“Roller over legs, dipped in chilli-water, forced to drink acid”

A still from the documentary, Kashmir’s Torture Trail.
A still from the documentary, Kashmir’s Torture Trail.

Electrocution, sexual molestation, physical beatings, moving rollers over the legs to break bones were a few methods of torture used by Indian troops to torture people in Kashmir that the International Committee of The Red Cross (ICRC) told the United States officials in India in 2005. Revealed by the whistleblower, Wikileaks, in 2010, the report said that the tortured victims were not “Islamist insurgents or Pakistani-backed militants” but were civilians. According to the report 1,296 detainees from Kashmir were interviewed. Among them 681 had told ICRC that they were tortured by using different methods like 498 electrocuted, 381 suspended from the ceiling, 304 sexually tortured, 294 victims’ legs crushed and 181 victims’ legs pulled apart into the splits. Some of them were tortured with multiple methods.

Indian-controlled Kashmir, continuing to be ruled by India, over the years has gone through its worst phase soon after the armed resistance that started in late 80s. Thousands of Kashmiris were arrested, accusing them of being with rebels. Several of them were tortured in the police stations and army camps. There were particular torture from where, it is said, no one returned alive. One of them was Papa 2 on the banks of the Dal Lake which has been converted into an official residence now.

In his late 50s, Abdul Rehman Tantray, from North Kashmir’s Varmul district – 60 kilometers away from the summer capital Srinagar, was imprisoned for three years by the joint team of “Army and Police” in 1992.

“I was at my work place when they arrived and asked about my relative Showkat Ahmad Sheikh, a rebel associated with the Hizbul Muhajideen (a Pakistan based rebel outfit) who joined jihad in 1989. But when I replied that how could I provide you the information as I have no contact with him, they assaulted me ruthlessly in front of everyone in the market. They dragged me into a vehicle and took me to a torture camp at Varmul,” says Rehman, in his room wearing a woolen cloak and a bulky woolen skull cap. A streak of light coming in through a hole in the window curtain makes his half face shine.

The illegal detention of Rehman followed the visit of few more officials to the camp to seek information about Showkat Ahmad. His truth turned out to be just the beginning for the assault by the police and army.

“In the beginning they kept me naked in an aloof room for several days to raise a level of fear about torture. Then they took me to a torture room and tied my hands to ceiling and began to beat ruthlessly with bamboo sticks and leather belts for half an hour,” Rehman recalls.

After the first day of torture, Rehman guessed the kind of torture he will be facing from the troops. The prediction about the future days of detention seemed challenging to him. “One day during that period four to five men dragged me to a torture cell; placed me on a chair, tied hands and feet with ropes, began their regular activity of harassing and beating,” Rehman continues, adding that his usual answer that he has no clue about Showkat’s location made his torturers so angry that they called for more objects used during the torture.

“They switched on the high voltage lamps and positioned them straight toward my eyes. It made me feel like blind, tears came out like the water from a running tap and my ribs ached due to continuous beating,” Rehman says, while pointing that his ribs are weak since then. “I kept shouting, ‘I’m not lying. I don’t know anything about him. I swear I have no clue about his hideout,’ but they never stopped and continued beating me with bamboo sticks.”

A few moments later cold water was mixed with the chilli powder and Rehman’s head was dipped in it. He still remembers the pain of caused due to the chilli water. “I fell unconscious after that for about thirty minutes. When I regained my senses, they smeared the same water around my eyes. They brought a bottle of acid from which they made me to drink a few gulps which burnt my throat,” Rehman adds.

Rehman attributes the adverse condition of his health as an outcome of the unjustified torture by the police and army forces. The torture didn’t stop there, it continued on and on. “They stretched my legs, rolled a roller over them and my back for several minutes,” adding this, Rehman also believes that the dislocation of his back bone is a consequence of that torture.

After three years, Rehman was released in 1995, but he thinks that he was released only because of the intervention of the higher officials after his family members “approached and begged” before them. He also says that another cause for the release was his consistent negative answers to their questions.

While Rehman was being tortured, his family was running from pillar to post to seek his release. “That was the worst time for my family. They didn’t even have shoes to wear. If there would not have been the relatives, they might have died,” he says.

