places in Srinagar after they were detained.

“They are first sent to the central jail in Srinagar and later flown out of here in military aircraft.”

Another security official said "thousands are jailed" but that the figure did not include other residents whose detentions at police stations had not been recorded.

Similar views were also echoed by, a four-member team comprising of civil rights activists Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah, Vimal Bhai and noted economist Jean Dreze, who went on a five-day fact-finding mission to Kashmir between August 9 and 13.

The team has recorded testimonies, photos, and videos documenting “realities of Jammu and Kashmir” after the abrogation of Article 370 including a 10-minute short film titled Kashmir Caged. The report also carried statements from children who were detained, beaten and held in army camps.

“We met people in villages all over Kashmir, where little kids have been… there is no other word to use… they have been abducted by the police,” Krishnan said 

“They have been picked up from their homes in the middle of the night from their beds and they are held indefinitely, illegally, either in army camps or in police stations. They are being beaten up. Their parents have no way of ascertaining whether their children will disappear or be returned. 

“There is no case that is registered, no FIR. I can say that to every village we went, there were arrests that happened.”