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May 23, 2019

Cycle of torture


May 23, 2019

The practice of torture in its most brutal form has grown to unprecedented levels after the ongoing insurgency in Kashmir flared up in the years after 1990. As Indian-held Kashmir marked the 30th anniversary of this uprising, two prominent human rights groups have called for a UN investigation into endemic torture in the valley. The report by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society says that they had conducted 432 case studies into torture and found at least 40 persons had died as a result of these practices since 1990. The report has also noted that torture is an instrument of control by the Indian state in Occupied Kashmir. The insurgency itself has left tens of thousands of people dead, most of them civilians. Since the early 1990s, Kashmiris have lived with a legacy of death and torture which according to the report has included waterboarding, beatings with iron rods and electric shocks to the genitals.

Successive Indian governments have year after year denied UN investigators access to Kashmir. The UN special rapporteur on torture from 2010 to 2016 told the writers of the reporters that he made repeated requests for an invitation but got no response from the Indian UN mission in Geneva. There has been no response either to the new report from the Indian government as yet. The scale of the torture, with the latest death reported in March when a school principal being held by police died in custody, makes it imperative that the world wake up to the plight of Kashmir. There has after all been a massive international response to the use of torture in other places, including US prisons in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.

Kashmir has however failed to win the heart of the international community at the same level. In 2010, Wikileaks reported that the US had evidence of civilians being tortured and held in Kashmir. This evidence had been obtained from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Sadly, it seems no one acted on it. This lack of action is the reason why Kashmiris continue to suffer the worst brutalities. The Indian government has consistently rejected the findings of reports on human rights in Indian-held Kashmir, including those by the UN, terming them ‘fallacious’ and ‘motivated’. It seems that there has been an international failure to question this position. In the meanwhile, people continue to be picked up, detained in custody, tortured and in some cases killed. We ask how long the world will continue to look on in silence. The stance must change if there is to be any solution to the problem and any respite from the worst kind of human rights abuses by forces representing the state of India.

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