Rehman says his children were warned and harassed at public places. “They were accused of helping their Uncle for the ‘terrorist activities’ which discouraged them a lot and one of them could even finish school due to fear. After my release I shifted from the main Varmul to Fatehpora but Police and Army continued to harass us there. Then, in 1997, I was again arrested under the same charges and was released after six months,” amid Rehman speaking, his older son, Farooq Ahmad Tantray, 28, steps in the room.

Farooq adds to his father’s words, saying that not only his father was arrested but they suffered a lot as well. “My younger brother Manzoor Ahmad Tantray (22) and I spent eight and five months in prison respectively under same charges of helping our uncle to carry out the ‘terrorist activities’.”

In 2006, Rehman’s house was set ablaze by “52 RR” (Rashtriya Rifles) by throwing “5 hand grenades at it.” “We were lucky that we survived in that deadly strike. My relatives and friends helped me to reconstruct the house but still some people think that I was provided the compensation by government for the construction. That is not true. I never received a penny from anyone,” Rehman says, loudly.

After the continuous suspension toward him and social alienation, Rehman joined the pro-resistance group Hurriyat Confrence (G) led by SAS Geelani, in 2008. After this he was arrested for “promoting stone throwing,” and “paying young boys” who came out on streets during 2008-2010 mass uprisings against the Indian rule.

He is facing the trial at Sopore and Baramulla courts. “Although I have to spend a lot of money on my case proceedings but I don’t need any compensation from the Government and will continue to fight for the cause of freedom,” he retorts.

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7 COMMENTS

    • No price is to be paid for what is ours…
      I believe that kashmiri people paid great price as compared to what indians did for freedom…
      If we are terorists so was bhagat singh and others who fighted for the samé cause…

  1. The innocent people of kashmir have been paying a heavy price for their freedom at the hand of indian army. Hope that day comes soon when people of kashmir breeth in free air without any fear. God bless kashmir.

  2. Amit, I think you are still living in the fools paradise. Kashmiri people especially the youth have been bearing the brunt since last 67 years. I have a lot of friends from that part of the world and have been to that place on countless occasions. All that I have found is that these people have been suppressed by Indian Government using the Indian army for their atrocities on the people here. Being an staunch Indian, I believe that they should be given freedom.

    • Samuel,
      You are not a staunch Indian but an Ignorant one. I my self and from that part of Country. This whole concept of Aazadhi and Freedom is hogwash. These guys are not sacrificing himself. They have simply fallen prey to a fairy tale and refuse to the reality.

  3. Amit if sumbdy rapes ur mum.sister.n den passess d turn to sum oder guy n he continues to pass d turn n den tell u lick his shoe n finally wen u do sooo.furder orders u to salute n praise his men 4 getin tired..vl u still b on úr statement.?i know u vl což ur a true patriot.n i know dat út such a patriot dat ul 1day join dem regrdless off d fact dat ur doin it wd sum1. Ho kept u in her womb 4 nyn months.coz country cumz 1st den ppl.

  4. Let us just say (hypothetically) that the Kashmiris are given the “freedom” they have asked for, freedom from India, what would happen then? Allow me to please remind you October 1947, when the pakistan army regulars invaded Kashmir looted and raped, it was the Indian Army that came as the saviors. If Kashmir is given independence, the insurgencies would increase and the state would become a safe haven for terrorist groups. I doubt even the Kashmiri public wants to join Pakistan(considering Pakistan’s present state of development, unrest and destability, atleast in India they have the option, albeit a difficult one, of relocating to peaceful parts of India, in pakistan, no such luck!).

    Talking about the Indian Army’s torture in J&K, let me tell you that such cases are far and few and have been blown into gigantic proportions by the separatist and ISI backed elements, not that i support them, but look at what their intention is they are trying to get information about possible terrorist attacks. Now, i do not say that,the ends justify the means, but what else can the army do? By what other means can the possible terrorists be identified, this is not the regular police case of arrest after implication, this is a matter of national security.Everyone wants to go to USA right? Look at what they did after 9/11 attacks, hundreds of muslims were arrested all over USA and tortured in Guatemala Prison. My point here is that the government and more particularly the army has lost many good soldiers to these attacks and they are paranoid, and I for one believe that a good soldiers life is 10 times more valuable than a terrorists’.

    There have been errors, some innocent people may also have suffered but people harboring terrorists, relatives, doctors and friends need to understand that weakness of will on their part, to report to the authorities can put the lives of many other people in danger in some other part of the country, such shelter providers have an equal hand in terror and they need to be discouraged. However, I do believe that a good solution for Kashmir will be found soon.

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