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Kashmiri civilians tortured and extrajudicially murdered by India in custody

On 22nd December, Indian army illegally detained at least eight Kashmiri civilians for questioning and interrogation, a day after pro-freedom rebels fighting against Indian rule ambushed two army vehicles in the southern Poonch district, killing four soldiers and wounding three others.

Locals state that the army personnel tortured three of the detainees to death in a nearby military camp. The bodies were later handed to the local police who in turn contacted the families. Residents said the bodies bore marks of severe torture. Videos emerged of the torture, in which the Indian army personnel are seen stripping these Kashmiri civilians naked, beating them ruthlessly, and pouring spices and chilli powder on their wounds, especially their private parts.

The three deceased detainees include Mohammad Showkat, 22, Safeer Hussain, 45, and Shabir Ahmad, 32. Torture marks were found on the bodies of all three victims of extrajudicial custodial murder. All three victims hail from a tribal community known as Gujjar, who traditionally lead a pastoral life in the mountain areas of Kashmir.

The rest of the detainees remain in a military-hospital where they are being treated after being subjected to severe torture.

Mohammed Younis, a resident, stated that soldiers came to his Topa Peer village in Poonch district Friday morning and detained nine villagers, including his two brothers and a cousin. An elderly man was let go, he said, but the rest were ruthlessly beaten and electrocuted.

Soon after the horrific videos of the torture spread, Indian authorities cut off internet services on smart devices in Poonch and nearby Rajouri, a common tactic used by India to crush possible protests and discourage dissemination of the videos, creating an information blackhole and preventing any journalistic investigation.

Lt Col Suneel Bartwal, an Indian army spokesman, said he had no “input” about the circumstances surrounding the three deaths. Though Indian authorities have promised investigation and offered compensation to the families, which the family claims is an admission of guilt, people remain deeply skeptical. Throughout Indian rule in Kashmir, not a single army personnel has been prosecuted for their widely documented war crimes and human rights violations.

For example, In 2020, the Indian army extrajudicially killed three civilians from Rajouri, Kashmir. They were portrayed as rebels but investigations revealed that the army was behind the killing. The Indian army’s internal court admitted wrongdoing and sentenced an officer to life imprisonment for the killings. But last month, the military tribunal suspended the officer’s sentence.

This is a pattern of brazen impunity that has repeated throughout India’s occupation of Kashmir.

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